A Self-Guided Food Walk in Old Delhi

A Self-Guided Food Walk in Old Delhi

India, the Land of Spices, is a long standing superpower in terms of food whose cooking, once exotic, in recent decades has splashed out far and wide across continents. Amid the country's myriads of regional cuisines, Old Delhi has its own loud say on the matter – something one can easily attest to wandering the city's intricate maze of narrow gullies, by-lanes, high streets and markets, led by the catchy whiff of freshly made fare. Reputed for centuries as the street food capital of India, Old Delhi brims with places luring passers-by with mouthwatering varieties of steaming samosas, hissing crisp jalebis, curries, butter chickens, tandoori chickens, kebabs, biryanis and more, largely resembling, especially to a foreign eye, a bit of chaos which is nonetheless all too well organized. To explore the city's colorful and flavorful food scene and not to get lost in this fascinating culinary paradise, we invite you on this short yet exhilarating walking pilgrimage of Delhi in search of eateries not to be missed for exploring the authentic local cuisine.

1. Chandni Chowk Road: Jalebi and Samosas

Chandni Chowk Road: Jalebi and Samosas
Image Courtesy of: Biswarup Ganguly
Our walk starts in the heart of Delhi, at Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir, just outside the Red Fort Entrance on Chandni Chowk - perpetually crowded thoroughfare where tumultuous, action-packed India comes to life in its miniature form. Walking the length of the road from the Red Fort to Fatehpuri Mosque, we will encounter, alongside many notable places of worship, a wealth of street food, spices, and bargain goods on sale. This crazy, noisy, and peculiarly scented part of the city is a home to several truly unique, centuries-old restaurants and halwais (confectioners).

- Old Famous Jalebi Wala
One such place is the shop called Jalebi Wala(h) standing on the corner of Dariba Kalan Road and Chandni Chowk. Established back in 1884, this family-run business (spanning four generations) specializes in samosas, but most importantly, jalebi – traditional Persian delicacy introduced to India in the Middle Ages. This doughnut-like, coiled and crispy sweet is made of flour-based batter deep fried in boiling home-made desi ghee (melted, clarified butter) over a coal fire until it turns distinctively orange in color, upon which it is soaked in a syrup made of unrefined desi khandsari sugar (free from any harmful chemicals), sometimes mixed with spices. The created here jalebi – product of a secret family recipe – are unique and not found anywhere else in the city. Founder of the shop, Nemi Chand Jain, had experimented a lot with different ingredients prior to developing his own know-how. For ultimate enjoyment, it is recommended to eat jalebi scorching hot, fresh from the fire.
Offline reading and travel directions:
You can carry this article in your mobile device to read offline and create a self-guided walk to visit the venues featured herein with the GPSmyCity App (available on iTunes App Store or Google Play Store).

2. Chandni Chowk Road: Chaat and Lemon Wale

Chandni Chowk Road: Chaat and Lemon Wale
Image Courtesy of: Delhi Chaat
- Bishan Swaroop Chaat Bhandar
A two-minute walk from Jalebi Wala(h) shop, just across the street, is another place of distinction, Bishan Swaroop Chaat Bhandar. Open since 1923, this shop is renowned for their toothsome version of chaat, savory snack made of mixed fruits (kiwi and pomegranate), boiled chickpeas, tangy masala and lemon juice. Sometimes, the fruits give way to fried potato cutlets, in which case the dish is called “aloo chaat.” Each of these chaats is equally healthy and deserves a place on everyone’s must-eat list. Among other dishes served here is also one of the best in Delhi “kulle ki chaats” – scooped out fruits and vegetables in the form of cups filled with pomegranate seeds and boiled chickpeas, topped with lemon juice and chaat masala. Dangerously delicious!!!

- Natraj Cafe
Not far away from Bishan Swaroop Chaat Bhandar sits yet another eatery you wouldn't want to miss – Natraj cafe. Their signature dish is “dahi bhalla chaat” – fried flour balls (bhallas), lentils and tamarind soaked in thick yogurt (dahi) with spices and red chutney. Truly one of the best street snacks in Delhi, if not the whole India, this place makes it so good that the folk from all over the city flock here regularly in their droves eager to pay money and eat dahi bhalla right there on the footpath outside. And if you reckon dahi bhalla is the only thing that makes Natraj famous, you're wrong. Their “aloo tikki” (potato curry cutlet) is just as delicious and has delighted Natraj's loyal customers since 1940. Often, if not always, the place is crowded, so it is imperative to know exactly what you want and be able to say so clearly to the vendor, and then be ready – upon the receipt of your order – to move away quickly from the counter so as not to delay the queue. Both these seemingly humble dishes are equally priced at Rs 50 ($0.73) apiece.

- Pandit Ved Prakash Lemon Wale
Another 300 meters from the mainstream Chandni Chowk, in the direction of Fatehpuri Mosque, opposite the Town Hall, you will find a little, quaint, somewhat run-down looking stall, which is nonetheless hugely popular for their Ved Prakash Lemon Wale banta, the local vintage lemonade. Started off over a century ago by Mr Prakash, grandfather of today's owner, this outlet has truly withstood the test of time. Back in the day, the proprietors worked hard with German engineers on producing a carbonated version of the drink. Their dedication paid off well resulting in thousands of customers coming here regularly, over the years, first on tonga (carriages) and trams and later in their fancy cars, just for a sip of fizzy Lemon Wale banta – a perfect savory, tummy-soothing antidote to the excessively consumed delicacies of Old Delhi.
Offline reading and travel directions:
You can carry this article in your mobile device to read offline and create a self-guided walk to visit the venues featured herein with the GPSmyCity App (available on iTunes App Store or Google Play Store).

3. Parantha Wale Gali Lane: Parantha and Kachori

Parantha Wale Gali Lane: Parantha and Kachori
Image Courtesy of: Subhashish Panigrahi
Just as the name suggests, Delhi Paranthe Wali Gali (“flatbread lane”) is the ultimate destination for those seeking to enjoy the best in Delhi “parantha” (flatbread deep fried in pure ghee in cast-iron pans, served plain or stuffed with vegetables or meat). Established back in 1650 under the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, this narrow tapering street has been hosting parantha shops since the 1870s. Out of 10 original outlets here only a handful still remain, of which Pandit Gaya Prasad Paranthe Wala shop, founded in 1872, is the oldest. Back in the day, this tasty Indian treat was available in just a handful of varieties, such as Aloo Parantha, Gobhi Parantha and Matar Parantha, stuffed with potato, cauliflower and peas respectively. Today, there are dozens of new stuffings on offer including lentils, fenugreek, radish, papad, carrot, paneer, mint, lemon, chilly, dry fruits, cashew, raisins, almond, rabdi, khurchan, banana, karela, lady's finger, and tomato, served with a mint-, banana-, or tamarind chutney, or vegetable pickle, Aloo Subzi (potato stir), or sweet and spicy pumpkin curry. Thick with the aroma of spices, the air of Paranthe Wali Gali will surely get you hungry.

- Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan
The oldest in Delhi parantha shop, operated since 1872 by six generations of the owner family, Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan has seen, throughout its long history, many celebrities and notable figures, including members of the Nehru family, attesting to which is the photograph proudly displayed on the shop's wall. And once you try their paranthas filled with potato, cauliflower, radish, cheese, carrot, green peas, pumpkin, potato, fennel leaves, or any other stuffing, seasoned with a green coriander mint- or tamarind and banana sauce, you will understand what kept those people coming again and again. Just as many eatable things in Old Delhi, paranthas here are fried twice so as to ensure their ultimate crispiness and, surprisingly enough, reduced oiliness!

- JB Kachori Wale
The other snack that walks tall on Paratha Wale Gali is “kachori” – deep-fried round and flattened flour balls stuffed with hand-crushed lentils and spices, usually served with potato curry, a dash of chutney or tamarind sauce, and garnished with coriander and fenugreek leaves. Teatime is sacred in India and when it comes to teatime snacks, kachori is a firm favorite. And where else can you try the best kachoris in Delhi other than here, at the JB Kachori Wale shop. There are many shops in the city selling kachoris but JB, open since 1971, is simply top of the range. Their menu is rather unpretentious yet straight to the point. You may go for either a ‘full plate’ or ‘half plate’, which means two pieces of kachori or just one. As to the variety of kachoris on offer, they have dal kachori, pyaaz kachori, matar kachori, dry fruit kachori and many others – all come with a crispy crust on the outside and delicious surprise on the inside. Rest assured!
Offline reading and travel directions:
You can carry this article in your mobile device to read offline and create a self-guided walk to visit the venues featured herein with the GPSmyCity App (available on iTunes App Store or Google Play Store).

