It's hard not to be enraptured by the sheer theatricality of street food in Delhi. And as the first whiff of winter sets in, the aroma of surprisingly simple yet delicious cold weather treats begins to magically waft around every corner of the city. From the ubiquitous thelas selling mounds of roasted peanuts to slow-roasted shakarkandi (sweet potatoes) served with occassional slices of kamrakh (starfruit), the variety of food and the nutritious science behind all of it (nuts keep the body warm in winters and shakarkandi with its low glycemic index is a winter superfruit) begins to preoccupy the average Dilliwala.
Chef Ashwani Kumar Singh, from Kempinski Ambience Hotel says, "Indian cuisine is the only one in the world that has been adopted by Ayurveda. Every ingredient has health benefits associated with it." So perhaps it's best not to spend foggy winter mornings lingering over frothy Starbucks cappuccinos and instead opt for the poor man's power breakfast of paaya and nihari. And if that's not enough, unleash yourself on the amazing variety of parathas, chikkis, kababs, and rich desserts that are best savoured at street food stalls at this time of year.
GOBHI, MOOLI, ANDA PARANTHA
Parantha is a staple on the breakfast menu at most north Indian households. While aloo parantha is an all-season favourite, the winter months bring seasonal stuffings like mashed and stir-fried cauliflower and shredded radish on flatbreads coated with egg. A great start to the day and a good way to end it too, it isn't surprising that the city's roadside stalls do brisk business in stuffed paranthas during the winter. Where:Paranthewali Gali in the old city is rightly famous but excellent paranthas can also be had at: Paranthawala near Moolchand hospital; opposite link house in Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg; in front of Vikram Hotel, Lajpat Nagar IV.
Price:Rs 20 onwards
MOONGFALI CHIKKI & GAJAK
Feasting on chikki that's a combination of melted jaggery and groundnuts is de rigueur during Delhi winters. Ram, who plies his pushcart in central Delhi, swaps his business of selling bananas for chikki and rewari during the winter month. "The best chikkis have a dark hue as it suggests good quality gur (jaggery) is used. But if it is yellow toned, the gur is substandard," he says.
Where: Kothi Shri Mandir in Khari Baoli is a gali dedicated to chikkis. Kanwarji's at Chandni Chowk sells slightly upmarket variations such as rose petal chikki and anjeer chikki
Price:Rs 40 for 250 gms approx.
PAAYA & NIHARI
An elaborately-prepared soupy dish cooked overnight, the true gourmand appreciates paaya. The recipe involves stewing totters overnight until the bone softens releasing gelatin and giving the gravy a slippery texture. Paaya is believed to be a healthy tonic for colds. Another popular winter treat, the nihari is made from the thigh meat of goat or buffalo that is simmered overnight and garnished with ginger.
Where:Kallu Nihari behind Delite Cinema, Darya Ganj; Shabrati Nihari, Chitli Kabar, Jama Masjid; Javed Nihari, Zakir Nagar, Okhla
Price: Rs 40 onwards for a plate
DAULAT KI CHAAT
Light and frothy, this delicacy tastes like it could have been evolved by the finest modern molecular gastronomists. However, it's a traditional native Delhi dessert that's sold only during the winter months. Daulat ki chaat is prepared by whisking milk for hours until it becomes a light foam. The top layer is collected and drizzled with saffron milk,khoya, nuts and powdered sugar. Daulat ki chaat even made a rare guest appearance in Aankhon Dekhi, Rajat Kapoor's film set in the old city.
Where:Khemchand Khomcha, Kinari Bazaar; Pushcarts on the Red Fort stretch.
Price:Rs 30 onwards
TANDOORI TIKKAS & BURRAS
Come winters and the idea of standing at a roadside stall to savour freshly skewered kebabs with the scent of coal (and smog) wafting in the air seems romantic enough. Javed Bhai, who was earlier at Khan Market and now runs Al-Javed at Defence Colony, prepares what are perhaps the most succulent melt-in-mouth kakori kebabs in town. The secret, he says, "lies in the special spice mix we use."
Where:3, Back lane, Defence Colony market. Also check out pushcarts opposite Gate No.1 Jama Masjid
Price:Rs 180 owards
GAJAR KA HALWA
A winter specialty, almost every family indulges in the routine of preparing this ghee-khoya laden grated carrot treat. But if you are not in a mood to toil in the kitchen, some of the popular halwais stock authentic preparations.
Where:Bengali Sweet House, Bengali Market; Gopala, GK 2
Price:Rs 40 approx for a 100gm serving