Relishing authentic ‘Old Delhi’ flavours

A few minutes in, and we heard the gong being struck, indicating that iftar had commenced.

On Sunday evening, as the sun started to set, we noticed scores of people—most of them holding floor mats in one hand and food containers in another—walking towards Jama Masjid to break their fasts and indulge in a spiritual evening with their loved ones. As people waited for the announcement that alerts them about timings, the bylanes of Old Delhi, often considered a foodie’s haven, came alive filled with stalls featuring delicacies to binge on once iftar (the meal eaten after sunset during Ramadan) begins.

Experience the traditions
Abu Sufiyan, founder, Purani Dilli Walon ki Baatein, was seen seated in a corner at the jam-packed Masjid as he shared information about iftar and the month of Ramadan with Deepthi Pandeti (23) and Shipali Singh (24). Pandeti and Singh were here to join Sufiyan for a food walk conducted by his online community.

Images of various dishes available
in Old Delhi | ANJANI CHADHA

A few minutes in, and we heard the gong being struck, indicating that iftar had commenced. Sufiyan, who refrained from eating all day, broke his fast with pakoras (fritters) that he had bought from Sheeren Bhawan, a sweet shop on Choori Walan road in Chitli Qabar that was established more than 100 years ago—it is also famous for its white carrot halwa. Made with desi ghee, these pakoras were delectable. Those near us were seen breaking their fast with a sip of water, and later consumed juices, fryums, pakoras, dates, fruits, and other dishes they had brought along. We were seated next to Aamina and her family who were kind enough to offer us cold beverage. “Mil baant kar khane me aur accha lagta hai (It tastes better when shared),” she smiled.

After concluding the evening prayers, the gathering outside the mosque started to disperse. A brightly-lit Jama Masjid glistened in the background as people made their way to the food street to commence the feast. We moved along and entered Chitli Qabar, the nearest neighbourhood. A local vendor served us a glass of ‘Gur ka Sharbat’, a refreshing drink made with jaggery. “I prefer this over Mohabbat ka Sharbat. It is lighter,” said Sufiyan.

Gorging on delicacies
Those who might think that the street food in Old Delhi comprises only a variety of non-vegetarian are heavily mistaken. This place is brimming with options for vegetarians too. We gorged on some ‘laung chide’ bought from a local vendor opposite Hamdard. Prepared with chickpea flour (besan) and moong dal (green gram), ‘laung chide’ is a kebab-like dish drizzled with spicy sauces and served with onions. We walked past shops selling heaps of pheni (a kind of vermicelli) and khajla, which is a deep-fried pastry. “This is eaten during sehri [the meal that one has before commencing their fast]. We usually consume it by dipping it in milk. One can adjust the sweetness by adding sugar to the milk,” Sufiyan explained.

Non-vegetarians can make their way to Aslam Chicken and Qureshi to try some mouth-watering dishes. However, these spots are usually extremely crowded during the evenings. We decided to stop at Al-Amaan foods, Matia Mahal, instead to devour seekh kebab and chicken tikka. “I will drink this gravy too,” laughed Pandeti. Given how stuffed we were, we could not try the Nihari and Biryani, two dishes that Old Delhi is famous for. Our feast concluded at Cool Point with a plate of ‘Shahi Tukda’, following which we relished ‘Mohabbat ka Sharbat’, a local drink made with RoohAfza and watermelon.

NAME OF THE DISH: Fish (Seelan)
LOCATION: Farid Fish Corner, Chitli Qabar
NEARBY SPOT: near Masjid Sayyad Rafai

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