4. Chandi Chowk Laneaways: Pani Puri

Chandi Chowk Laneaways: Pani Puri
Image Courtesy of: Christian Haugen
Chandni Chowk (“Moonlight Square”) is one of the oldest and busiest shopping areas of Old Delhi. Among the many things sold here, the foremost is indeed street food – abundant and flavorful, just as India herself! The staggering cuisine variety presented here is dominated by the legendary “Pani Puri” (aka “golgappa”) – fried to a crisp, little flour balls filled with a mix of flavored water, tamarind chutney, chili, chaat masala, potato, onion and chickpeas. Stacks of these “spice bombs” – ready to burst in your mouth with a load of freshness – are seen all over the area, towering high above the vendors' stalls. The locals don't bother eating them in small bites, one at a time, but rather put them whole in a mouth. And rightly so, because Pani Puri need to be consumed quickly or else they get soggy and not particularly nice.

- Padam Chaat Corner
And if you're here to marvel at pani puri craftsmanship, then head no further than Kinari Bazaar in Chandi Chowk, just near Paratha Wale Gali Lane, where they have perfected pani puri making to the state of the art. Here you will find a rather unassuming shop, measuring just 6 by 4 feet, conveniently located in the middle of the bustling area, serving the weary passing-by shoppers a much needed refuel of flavored pani puri varieties: spicy atta (whole wheat); tangy guava pickle; and sweet saunth (tamarind pickle). Opened nearly half a century ago, this place prides itself on the strict use of homemade ingredients. Even their yogurt is homemade, leaving no place for packaged or processed items.

5. Jama Masjid Area: Kabab

Jama Masjid Area: Kabab
Image Courtesy of: saurabh sharan
If visiting India hasn't put you yet in a vegetarian or even more so – vegan state of mind, then you may yield to the unadulterated love of food and indulge yourself in meaty delights at popular eateries near Jama Masjid. The latter is a popular area of Old Delhi brimming with tiny outlets serving authentic Mughlai food: sizzling “beef” kebabs (which are actually buffalo, since cow is a sacred animal in India), mutton curries, flavorful biryani, butter chicken, to mention but a few – all great value for money! Just follow your nose to the smell of spices and grilled meat smoke, and there's a good chance you will find yourself in the narrow lane overlooking Jama Masjid's Gate No. 1, also known as Matia Mahal. And when the night falls, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, this place gets truly mesmerizing, personifying mayhem with scores of people heading to the numerous local shops and restaurants to grab a bite after a long daily fast. Among the many Mughlai dishes served here now, Nihari – a slow-cooked beef stew – is one of the most popular, equally good for breakfast or lunch. This and other staple items on the menu of the best restaurants around Jama Masjid, in the Bazar Matia Mahal area, all originated hundreds of years ago in the royal kitchens of none other than Mughal emperors themselves.

- Qureshi Kabab Corner
You may well be thousands of miles away from Turkey yet still be able to find a decent kebab, especially in Delhi. A few steps away from Jama Masjid Gate No.1 to the left, down Urdu Bazar Road, you will find Qureshi Kebab Corner. There you may see an elderly gentleman stringing kebabs, tender and flavorful, waiting to be grilled. Founder of the shop, Haji Abdul Ghani Qureshi, is a third generation kebab maker, whose grandfather sold them too, near Jama Masjid. Now taken over by his five sons, the Qureshi family business thrives producing irresistible, reputedly the best in Old Delhi, kebabs for more than 70 decades in a row. Their chicken and mutton kebabs are a definite must try, and if you pair them with a mix of chutney and butter, they become absolutely to die for! A hefty portion of each is a good value for money. A key to success here is a secret recipe for the butter that represents a blend of exotic spices and herbs delivering lip-smacking flavor and finger-licking taste.

6. Matia Mahal Market Area: Mughlai Food (Meet)

Matia Mahal Market Area: Mughlai Food (Meet)
Image Courtesy of: Saad Akhtar
Back to Jama Masjid Gate No.1, with Matia Mahal at your face, heading down this road on the left-hand side you will find Karim’s. The likes of this restaurant (specialized in kebabs, mutton and chicken dishes, and biryanis) are nowhere to be found in Delhi in terms of fame. Its origin dates back to the twilight years of the Mughal rule of India, succeeded by the British, following which Haji Karimuddin, son of the former chef for the Shah household – Mohammed Aziz, set up a stall here out of desire to make quick fortune catering to the crowds who flooded the capital to celebrate the coronation of King George V in Delhi in 1911. Since that time, Karim’s has expanded from its original meager outlet, with just two dishes of offer (mutton with potatoes and lentil curry), to nearly 30 shops citywide. Still, the original spot near Jama Masjid remains a legend and a marvelous place for an outstanding Mughlai feast: butter chicken, spicy mutton stew, chicken biryani, brain curry, etc. All these and other dishes here are a just culinary bomb fit to blast you out of senses with flavor and spices. But then again, isn't it what a piece of history truly tastes like.

