The lanes of Old Delhi have a charm of their own, anyone who knows Delhi, knows this. Early mornings in winters are arguably one of the best times to experience the place in its true element. One thing that Delhi 6, also called 'Shahjahanbad' is reputed for is the delicacies it offers, no matter what time of year it is.
Breakfast in Old Delhi has always been a matter of bragging and I, even, after being in the city for more than three years, had never experienced it. On the morning of December 4, I, along with three of my colleagues,decided to kick start our weekend with a food walk in Old Delhi. The plan was under making for almost a week and had me excited for obvious reasons.
We met at Chawri Bazaar metro station and made our way towards Chitli Qabar market. With an uncertain idea of what to eat first and where from, we strolled through narrow lanes. One narrow lane led to another even narrower one. We even ended up in lanes that led nowhere. Thus stumbling along we went past some nondescript havelis with impressive facades and some ancient looking darwaza with impressive architectural value.
One thing I learned about Old Delhi that day, even if you get lost there, you can always rely on people there to show you the way.
While roaming through those lanes, we saw a shop selling Halwa with small nagori, puris and aloo ki sabzi. That is where we made out first pit stop. That Aaloo Puri followed with Nagori and Halwa made for a scrumptious first meal of the day. I had Nagori with halwa for the first time that day and it didn't disappoint! Also, I am not a big fan of Aaloo ki sabzi made at home but either that sabzi had something special or maybe it was because we were hungry, but me and my friends really enjoyed that meal.
Although it was a good start to our day, Aaloo Puri wasn't very fulfilling. By that time, the market of Chitli Qabar was in full swing, spread over both sides of the road, we could hardly dodge the rickshaws coming from behind us. We spotted a small breakfast point which was flooded inside with people waiting for their chai. Just at the entrance of that spot was a man making chai as earnestly as he could. It became evident why the place was so loved. Being a chai lover, I had to try it. The chai was served in a glass, topped with a little malai and handed over to me with a white cup at the bottom. The idea was that the tea was too hot for holding the glass directly and it indeed was true. The chai tasted a bit unusual at the beginning, maybe because it was too hot, I couldn't recognise its taste. However, with every sip I was taking, the temperature of it was settling and the taste of it was getting familiar to my tongue. It was over in no time as we were chatting. Also, it only cost us 12 rupees.
Making our way ahead, we decided on having good old Nahari, a winter staple in this part of the city, as i was told. However, we didn't know which place to go for that. So naturally, we decided to ask a boy who had a roadside stall in Chitli Qabar market and he suggested a place called 'Abdul Ghaffar Nahari Wale'. We turned and took a left and there was the place. Apparently, it was quite popular among the people who lived there. We ordered two plates of Nahari and sat in their asiding shop, waiting for it. I was quite unfamiliar with the dish so asked my colleague about it. Very casually he told me that it's meat and I, someone whose boundaries were only set till Chicken when it came to non veg, was dumbfounded. But that's the thing about such walks, you get to experience something you have never experienced before. It was the very first time I had mutton in my life and I have no complaints. It was tender, soft, flavourful and went nice with the Khamiri roti it was served with. However, because I had tried it for the first time, I really have nothing to compare it with. My colleague says that it was one of the finest nahari he has ever had and that for me, was testament enough.
After having this fulfilling meal, we made our way towards Jama masjid. It was on this way that we saw several shops offering Sheermal, a sweet bread topped with dry fruits, a Delhi 6 speciality. The dry fruits-loaded Sheermal are known to be heavy and because we already had our tummies full, there wasn't a lot of space to enjoy that. We decided to have a Sheermal without any dry fruits and again, I was surprised with how soft and mildly sweet it was.
Moving ahead, I had to try one more Delhi 6 speciality, a thing Jama masjid lane is known for and that's 'Shahi Tukda'. It is known to be overly sweet and I was all for it. The serving had hot shahi tukda loaded with cold rabdi and it made for a perfect dessert. As I took the first bite of it, the perfectly balanced warm and cold bite melted in my mouth and I fell in love with it. If you have a sweet tooth, it is a must try. You won't complain about coming all the way to Jama Masjid just for it, it's worth the hype!
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We were almost done with our morning after this and sat in a rickshaw for Chawri Bazar metro station. You may complain about the congesting traffic in the area but as we were stuck on the way, we spotted 'Daulat ki Chaat' just in front of Shyam sweets shop in Chawri Bazaar. We got off and ordered two servings of it. That's when my colleague spotted Sohail Hashmi, a well known Delhi based historian, smoking a cigarette, chatting with two people. I mean, what were the chances! I have been meaning to attend one of his heritage walks for quite some time now and all my little knowledge about Old Delhi has come from watching his walks on YouTube. It was a perfect coincidence to encounter him there.
Coming back to Daulat ki Chaat, it was the only let down throughout our breakfast hunt. It was a bit underwhelming and didn't have a much of a flavour to talk about. Interesting part about Daulat ki Chaat is the way it is prepared and the history around it, however, it might not meet your expectations when it comes to taste.
On this not-so-sweet note, our food walk came to an end. After this morning, it is evident to me that everytime you go to Old Delhi, it will never cease to amaze you. People getting up early to get on with their work and all the chaos that follows makes this place special. Not just in terms of food, Delhi 6 has a lot to offer and the best part is, you can never feel out of place there.