Originally the Mughal capital of Shahjahanabad built by Shah Jahan, Old Delhi was established in 1638 and took ten long years to be completed. The city showcased its beauty and impeccable architecture through its main thoroughfare Chandni Chowk, the striking stronghold of Red Fort and an extraordinarily beautiful mosque, the Jama Masjid.
The old walled city survived Persian plunder and British military assault with grace and, even in these “modern” times, its spirit is alive, well and clearly visible. In the galis and katras of the walled city, the vibrancy of the “old” still reigns supreme.
How better to experience it than the food it serves to all who wish to partake.
Paranthe Wali Gali
Where: Near Gurudwara Sisganj Sahib, Chandni Chowk, Dilli 6
When in Old Delhi, behave like a food-o-holic. To come here and not taste the paranthas is an unforgivable crime. Established in 1872, Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan Paranthewala is one of the oldest parantha shops here. The seemingly endless variety of parantha (papad, karela, mirchi for instance, in addition to the more commonplace!) can be paired with three varieties of vegetables, kele ki saunth and pickle. Sweet lassi is served in kulhars; a practice that we hope never ceases.
Where: Jama Masjid, Gali Kababian, Old Delhi
Tucked away in the crowded, narrow lanes is this treasure that serves delicious, authentic Mughlai food. Named after the 19th-century royal chef, Karim's has been known for its aloo gosht and dal served with rumali roti since the day it was established in 1913. Still run by the family, this restaurant continues to attract foodies with luscious aroma of spices and mouthwatering dishes served with flavoured rice or soft rotis.
Hira Lal Chaat Waale
Where: Chawri Bazaar Main Road, between Hauz Qazi Chowk and the intersection with Nayi Sadak
The small open stall peeking out from a crowded street could be easy to miss, if it weren't for the massive tawa, piled high with potatoes and bubbling bhaji, and the stack of fresh fruits. Hira Lal Chaat Waale reels you in with irresistible aromas and the bright splash of colours. For four generations, Hira Lal has served people with delectable aloo chaat, fruit chaat, aloo tikkis and even pao bhaaji. But what its most famous for is it's kulle chaat made by scooping out one of several vegetables into cup shapes, which are then filled with chickpeas, pomegranate seeds, various tangy spices and a dash of lemon – absolutely divine!
Aslam Tandoori Chicken Corner
Where: Bazar Matia Mahal, OId Delhi
You cannot miss this master of the grill and his appreciative audience. Though not quite a 'tradition' yet (the shop is only 10-15 years old), this grill-wiz serves you melt-in-mouth, juicy grilled chicken and his version of butter chicken which, I must tell you, is tandoori chicken in butter chicken gravy! Imagine the delight; someone has managed to combine two wonderful dishes in one and serves it with rumali roti.
Natraj Dahi Bhalle Wala
Where: 1396 Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi
Established in 1940 Natraj Dahi Bhalle Wala is arguably one of the most famous street food shops in Old Delhi. Enjoy aloo tikki and dahi bhalle and mouthwatering vadas soaked in thick yogurt and sprinkled with, would you believe it, their very own copyrighted chaat masala!
Ustad Moinuddin Kebabs/Sangam Kebabs
Where: Lal Kuan, Gali Qasimjan, Near Chawri Bazaar Metro
Situated near the abode of the famous Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib, Ustad Moinuddin's serves kebabs that are just as poetic. Soft, flavourful and delicately spiced beef kebabs are the speciality. Served with onion and green chutney, they are so tender that they will simply melt in your mouth with a flavour so vivid that keeping yourself from licking your fingers will probably be a big challenge.
Kake Di Hatti
Where: Church Mission Road, FatehPuri, Near Fateh Puri Masjid, Chandni Chowk
A true delight for pure vegetarians, Kake Di Hatti is famous for its butter-laden dal makhani and scrumptious kadai paneer. A lesser-known restaurant, it was started in 1940, and is handled by the fourth generation now. It tickles your taste buds with delicious naans, stuffed kulchas, makes parathas by the dozen a minute, and offers a wide variety of gravies as accompaniment.
Haji Shabrati Nihari Wale
Where: Shop 722, Haveli Azam Khan, Chitli Qabar, Jama Masjid, New Delhi
For all those who don't know, nihari is a slow-cooked beef or lamb stew. Haji Shabrati Nihari Wale have been serving delightful nihari for the longest time. Aromatic and flavourful, it has the perfect blend of spices and can be savoured with their soft rotis or on its own.
Bade Mian's Kheer
Where: Opposite Masjid Badal Beig, Lal Kuan, Near Chawri Bazaar Metro
Tucked away between several houses, this kheer shop run by the Siddique family is one of the most delectable sweet shops in Old Delhi. Established in 1880 by great-grandfather Siddique, the shop still serves kheer slow-cooked for several hours over a wood fire. Definitely not to be missed.
Photographs by Nishwan Rasool