- Karim's
Back to Jama Masjid Gate No.1, with Matia Mahal at your face, heading down this road on the left-hand side you will find Karim’s. The likes of this restaurant (specialized in kebabs, mutton and chicken dishes, and biryanis) are nowhere to be found in Delhi in terms of fame. Its origin dates back to the twilight years of the Mughal rule of India, succeeded by the British, following which Haji Karimuddin, son of the former chef for the Shah household – Mohammed Aziz, set up a stall here out of desire to make quick fortune catering to the crowds who flooded the capital to celebrate the coronation of King George V in Delhi in 1911. Since that time, Karim’s has expanded from its original meager outlet, with just two dishes of offer (mutton with potatoes and lentil curry), to nearly 30 shops citywide. Still, the original spot near Jama Masjid remains a legend and a marvelous place for an outstanding Mughlai feast: butter chicken, spicy mutton stew, chicken biryani, brain curry, etc. All these and other dishes here are a just culinary bomb fit to blast you out of senses with flavor and spices. But then again, isn't it what a piece of history truly tastes like.

- Al Jawahar
If walking around Old Delhi has whet your appetite, consider making a pit stop at Al Jawahar for a treat of some of their not-to-be-missed delights: butter chicken, mutton korma, chicken changezi, seekh kebabs, kaleji gurda, biryani and curries. Rumors have it that the place was named after Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, who inaugurated it upon opening. Summon your patience for a bit of wait here, but rest assured that when your food arrives, you’ll be the envy of the meat-eating world.

- Aslam Chicken
If you're a chicken fan and like it slow-cooked, Aslam Chiken restaurant is for you. Prepare to share it with a bunch of fellow-chicken lovers. Reputedly the best place in town for butter chicken, Aslam Chicken has had it as their staple dish for the past 20 years. Their unique interpretation of the dish is attributed to a recipe whereby pieces of chicken are first marinated in a heavily guarded secret mix of spices, then masterly grilled in a tandoor, and then bathed in a rich, gut warming gravy of butter and yogurt. The resulting appearance, in some opinions, is pretty distant from the ideal image of butter chicken but the actual taste makes it one of the firmest favorites of non-vegetarian Delhi, fully justifying all the hype that surrounds it.

7. Food Mapping and Tips:

Food Mapping and Tips:
1. Note that the majority of shops in Chandni Chowk are closed on Sundays.

2. The best time for Chandni Chowk shopping is before 8 a.m.

3. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times and try to carry as few as possible.

4. Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib (Sikh temple) offers free delicious meals to all visitors (both, seeking spiritual experience or just food). All are welcome but required to remove their shoes and cover their hair (women) upon entry.

5. Beware of traffic, whilst in India, at all times! Fast-moving scooters or carts pulled at a fairly high speed are commonplace even in tight narrow lane ways.

6. A key indicator to whether a street vendor is good or not is the number of locals buying from them. Reliable street vendors are always packed with local clients.

7. Advance planning for visiting restaurants near Jama Masjid is recommended due to long lines to get in. Also prepare to wait for your food order.

8. The best time to explore Jama Masjid food scene is around 7pm.
Get GPSmyCity App for IOS or Android
You can read offline thousands of travel articles like this one in the "GPSmyCity: Walks and Articles with Offline Maps" app on iTunes App Store or Google Play. The apps also offer GPS navigation to guide you to the places featured in the articles.
Download City Maps and Walks app for IOS   Download City Maps and Walks app for Android

Walking Tours in Delhi, India

Create Your Own Walk in Delhi

Create Your Own Walk in Delhi

Creating your own self-guided walk in Delhi is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
New Delhi Walking Tour

New Delhi Walking Tour

New Delhi is India's capital and one the most famous tourist destinations in the country. There are some amazing temples and mosques, unique parks and gardens, and spectacular museums to be visited in this city. This walking tour will lead you to some of the most famous tourist attractions in New Delhi.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.4 km
Places of Worship Self-guided Tour in Delhi

Places of Worship Self-guided Tour in Delhi

Delhi has plenty of magnificent religious sights done in various architectural styles. The beautiful architecture reveals the intensity of religious experience of centuries gone by. The erected temples and mosques are engraved with inscriptions, on marble and stone, that bear testimony to their holy character. Visit the most famous mosques and temples in Delhi in the next self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 4 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 10.4 km
Chandni Chowk Walking Tour, Delhi

Chandni Chowk Walking Tour, Delhi

Chandni Chowk is probably one of the most famous areas in Delhi. It is located in Old Delhi and offers everything from architecture, religious buildings, museums and galleries, and famous restaurants and shops. Take this walking tour to discover the most famous tourist attractions in Chandni Chowk.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 km