Food in Chauri Bazaar to Chandani Chowk , Old Delhi in the Pre Corona days.
“It was a soothing reiki of sights, sounds and smell , of a different world all together. Eating there was just incidental.”
One fine evening, I got off at the Chauri Bazaar Metro station and walked the narrow lanes upto the South Gate of Jama Masjid to the famous ‘food street’ of Kareem’s and Al Jawahar for a hearty meal of Kali Mirch Chicken and a huge Khameeri Roti. This is where the real foodies go.
After spending two hours there, took a loop round the whole Jama Masjid through the east gate night market, to exit on the Chandani Chowk side and after travelling through another set of streets reached the Metro station of Chandani Chowk and went back home. So this was the plan.
Back at the South Gate of Jama Masjid, looking at the multitude of eateries........with food in so much of abundance, one wonders ; how can people go hungry. The list of food items besides the endless grill shops of mutton, chicken and fish , go on to the exotic dishes of the Mughal period. Be it sweets, bakery rusks, roties, everything was available. In fact besides the usual Khameer roti, the most exotic roti one can have there was the sweet dry fruit laden desi ghee Sheermal roti.
Of course I couldn’t miss the amazing historic sweets like the extra long Gulab Jamun, the Kala Jamun, kali Jalebi, white gajar ka halwa, chawal til ke pakore besides the whole range of the usual fare. The ‘sweet milk’ stalls with a variety of other milk based sweets were mouth watering.
Oh yes, I also had the amazing Shahi Tukra ...... the famous Mughal dish which was fabled to have been brought by Emperor Babur, learnt through an Egyptian cook to make use of left over breads. Everyone trying to please me by giving a bite to taste........
Probably today I managed to touch the tip of the iceberg in this milieu of Chauri Bazaar......but with subsequent visits the rusks and bakery biscuit shops that I conveniently overlooked, have to be explored.
This place is cluttered, chaotic, congested and probably the only place in the world where traffic jams are caused by cycle rickshaws,two wheelers and pedestrians !!
But it has its character ...... vendors calling out to clients, a suspected thief being beaten outside a jewellery shop, people standing in the centre of the road deep in discussions , oblivious of the traffic chaos they have caused and ....... so on.
And the cultural transition is so evident when one walks from the muslim dominated lanes of Chauri Bazaar to the front side of Jama Masjid multi talented handicraft markets, melting into the Hindu dominated delicious chaat stalls and sweet shops of Chandani Chowk. Suddenly non veg disappears from the roads and poori /kachori/bewri with aloo Sabzi and thick Jalebis becomes the order of the day.
This food trail of course ends at the strictly vegetarian Parantha wali gali behind the Gurudwara. That’s the only place in the world where you get paranthas fried in shallow pans of desi ghee, stuffed with whatever vegetable you can imagine. Oh yes. I had a sweet banana stuffed parantha !! And the ka^rela parantha is not to be missed. The menu is so vast that you could have every vegetable / dry fruit stuffing possible with mix and match options.
But, there was one common food on both sides of Jama Masjid. This common delicacy is called ‘DAULAT ki Chaat.’ And it is not the traditional chaat!!
Lodged in a straw basket on the back side of a bicycle, this heritage sweet is made from the froth of sweetened milk mixed with kesar/Elaichi flavours and dry fruits. It’s variant is called Makhan Malai in UP and is available only in the winter days as the froth is frozen in the cool breeze of the night. Here the vendors were visible till 10pm.
For many folks, this place may seem dirty and unhygienic compared to modern day kitchens and restaurants , but at the same time it is fascinating to see and smell the exciting delicacies being freshly prepared in front of you.
So go challenge your self, if you are a true foodie !!!