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Friday, June 16, 2017

Taste of Indian Street Food through Chandni Chowk in Delhi

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One of the things I like to do when I travel is to try the local gastronomy. And of course, if you travel on a budget you have to forget the luxury restaurants of the category. This does not mean that you will have to eat sandwiches every day, or that you will eat poorly and less healthy food. So, are you ready to go on a journey in taste?

In fact, if you are planning a trip to Delhi, eating good, nice and cheap street food is easy and yes, be prepared to discover the magical world of stalls, each of which specializes in a different dish of the local cuisine! In front of a few, you will find benches to sit and eat.

In Indian street food, the spices are the heart of the food. They provide a unique color and flavor, and that's why each cook makes his own secret spice mix, and this is how the magic in each dish is produced.

But my goal is the Chandni Chowk area, a less touristy chaotic market frequented almost exclusively by locals, which beyond the food havens has the world of spices, perfumes and bright colours with fruit and vegetable markets, and various shops with items ranging from jewellery to toys to souvenirs to cheap clothing and range of electronic gadgets.

I bet you are already hungry, so let's go to what you came for and get ready to make your mouth water. It is important that you do not have prejudices as the street food here is delicious but sometimes the queue in some of the popular shops especially in evening hours may keep you busy for more than an hour and especially if you have little time it may not be worth it and so if you have less time, try to arrive around afternoon, armed with patience.

There are over hundred food stalls, each with different specialties ranging from fried specialties to sweets and desserts. I take a few minutes to wander the stalls, admiring the huge variety. As a single dish rarely costs more than 10 or 20 rupees, be sure to fill your pockets with loose change and follow me in this gastronomic tour with lots of surprises!

I begin with munching the pakoras, chickpea flour fritters with spices and spinach, which are as essential as the samosas, the potato dumplings. Very typical were also the chili pakoras battered in chickpea flour. If you are still not very familiar with the flavors of Chandni Chowk, let me tell you in my blog the anecdotes of the street food available here, of what is known as Mughlai food that goes beyond the jalebi and the samosa.

As evening dawns I tread to the Mughlai havens near Jama Masjid. I particularly like the chicken tikka masala immersed in a creamy sauce of red-orange flavored spices and for its intense flavor and soft fleshy texture.

The chunks of boneless chicken marinated with a secret combination of spices and yogurt are roasted and cooked in a typical tandoori oven. It is seasoned with coconut milk or yogurt or cream, tomatoes and spices, and garam masala precisely. The result is a lovely smoky flavor.

The dish is simple and the base is the tandoori chicken. As regards the origins of chicken tikka masala the oldest claim is linked to the Mughal emperors as early creators of the dish. There is not a single recipe to prepare this delicious dish, which depends on the thickness of the sauce and also the spices used. Even if you've never tasted, surely you have noticed at least once on an Indian restaurant menu.

I win over a space and enjoy the chicken tikka with chur chur naan, a flatbread topped with cheese, garlic and onions. I also order a good portion of biryani, which absorbs and amplifies all the aromas in this dish. If I speak of the food that I miss the most, it must be the biryani. The way the biryani is cooked here is different from how others cook.

And here’s a little secret. After a lot of cajoling and breaking the ice through the name of a distant common friend, the cook allowed me in his den (aka kitchen) one Sunday. I will try to explain how it's done, but I think sour plums, yogurt, and pomegranate is what made it a good dish.

I saw him focused on the recipe, and it took three or four hours. He prepared the rice with milk according to his own recipe. Then he would put pistachios on top of the dish. I was very happy because this was a special recipe.

Another of the specialties that they serve only during the night here in Chandni Chowk are the Kebab with one of the most liked being the Nargisi Kebab, made with marinated lamb meat in yogurt for 48 hours and stuffed with eggs. The meat chunks are inserted in a stick and roasted inside the tandoori.

They also prepare very tender, flavourful and succulent Seekh Kebabs and wrap them with a rather thin and smooth Naan along with the salad and sauces, something that sounds pretty standard, however, the taste was quite unique and I can easily eat five or more of these wraps.

To end our eventful hot gastronomic night on a sweet note, we roam through some of the galis, where in the footpaths they then sell excellent fresh juices and sweets, such as lemon soda with generous amounts of ice and we end the night with the most renowned Gajar Ka Halwa, the carrot cake, in one of the carts! It has a very pleasant flavor provided it is ordered with the expectation of a soft sweet cake.

I always say that the gastronomy of each place is a trip within the trip and if you are in a country as immense and as different as India, surprises are guaranteed! Chandni Chowk is a feast of colors, smells and tastes that you should not miss.
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8 comments:

  1. Wow! That meat looks amazing! I've never been to India, but I want to see the Taj Mahal!

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  2. One of the things I love to do when I travel is also trying the local gastronomy...I enjoy cooking and trying local specialities while traveling such as the flash fried, crispy cactus strips with rattlesnake sausage in Sedona (USA - Arizona), and of course the Warthog Sammosas with aoli dressing , the Crocodile Sashimi with wasabi sweet soy dressing :-) and the Springbok Fillet grilled in Swellendam (South Africa).

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  3. My favorite thing to eat in Chandni Chowk is probably Kallu Nihari.

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  4. Thank you for good information!! I like indhian food!!

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  5. I like Indian food and I'd love to try the real one :) in India. Hope to get there some time soon. Thanks for sharing your personal experience!

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  6. I'm planning a trip to India for the next year and I was just wondering where I could find some good local food! Thanks for all those suggestions! :)

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  7. Next on my bucket street is a trip to India. Thanks for the awesome read

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Kalyan is first a photographer and then an avid traveler based in India, who is always on the look out for unusual and off the track destinations. He is a freelance travel, food and lifestyle blogger and an influencer, sharing stories and experiences through photographs and words. More About Me »