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Kunal Vijayakar’s complete guide to Delhi’s street food

art-and-culture Updated: Oct 09, 2016 10:57 IST
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Delhi isn’t just the national capital, it’s also the heart of Indian street food. (HT File photo )

I wake up every day with three words on my mind, just like a prayer. These are words that give me the strength to face yet another day, an exuberance, a life force, a rush. Three words that bring hope and anticipation. Three words: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

It is absurd how the vision of a meal can distort my lucid wisdom. And if faced with a wholesome female form and a pound of well-seared sirloin, there is no qualm as to which one I will yield. Hence, destiny has given me more opportunities to romance a meal than to romance a woman.

The winding lanes of Paranthe wali Gali in Chandni Chowk. (HT File photo )

I have met people who have indulged my weakness and coddled my compulsion. As a foodie, I am delighted to be able to eat at the hands of the greatest chefs of the country, and in the warmest homes. And I have been fortunate to sample some of the best Indian cuisines, right at their place of birth.

Also read: From London, with love: Kunal Vijayakar on his favourite eats in the Harry Potter-esque city

In India, a place of birth is often the streets. As legend has it, in 1947, when Punjab was partitioned, one among the many Sikh and Hindu refugees fleeing the rioting and cataclysm, settled in Delhi. Experimenting with inventive and appealing food, he decided to try cooking chicken in the tandoor originally used by NWFP (North-West Frontier Province) villagers to cook bread. That was the tandoori chicken.

The lure of a good, parsimonious meal often drags me to a hot sweltering street cart. The trek starts from Paranthe wali Gali in Chandni Chowk. Historically famous for causing high levels of cholesterol, the parathas still remain the best deep-fried parathas in the country.

Jama Masjid is a landmark near Karim’s, an eatery that offers Mughlai cuisine (Photo: Virendra Singh Gosain/HT )

Delhi is also known for its version of who’s who. You may claim acquaintance to a Rahul Gandhi or an Arun Jaitley, but Karim’s near Jama Masjid claims acquaintance to Bahadur Shah Zafar. When the last Mughal king was dethroned by the British, apparently, Karim’s ancestors fled, only to return when the Delhi Durbar was held for the coronation of King George V. I honestly don’t care for this nugget of history, but the kebabs, nihari and most of the other Mughlai food is beyond comparision.

Also read: Kunal Vijayakar takes us back the origin of Hakka cuisine

Al Kauser at RK Puram insist that they invented the Kakori kabab. I don’t know if that is true but they taste like they were meant for a king. And at Connaught Place is Kake da Hotel. With more oil consumption than the entire United States, this small eatery dishes out the most delectable gurda, kapoora, butter chicken and kheema.

Apologies for making the vegetarian stomachs churn, but Delhi also does the greatest chaat ever. The famous Dilli chaat can be indulged in at Natraj and at Shree Balaji Chaat Bhandar, both in Chandni Chowk.

For dessert, one can head to Natraj Dahi Bhalla Corner, Chandan Chowk. (HT File Photo )

And while I can go on and on, for today the trek ends here. If you have a sweet tooth, sure decay is offered by Ghantawalas at Chandni Chowk or Roshan di Kulfi in Karol Bagh.

The streets of Delhi are something we reluctantly share with traffic. Polluted, noisy and hazardous, the streets have become the most inhumane landscape in the world. Yet, we do every unimaginable thing on our streets. The same street that you walk on transmogrifies into a public urinal, a shopping arcade, a dormitory, a gambling den, a small family business, a place of worship, an animal shelter, and above all, an eating place.

Author and TV show host Vijayakar is “always hungry”. He tweets as @kunalvijayakar