“Old Delhi to me is like chaotic poetry. Amid the complete mayhem, there are narrow bylanes brimming with unexplored stories,” mentioned consultant chef and writer Sadaf Hussain. His food walk, ‘Purani Dilli ke Naye Purane Nashte’—in collaboration with a cultural organisation Delhipedia—was conducted on Sunday.
At 9.00 am, 30 participants traversed the lanes of Purani Dilli, narrowly escaping vegetable vendors and electric rickshaws, on a journey to discover the hidden culinary history of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi). “When people think of Old Delhi food they are usually reminded of biryanis, kebabs, and nihari. The rich vegetarian food culture introduced by the people who settled here is often neglected,” shared Hussain.
Busting the myth, the walk’s menu consisted of vegetarian breakfast delicacies along with desserts iconic to the Jain and Baniya population of the region. It began with tea and Pape (a toasted biscuit), Bedmi Puri (deep fried bread) and Nagori (small bread made of semolina) from Ram Swaroop Halwai at Chawri Bazar, Daulat ki Chaat, and fresh fruit kulfis (Indian ice cream) from Kuremal Mahavir Prasad Kulfiwale at Sita Ram Bazar.
Unique mix of cultures
Founded by Shahjahan in 1639, this ancient walled city is a representation of the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb (the blending of Hindu culture with Islamic religious elements).The group of Hindu citizens who flocked to the city after its establishment brought with them their trade as well as their food practices. Paying homage to the same, this walk began at Jama Masjid and ended at the 200-year-old Krishna Temple in one of the lanes of Purani Dilli.
Hussain, a native of Jharkhand, who has been living in Delhi for the past 12 years, mentioned, “I am not like those people who claim they know the city because they have been living here all their lives. I just try to show the city I fell in love with through my lens.” Hussain’s narrative focused on the oral traditions about the dishes that have been passed down for generations. Priyanka Prasanth from Lajpat Nagar who was attending the walk mentioned, “I had never attended a food walk before. I liked that they took us to shops that tourists are generally unaware of and that Sadaf patiently explained the evolution of each of the dishes we tasted, and their history.”