Old Delhi in July is not everyone’s idea of fun. In fact, most people would probably say that Old Delhi in the middle of a north Indian summer is the last place they’d want to be. When the temperatures are pushing 50ºC and monsoon humidity is looming,there is a huge temptation to simply find the coolest spot possible and not move if you can avoid it. But sometimes I feel the need to shake my fist at the iphone weather app and head into Old Delhi. Not least because I know there will be something great to eat and that always improves the mood – whatever the weather. A couple of weeks ago, I did just that and stumbled on a wonderful egg parantha stall on the corner of Naya Bans and Katra Bariyan. I must have walked past it a thousand times because Khan Omlet Corner is no newcomer. The Khans’ stall is hugely popular little eatery at breakfast time when the Naya Bans morning market is full swing. The breads are crisp, the spiced egg filling has just the right amount of green chilli and coriander to kickstart the day and the mango pickle on the side sets the whole thing alight. There’s even a little shady ledge to sit on to get out of the sun and watch the market commotion. I returned exhausted and sweaty but well fed, triumphant at having conquered the weather and ready to take on the world again. Get your weekend off to a great start with the Khans’ wonderful egg paranthe. You won’t regret it. Having said all that I’m off to cooler climes for a couple of weeks to see family in London and Edinburgh. We’ll also have some time in Corfu so brace yourselves for Instagrams of blue seas and cold beer. By the time I get back at the beginning of August, the monsoon will be in full swing and I’ll be itching to get back into Old Delhi for all the food that tastes so good in the rainy weather – jalebis, pakore, samose and ghewar – and a visit to Ram Swarup which for some reason I always associated with puddles.
One of the never-ending delights of walking in Old Delhi is coming across the tiny markets within markets, the little lanes devoted to one commodity. This winter I discovered a market tucked away in Kothi Shri Mandir near the Khari Baoli spice market and devoted almost entirely to Chikki – a type of nut brittle made from jaggery in the winter months.
Kothi Shri Mandir is so narrow there is hardly any daylight and it almost feels like walking through a secret underground passageway where your path is lit on either side by piles of magical sugar.
There’s chikki everywhere you look made from sesame (also called gajak), peanuts, cashews even dried rose petals which come in all shapes and sizes – bars, rolls, discs, slabs, golf balls, tiny coin-sized pieces and hearts.
This is my favourite shop, Lal Chand Rewri Wale – beautiful fresh chikki and I love the way the owner is practically wearing his merchandise.
There are also some namkeen shops in the street like Pappu Caterers who sell everything you could possibly wish for to put a bit of crunch into your chaat – the spinach matri was particularly good.
You can see the chikki being made in some of the shops – these guys are pounding slabs of sesame and jaggery
The gali is also home to some excellent snacks. The Bombay Sandwich wallah often makes a stop here and there is a chana puri stall doing a roaring trade on the corner of Kothi Shri Mandir. But my new favourite chaat is made by the Guptas who told me they had been in the gali for 45 years – verified by a happy customer who said he’d been visiting their stall for over 40. They run a hugely popular, very spic and span cart from which father and son dish up all kinds of fresh and flavoursome chaat.
Finally, on the corner of Gali Batashan and Khari Baoli there is a seasonal vegetable stall – look at all these gorgeous black carrots, fresh green chick peas, star fruit, sweetcorn, lotus roots and fresh turmeric…
Gali Batashan runs between Khari Baoli and Naya Bans. If you’re coming from Khari Baoli, Kothi Shri Mandir, where you’ll find all the chikki wallahs, is the last turning on the left before reaching Naya Bans. Gupta Chaat wallah is on the left of Gali Batashan before you turn into Kothi Shri Mandir. Here’s a map of the exact locations. Go soon, though, the hot weather is on its way!