Chandni Chowk or Old Delhi or Delhi 6 or The Walled City, the area is known by many names and is famous for many things besides being an iconic historic place. I visit this locality twice in a year, if not more, for the amazing food which this city offers the year round. I go there once during the middle of the year when it is Ramzan days. This visit is essentially during evening hours to enjoy non-vegetarian delights (you may find the details here). Then once during the period between Diwali to Holi. This visit is normally on a weekend and essentially early morning to enjoy the vegetarian fare. Today, it’s turn for the early morning account which brings to you the joy of enjoying various dishes to have a hearty, actually a very hearty, breakfast.
This part of the city isn’t quite chaotic during the day. The rush of people and the maddening traffic doesn’t even allow people to walk freely, without jostling with each other. Driving through these narrow streets is unthinkable. Finding a parking place for your vehicle is absolutely a project in itself. So, when you go there early morning, it seems that you practically own this place and one can drive through all these lanes like a breeze. Yes, unimaginable !! I have been to these lanes quite a few times and bring to you some of the great places to enjoy your food. Let me try to charter out a route for you and what to eat enroute. Then you can pick and choose for yourself.
Sunday morning, it is around 830 and you enter from Kamla Market side, drive to Chowk Hauz Qazi and then through Chawri Bazar, drive past Chawri Bazar Metro Station and reach Barshahbulla Chowk. You may park your car anywhere here and you would see Shyam Sweets. It is easy to locate for it is right there and full of food lovers gorging on their favourite savouries. Order a plate of crisp Bedmi served with Methre Chutney infused spicy Aloo Sabzi, Sweet & Tangy Kaddu Subzi and Kachalu Pickle. If you love Bedmi, this is the pace, not to miss. Then try the Nagori-Halwa. A bowl of Sooji Halwa is served with 4 crisp Nagoris which has a sweet-salty flavour. The shop serves many other great items including Matar Kachori but if you want to try various other gems in the city, then one has to prioritize what to eat where and in what portion size.
Close to this outlet is another hidden gem. Ask anyone for Loten Chhole Wala. You would be guided towards a narrow bylane diagonally opposite to Shyam Sweets. He sets up his outlet in the early hours on the floor outside a closed shop. And it takes a while to even catch a glimpse of him for he is surrounded by huge crowds. On your turn, he digs out Chhole from a muddy water sort of concoction in a huge vessel in front of him. Once the Chhole is ladled in a paper bowl, he adds a red oily chutney, a green chutney and garnishes with ginger, coriander and green chillies. This bowl is then served with two kulchas. One spoon on the palate tells you that it is super spicy but the melt-in-mouth Chhole compliments that heat. One can’t stop despite sweating out due to the heat of the spicy masala. Then there is this muddy water in the vessel. It is Chhole Soup. You buy a glass of it and he adds a cube of butter in it. This soup is yet another delicacy of him. Wow !! You would be sweating by now, the palate would be on fire but you would love the lingering flavours.
It is now time to come back to Shyam Sweets and, if it’s winter time, you would find Rakesh Kumar Babu Ram Cart parked right there. Order a bowl Daulat Ki Chat. This would bring a soothening effect to your palate and the sweating you. No words can describe this wonderful melt-in-mouth desi dessert which is a real gem and a wonder to experience. I had written about it earlier here. His brother, Rakesh Kumar, positions himself just outside Paranthewali Gali. So one can have its second helping later there. In fact, during these months there are few more whom you could spot here and there in the vicinity.
Now, you may pick up your car and drive through the Nai Sarak and hit Town Hall of Chandni Chowk. Take left and you would reach Fatehpuri Masjid. Take a U-turn from the Masjid and park your car anywhere here. Get down and walk down to Giani’s (you could bring your car till here too but we preferred walking). This place is famous for its Rabri Faluda. This is the original outlet of this well established chain from where the success story started in 1956. A plate of Chhole Bhature is irresistible for the aroma coming out of the place will over power you. Two big, fluffy Bhature served in a steel plate is a delight to watch and as soon as you pick it up, you feel it’s not light either. Paneer and other masala filled Bhature are crispy outside and soft inside. The dark ghee–glazed Chhole give a great aroma, are mildly spiced and full of flavours. Even a one Bhatura is good enough to satisfy your taste buds and tummy. Now this Chhole Bhature combo has to be wrapped up with the famous Giani Faluda. A glass full of Faluda and Brownish Rabri has a smooth texture and is infused with crushed ice which provides a crunch to the divine concoction. The kewra after taste lifts your mood and taste, both up.
