I explained in yesterday's blog post, my father and I are eating our way through Delhi. He used knowledge of the local food scene for his picks; I used the internet. Whose choices will deliver the best eats? First up, my dad.
"Karim's, offering a plethora of kebabs, tandoori breads and delicious rice pudding, defines the Muslim-Mughal cuisine that is so popular in Delhi," my father said as we drove to the location near our home in South Delhi. It was closed. Welcome to the first truth of Delhi dining: nothing is where it is supposed to be. "Karim's here closed a few weeks ago," a passerby offered.
Dad quickly recovered from the setback and we were off to Chandni Chowk's Paranthewali Gali, located in the walled city of old Delhi, to experience his famous paranthas (griddle breads). Along the way, Dad talked endlessly about foods we passed on the streets - carts selling singharas (water chestnuts), Ram Ladoos (fried lentil balls served with a radish salad), and shakarghandi (baked sweet potatoes served with spices), and the maatra kulcha walla (a man selling a curry of dried beans atop baked bread). "You won't find these on Google,"Dad assured me.
Water chestnuts for sale.
After we gobbled down stuffed paranthas and jalebies (a very sweet, deep-fried dessert), we headed to the shopping district called Lajpat Nagar and indulged in "Chinese Chaat" at Manik's Chinese, a small kiosk in Central Market. I ate chili chicken served on noodles. The Chinese have been settled in India for many centuries and this food is reflective of what happens when the two cultures meet.
Chinese Chaat at Manik's Chinese.
The next day, we went to another Delhi institution-the dhabas (roadside eateries) on Pandara Road for a visit to an eatery called Gulatis. They offer classic foods of Delhi-makhani dal (a dark, creamy lentil curry), chicken tandoori, and roomali rotis (thin-bread that resembles a handkerchief)-in a one of kind setting. If meat isn't your thing, they offer an all-vegetarian option at their sister eatery next door.
"You cannot say you have eaten everything Delhi without eating at Bengali Market," said Dad, so we were off to the area famous for its gol gappas (deep fried, hollow balls filled with potatoes and dunked in a spiced water) and mouthwatering milk-based sweetmeats.
Gol gappas at Bengali Sweet House.
He wasn't done yet. One of the most beloved, oldest foods of Delhi is bedmi puri and aloo (a flour-based fried bread stuffed with lentils and served with a traditional potato curry.) He found it at Nathu's Sweets, a chain restaurant, a stone's throw away from our home.
And then came the biggest surprise of the day: McDonald's "Aloo Tikki Burger." "Delhi is definitive in its tastes, as you can see here," he beamed proudly. We both bit into our moist potato burgers as Delhi-ites swarmed around us. "See here, this is the truth. We have a rich culture, a rich cuisine and even this burger is now part of it. I hate food snobs who turn up their noses at this kind of food. Look around at who is eating here. There are no foreigners, no tourists, just Delhi-wallas. Our tastes are so defined that we are choosing our new cuisine instead of letting it be defined for us."
McDonald's Aloo Tikki Burger.
As we headed home, he stopped at a local paan shop selling betel nut leaves wrapped around various mouth-fresheners like fennel seeds. "Now let's see what Google can do," he said as he smiled with satisfaction.
Check back Thursday, for my Google-researched food tour of Delhi
Monica Bhide, contributor
Related Links from bon appétit: