A group of youngsters sharing space with the oldies, savouring the traditional Indian snack chaat amidst a crowded marketplace is a familiar scene on most Delhi evenings.
Chaat that originated in Gujarat and North India, is a word used across the country now to refer to small plates of spicy eatables, typically served at the roadside stalls.
The relationship between Delhi and chaat is a warm one, dating back to the Mughal era. The story goes that the chief physician of Emperor Shahjahan had advised the inclusion of spices in the local food as a curative measure against the stomach disorders; a result of renovated canal. Since then, chaat has become Delhi's most favoured delicacy of all times.
Today various upmarket food chains like Haldiram's, Bikanerwala and Kaleva offer the bite to dilliwallahs. However, the authentic bliss of eating chaat comes from the plentiful wayside vendors operating across the city.
Tucked away in the chaotic by-lanes of Chandni Chowk are numerous options acting as haven for chaat-lovers. Natraj Dahi Bhalle and Hira Lal Chaat wale both of which have been listed in the Times Food Guide, Ram Sharan's 108-year-old golgappe shop and the kachori shop in Kinari Bazaar are incredibly old and all the rage.
Says Palak Gupta, Daulat Ram College, "Crunchy, tangy, hot and sweet flavours mingle to make papdi chaat a mouth-watering alternative to a meal. I can never get enough of it. And what better place for having chaat-papdi than old Delhi itself?"
Another popular shop is of Bishan Swaroop that offers awesome aloo chaat, fruit chaat and aloo kulla. This is one of those gems which has kept alive the magic of another time, another taste since 1923. Yet another prominent outlet is of Ashok's near Chawri Bazaar that is legendary for chaat.
Those who are particular about hygiene more often than not head to Nathu Sweets in Bengali Market offering fabulous golgappe and aloo tikki or Roshan Di Kulfi in Karol Bagh for their dahi bhalle. Mr. Kanhaiyalalji's outlet is famous in both Delhi and Gurgaon.
Whether a person prefers the cleaner, upmarket shops or the lesser, modest ones, the one underlying fact is that chaat is undoubtedly the flavour of our city and will remain so for many more generations to come.