Barely penetrable streets, loud people bumping into each other and the blazing heat bathing us in sweat, the trip to Old Delhi was almost exactly as I had anticipated. I had landed at Delhi only a couple of months earlier. Hailing from a small city, it was considered nearly blasphemous to continue living in Delhi any longer without tasting the iconic food of Chandni Chowk. So, with a friend to share the experience, I set out on a food walk. When it comes to old, popular eateries, reputation precedes the actual occurrence. A first-timer like me has for years heard of these eateries, but will they will up to the expectation?
Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan, Paranthe Waali Gali
Post a short hopscotch through the puddles on the tiny streets, we reached our first tasting destination. Paranthe waali gali is known for its paranthe (no surprise there), a crunchy-outside, soft-inside flat bread served with accompaniments of chutneys, curries and pickles. While there are many stores to choose from, we decided to test the oldest establishment- Pt Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan. As old as 1872, the storefront is petite, lined with tables with just enough space for a person to scoot from one seating to another.
We decided to gorge on a savoury lemon parantha and a sweet rabdi parantha. While I cannot compare it to its earlier versions, it was a delight to my novice taste buds. The tartness of the lemon parantha was balanced by the rich savoury curries. It might not have blown me away, but I would still recommend a visit.
Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala
Next on the way was Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala. A store built into the sides of the street adjacent to Paranthe Waali Gali, the eatery only offers kachoris. The simple three-man operation draws in crowds of people in a neat line, waiting for their turn. Savoury and dry cups of fried wheat are topped off with tangy chutneys and onions.
Several articles covered by newspapers and online media are pasted on the backdrop for those who may not be well versed with the popularity of the eatery
Old Famous Jalebi Wala
Wearing their experience and popularity as a badge, Old Famous Jalebi Wala is only a short walk from the earlier stop. There was a lull in the crowd as we reached in the late afternoon (the eatery is packed in the morning). Established in 1884, the eatery is dedicated to only a handful of items- jalebis, jalebis with rabdi and samosas. As the name suggests, jalebis are their prized dish with them constantly making fresh batches to meet the demands.
We ordered a jalebi with rabdi which arrived in plentiful quantity. The freshly made jalebi was warm and crunchy; syrup oozing into your mouth as you bite into it. I am not sure if I would travel all the way back for another taste, however, even considering that the jalebi was perfectly constructed.
Giani di Hatti
After what seemed like a seven-course meal, it is only understandable to crave a serving of ice cream. We walked over to the iconic Giani di Hatti for a scoop. Instead, my attention was caught by a line waiting for their shakes. We settled for mango shakes ourselves and am I glad we did. The thick shake was the perfect cold substitute for the ice cream we had seeked earlier. A blend of fresh mangoes and added syrup, the shake was an icy blast.
In my opinion, it makes for the ideal wash-down drink after grabbing a meal anywhere in Chandni Chowk.
After a prolonged break, we carried on our culinary journey to the meat experts. While Karim’s is better known to newbies, I decided to instead start with Al Jawahar, the competitor right across the street. A two-floor restaurant, there was plenty of seats to rest on. While I chose the chicken changezi (I was told that it is a spicy favourite), my friend decided to stick to his favourite mutton stew. The aroma and meat kept us company as we eagerly waited for the food.
First impression: looks great. Second impression: tastes even better. While the roti served with it was rubbery and unappealing to me, the meat more than made up with its spices, flavour and tenderness. If you are like me who adds extra hot sauce to extra hot wings, you might not find their spicy favourites challenging. However, you will not miss the spice once you tuck into the delicious first bite. The portions are large and we would suggest sharing the meal. Overall, the restaurant near Jama Masjid is definitely worth a trip, if not two.
While Karim’s has been the forerunner for meat delicacies near Jama Masjid for decades, we stand strong by Al Jawahar. The food is similar and delicious, don’t get me wrong. However, it is considered to not live up to its hype as well as its competitor. For the sake of experience, you can still try out the enticing menu at the restaurant.
Qureshi’s Kabab Corner
Buttery. Oily. Fatty. Decadence is not a joke at Qureshi’s. The menu is limited to the delicious seekh kebabs here. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. It is best to perfect one item than serve mediocre options- and that is exactly what Qureshi does. Their kebabs are buttery, flavourful and best of all, burn no holes in your wallet. Filling and satisfying, their kebabs are a perfect snack for the penny-pinching newcomers who wish to try out their menu.