Editor’s Note: CNN’s series often carry sponsorship originating from the countries and regions we profile. However, CNN retains full editorial control over all of its reports. Our sponsorship policy.
India is known as the Land of Spices and a walk through Old Delhi immediately supports this age-old reputation.
Whether you’re wandering through a dense market or along the city’s side streets, the aromas of curries and golgappa (crispy snacks full of chutney, potatoes and chickpeas) invite a closer look.
“No other country has so much variety like Indian food has to offer,” Zorawar Kalra, a restaurateur and “MasterChef India” judge, tells CNN Travel.
“At one point of time spice was the ultimate currency – we have a climate that is conducive to the growth of spices, we had a great culinary heritage that allowed us to use these spices in various foods.”
To experience the country’s street food culture, CNN Travel took a tour of Old Delhi with local foodie Anubhav Sapra of Delhi Food Walks.
“Delhi is all about fabulous street food, but the city is this amazing hybrid city that does great fine dining and great street food,” Sapra tells CNN Travel. “I think that’s the beauty of Delhi and the power of Delhi cuisine.”
Old Delhi basics
Known as the street food capital of India, Old Delhi is packed with food stalls – more than 400 of them, by Sapra’s estimate.
“In the eyes of foreigners, it’s like an organized chaos when you enter Old Delhi,” says Sapra.
“This kind of warmth and affection, you won’t get in any other part of the city. When I do the tours, it’s really about experiencing the food and the people, through an eye of a local person. That’s what Old Delhi is for me.”
From sizzling meat skewers in the market to freshly made roti there’s no shortage of tastes, smells and colors to be found. Here are a few of Sapra’s favorites.
Golgappa and mutton seekh kebabs
“This is a common street food all over India that’s called pani puri,” says Sapra, pointing to an Old Delhi stall. “They have different variations in different cities. In some places they call it puchka. In Delhi, we call it golgappa.”
Talking as he walks, Sapra gravitates towards a stall serving mutton seekh kebabs, another popular street delicacy in Old Delhi.
“It’s minced meat put on skewers and grilled over charcoal,” says Sapra, taking a bite. “You can simply enjoy it from the skewer – you don’t even have to take it off.”
Jalebi and samosas
“Old Famous Jalebi Wala is the oldest jalebi shop in Old Delhi – it opened in 1884,” says Sapra of this eatery in the Dariba Kalan area.
“It’s a very famous shop that’s known for two dishes – jalebi and samosas.”
So what exactly is jalebi? One of India’s most popular sweets, it’s made by deep-frying flour-based batter, which is then soaked in sugar syrup. And yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds.
Old Famous Jalebi Wala, Shop 1795, Dariba Kalan Road, Dariba Corner, Opposite to Central Baptist Church, Chandni Chowk, Delhi, India; +91 11 2325 6973
“Down this lane we have a very famous shop called Hazari Lal Jain Khurchan Wale, in the Kinari Bazaar,” says Sapra as he leads us to the next stop.
“They make a dish called khurchan (meaning ‘leftover scrapes’ in Hindi). It’s a very interesting delicacy: Khurchan is basically scrapings, or different layers of cream.”
To make it, you slowly boil milk, allowing it to evaporate, then scrape off the residue that builds up in the karahi (cooking pot). Then, these “scrapings” are topped with bhoora (powdered sugar).
Hazari Lal Jain Khurchan Wale, Shop 2225, Kinari Bazaar, Dariba Kalan +99 11 2325 3992
For Delhi’s best paratha, Sapra says you need to hit up Delhi Paranthe Wali Gali (meaning ‘the lane of flat bread’).
As the name implies, this little street is filled with shops selling this tasty Indian treat.
“Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan is the oldest paratha (Indian flatbread) shop in Delhi, established in 1872, and run by the sixth generation,” says Sapra.
“They have different varieties of paratha here – you have potato, you have cauliflower, radish, green peas, all different kinds of stuffed parathas.”
To make mooli paratha, you have two pans of clarified butter, ghee, grated radish, and you deep-fry it twice, adds Sapra.
“Everything, especially in Old Delhi, is fried twice, just to make it crispier – and they say if you fry anything twice it absorbs less oil.
“There’s also a mixed vegetable paratha, which has sauce, cheese, cauliflower, carrot and green peas, pumpkin, potato, fennel leaves, green coriander mint sauce, green peas, tamarind and banana sauce.”
Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan, 34, Paranthe Wali Gali, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi; +91 98736 82978