In the same vicinity you would find iconic Meghraj & Sons Halwai, Chaina Ram, Amritsari Lassi wala, Shiv Mishthan Bhandar and many others. You can also have your breakfast pick anywhere here whatever you would like.
Otherwise, once again, pick up your car and drive towards Red Fort. Once you reach Paranthe Wali Gali on your right, park your car, cross the road and walk inside the famous street. Although, I feel the place is over hyped and the Paranthas are not the one shallow fried over a Tawa but are deep fried. I find the Paranthas here are no great, but for a touristy value, one could try at least once to experience. So, go to Kanahiya Lal Durga Prasad Dixit. There is a long menu displayed. I prefer Mirchi Parantha and Pudina Parantha here. The Paranthas come with a plateful of dry Aaloo Sabzi, Aaloo Matar, Petha Sabzi and Chutney. Describing the flavours would not mean anything. So, go yourself to experience the flavours. Bang opposite the Parantha shop, there is this shop selling Rabri. He supplies Rabri to this Parantha shop also if you want to eat Rabri filled Parantha (I don’t understand the concept of Rabri Parantha). Have a bowl of Rabri. After that Parantha and Veg Curries, you would find it heavenly and very satisfying. Actually, the Rabri is good (not as great as Giani’s).
If you walk past this Parantha shop, towards the end of the Paranthe Wali Gali, on your right turn, you would come across Kedarnath Premchand Halwai. You can enjoy some freshly made Bedmi with Aloo Subzi and Nagori Hawla. This place also does these savouries quite well. I particularly like the Green Chilly Pickle they serve with the Bedmi.
You may walk back to your car and drive a little further and once again halt opposite the Famous Jalebi Wala at the enterance of Dariba. Cross the road and enter Dariba Kalan. You would find a cart parked there which would be selling Bedmi Subzi and Nagori Halwa. Try it, and you would be amazed with the flavours. They also do it quite well. This cart is there till about forenoon and then it shifts it’s base to a small counter inside a narrow lane opposite to where it is parked.
Walk past it and take a right turn into the Kinari Bazar. Having walked for a short while you would find on your left, the famous Hazarilal Jain Khurchan Wale. A bowl full of this divine dessert is multi layered strips of flavourful Khurchan (milk scraped while continuous boiling) which is both crisp and soft. This rich milky sweetmeat seems like a sort of cross between Rabri, Burfi & Kalakand. Mildly sweet but very rich in texture and taste. Absolutely a delight to have, if you have a sweet tooth.
Back to Dariba corner it could be a time for Aloo Samosa and Matar Samosa followed by Jalebi at the Famous Jalebi Wala. You could try these while entering Dariba or may decide to try while coming back. The small sized samosas, fried is Desi Ghee are amazingly flavourful. I personally like the one with Matar filling. The thick Jalebi is soft as the bater has paneer in it. Has a salty hint with a predominant sweetness. Is a must try.
Just before hopping back into your car, the food can be washed down with a cup of hot tea from the various roadside tea stalls which dot the streets all around. Pick up your car and drive out from the Red Fort side, driving past the iconic Sisganj Gurudwara, Gauri Shankar Mandir and Jain Mandir.
These are few of the paces which I have experienced during various visits. There are still many for me to try like Ram Swaroop Hawai, Jain Sahab Puri Wale, Kallan Sweets, Padam Chat, Kuremal Kulfi, Jain Fruit Sandwich, Jung Bhadur Kachoriwala and many other hidden gems in the area. If you have any favourites, please do let me know.
I must thank Govind Sharma, Sanjay Malhotra and Girish Jain for accompanying me on these various food exploration trips to Chandni Chowk.
Bon Appetite !!