Like the saying goes that a man’s first love is his vehicle so does the first love of Delhi is definitely eating. Weddings, Social gatherings and festivals are always filled with a variety of food and cuisines to the brim that makes it very difficult for you to choose from an array of mouth-watering sweets and numerous vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisines.
Delhi is also known as the ‘restaurant capital of India’ unlike other metropolis like Bangaluru and Mumbai where discotheques and pub are the major hubs. This city is crowded with multiple roadside eating joints and restaurants of all types with traditional vintage cuisines and international cuisines.
Delhi, as we all know by now was ruled by numerous dynasties that had brought along with them various secret recipes and a host of delicacies which you will only find in this city and nowhere else. Over the centuries, the descendants of these ancient and royal cooks have only perfected their recipes making their cuisines even more desirable and scrumptious.
The tale of Delhiites always eating out during weekends or otherwise was not always true. Orthodox Hindu Families would condemn eating outside especially Brahmin families due to the fact that most of the cooks were unclean and of a lower caste and also surprisingly non-Brahmins’ who also resented eating any food made by such caste leaving a very minimal percentage who did not care so much. All this changed when not very long ago, an enterprising Punjabi family who fled to India during partition set up a Tandoori Shop near Red Fort in Old Delhi sometime after Independence in the 1950s serving authentic Punjabi and Mughlai cuisines. This became such a massive success that marked the beginning of change in the mindsets of Delhiites about eating outside. Today, every Indian restaurant in this city will always have the Tandoori section in their menus and it has become a prominent age old tradition.
If you want to relish some great and authentic Mughlai cuisine then Old Delhi, the ancient Old city of Mughal Emperor ShahJahan is the place to be. Old Delhi still boasts of specialised and legendary Mughlai food and a few names that stand out are Karim’s, Babu Khan, Kallu’s Halim and Nalli Nihari. These restaurants have perfected the art of making the age old traditional and ancient Mughal cuisines relished by Emperors and Royalties due to the very fact that their ancestors were the actual royal cooks that served the royal kitchens of these Emperors and hence, they do take pride in being able to preserve such delectable recipes despite the invasion of Tandoori food.
There is a very interesting story behind the speciality named Nalli Nihari Ghost that is a Beef stew painstakingly prepared and cooked overnight and served hot to people. Apparently during the rule of ShahJahan, a water canal was constructed in the middle of Chandni Chowk to supply water to Delhi. Due to some reason, the water was not consumable and so the Hakims or Doctors of that era came up with a Beef stew recipe made with plenty of red chillies supposed to have the property to kill the germs in the water. Whether, this worked or not is still a mystery but this recipe became so popular that it retained its speciality even today amidst the streets of Chandni Chowk and other states like Lucknow and Kanpur.
Cuisines in Delhi also constitute of very old traditional sweets like the Ghantewala Halwai in Chandni Chowk which existed since 1790 and other ancient food shops now managed by the 4th or 5th generation of the family. You can also find shops that specially cater only to various spices that can be bought at a very reasonable price.
There is one corner in Old Delhi famous for Paranthas and is popularly known as the ‘Paranthewali Gali’ that serves layered paranthas, which is wheat dough rolled flat into circular layered shapes. Mughlai paranthas are fried with eggs and then filled with chicken or mutton cooked in spices, rolled and eaten which is called Kathi Roll. These were a famous delicacy amongst the Mughal Emperors.
Snacks and namkeen are also very popular and majorly consumed in Delhi. Haldiram and Bikaner are well known names in Chandni Chowk that specialises in different types of namkeen and sweets like Ras malai made from milk and cream. During summer, you can cool your system by enjoying some great thandai or cool drinks made from almond, Abri Falooda which is Rice noodles and milk starch served with crushed ice and Kulfis which is milk cooked till it is thick and poured into elongated steel cups to take the shape of an ice cream topped with cardamom, saffron and nuts and eaten with Falooda or rice noodles.
Delhi also has excellent vegetarian joints serving Chole Bhature which is fried wheat bread and lentils cooked with spices, Paneer dishes or cottage cheese recipes, Rajma Chaawal [Red kidney beans cooked with tomato and spices], Aloo Gobhi [Potato and Cauliflower fried in spices], Gobhi Massallam [Cauliflower cooked in spices], Bhaingan Bharta [Aubergines cooked in spices], Daal Makhani a very popular lentil dish again cooked with spices and butter and many more. Street food is also very popular that serves chaats, snacks, ice creams, Chinese fried food like fried noodles and momo, South Indian delicacies like Dosa sambar, Wada sambar and Idli sambar made of rice flour and spiced lentil soup. You can also relish excellent Bengali sweets and cuisines in Chittaranjan Park and Green Park.
International Cuisines also form a part of Delhi cuisines greatly enjoyed by all. Many 5 star Hotels, Restaurants in Connaught Place, Vasant Vihar, Saket, South Delhi and Gurgaon etc. cater to continental and international cuisines like Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Greek, American meals and British cuisines etc. Wenger’s in Connaught Place is very famous and an old joint that specialises in Cakes, pastries and Confectionaries and is a must-visit.
Dhabas are also very prominent and traditional open air restaurants seen mostly along the highway and roadsides where you enjoy various Tandoori delicacies and Indian recipes cooked home style. Though most people still hesitate to eat in such places as they are mostly filled with Truck Drivers and the place looks unclean most of the time but there are some Dhabas that are very clean along NH-8 which is a must try as you can really enjoy delectable Punjabi cuisines at a very cheap price.
After a hearty meal, most Delhiites like to eat Paan, which is betel leaf filled with areca nuts, grated coconut, lime, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves which assist in digestion and good for the stomach. So, if you ever visit Delhi, do try out a few recipes; however, if you are not used to food cooked in spices which may upset your stomach then you can always go for some good barbequed and light International cuisines in joints like Rodeos or TGIF etc.