Delhi, the focal point of the conglomerate of cultures that coexist in the country, offers for a symbiotic environment and living conditions that allow a culture to thrive and flourish. The cooking experience that one can indulge in Delhi is unparalleled; the area of Old Delhi that lies adjacent to the Jama Masjid is popular not only for the immense history that is associated with the area but it has also developed into one of the leading ‘food hubs’ due to the rise of social media in the 21st century.
Tastesutra: The Concept
Founded by Anchal Bhalla, Tastesutra is a one-off experience whose ideologies lay emphasis on the overall cooking experience rather than a stereotypical cooking class. If you’re looking for a wholesome cooking experience whilst in Delhi, click on the link below to explore more about Tastesutra.
Driven by an unabating curiosity for the food culture and experiencing it first hand, Anchal organized an informal ‘Foodyatra’ session for the members of the team, in an attempt to sensitize us with the local cuisine of Old Delhi.
We took to the streets of Old Delhi at 7:45 pm and as expected, we were greeted by a cacophony of horns; the labyrinth of narrow streets teeming with families and tourists. A first of its kind for me, the diverse variety of street food that was on offer was truly remarkable. Walking through these streets was reminiscent of our country’s past, how we as a country have integrated and absorbed the different cultures of those who walked on our lands.
Men, women and children alike, were gathered to observe the ‘Iftar’, a religious observance which sees the Muslims gathering together to break their daylong fast, as a family. You are treated to some of the most delicious food, the warm gesture of everyone around makes you feel right at home.
The ebb and flow of the visitors make you drift along; row after row of vendors selling sherbet, kebabs, spices, and all sorts of exotic ingredients that I was unfamiliar with, lining every street. The air around carried an aroma; a homogeneous mixture, it was so indulging yet, so indistinguishable.
Could I have stopped and inquired for what these dishes were? I could have, but I preferred not to. Why? The answer is inevitable; with the aroma of the kebabs that had me in a trance, like bees are to dahlia stalks, I was sure to lose track of my bearings.
During the month of Ramadan, expect heavy traffic congestion along the way while keeping in mind that the best time to visit Old Delhi is arrival at either 7 pm, when the footfall is relatively less or after 11 pm when the festivities of Ramadan are in their full flow.
The Tastesutra Menu:
Deciding whilst in Old Delhi can be an overwhelming task, which is why we scheduled ourselves an itinerary, something you must do too if you really want to savor and soak in the ambiance and the charm of the place.
Here is the itinerary that we came up with:
- Kebabs At Qureshi (Starter)
- Pyaar Mohabbat Sherbat At Nawab Qureshi
- Gur Ka Sherbat
- Biryani At Dil Pasand Biryani Wale (Main Course)
- Nihari At Haji Shabrati Nihari Wale (Main Course)
- Fried Chicken At Haji Mohammad Hussain (Filler)
- Changezi Chicken At Karims (Main Course)
- Sheermal at Haji Nadeem Sheermal (Desert)
Kebabs at Qureshi:
Navigating your way through the narrow labyrinths of OId Delhi can be overwhelming and when you have distractions; mainly the aromas of the delicious skewers on offer, wavering away from your destination is inevitable. Therefore, keep in mind that the final destination will be just as good as the ones you encounter along the way, if not better. I feel that the ability for you to make the most of your visit to Old Delhi will be inhibited if you fill your appetite.
With people swarming at the doorstep of Qureshi’s, you could feel the flavour and spice that was used to marinate the meat. Served in small aluminum containers, not only were the kebabs well cooked but the rich aroma of the spices translated into flavour as well.
The Seekh kebabs that we had were succulent and full of flavour, leaving me exasperated, wanting for more.
Pyaar Mohabbat Sherbat at Nawab Qureshi:
As peculiar as its name sounds, the famous Mohabbat Sherbat at Nawab Qureshi is a something that you won’t get over in a hurry. Just as the sweltering heat in the lanes of Old Delhi was getting to us, we reached the second destination of our itinerary and how we needed it.
A chilled glass which consists of ‘Rooh Afza’, slices of watermelon and some ice cubes, it is the perfect recipe to provide respite from the heat and if you’re on your way home after devouring into some lip-smacking kebabs that are on offer, it’ll help you digest those consumed calories!
Gur Ka Sherbat:
He sells refreshing ‘Gur ka sharbat’ in the corner of one of the intersecting narrow lanes and is the only person in the country to do so.
Tastesutra’s take on the recipe:
Place the ‘gur’ on the bottom of a tumbler, pouring enough water to reach a consistency wherein the ‘gur’ is dissolved. Add a couple of ice cubes to the tumbler if necessary and cherish the rejuvenation!
Biryani At Dil Pasand Biryani Wale:
With the starters out of the way, it was time to head into the main course, biryani. Just as to why exactly the biryani at Mohd. Taufiq’s Dil Pasand Biryani Point is so famous, you will have to come down to Old Delhi and visit this place. One is compelled to be overwhelmed at the richness of the aromatic spices that you are subject to.
As for the biryani, the ease with which the meat just melts off in your mouth speaks volume of how well they prepare and marinate their meat. A plate costing only 20-50 Rupees, it is positively surprising as to the standard they maintain while serving out a plate; each contains ingredients like cardamoms and cashews that elevate the tasting experience!
Nihari At Haji Shabrati Nihari Wale:
‘Nihari’ is basically a dish of the Indian subcontinent which is essentially a stew consisting of slow-cooked meat mainly goat meat and chicken, along with the bone marrow. Personally, this was a first for me, I wasn’t even sure as to how it’ll taste as visually it does not stand out. But an initial tasting broke all my inhibitions and I absolutely relished the meat. Apart from being very well cooked, the flavour had seeped into the curry as well, something that really made it stand out for me.
A piece of bread and a freshly prepared Nihari at Hajri Shabrati Nihari Wale will leave you wanting for more!
Fried Chicken At Haji Mohammad Hussain:
Brands like KFC and company have created a monopoly in the food industry, especially in the construct that governs our cities today. Tasting the chicken at Haji Mohammed Hussain in Old Delhi made me realize what a world of difference there is between the qualities; one absolutely succulent and literally right out of the frying pan while the former is mainly mass produced, each piece varying in proportion and quality.
Changezi Chicken At Karim’s:
Being a non-vegetarian, visiting the Karim’s in Old Delhi was at the top of my ‘To-Visit’ list and upon visiting the place I realized why the hype! With chicken that is cooked to perfection and served immediately by a friendly staff, the experience is overwhelming.
The kitchen at Karim’s is compartmentalized into various sections; tandoor, naan and rotis, and so forth. Therefore, a certain degree of specialization is achieved, maintaining a high standard of cuisine. The meal is assembled by a staff member which is served to the customer, this mechanized course of action making the restaurant so efficient.
Sheermal at Haji Nadeem Sheermal:
After a 5 course meal, it would be safe to assume that we had indulged in a bit of overeating but that wasn’t going to stop us from having a ‘sheermal’. After all, it is not often that one indulges in visits like this and a few extra calories mean nothing to a bunch of foodies!
A traditional flatbread that was originally brought into the Indian culture from Iran, the ‘sheermal’ whose literal translation is ‘dipped in milk’, has been given a whole new interpretation in the streets of Old Delhi. Seasoned with several dry-fruits as toppings, the ‘sheermal’ is served hot and is a dessert that one must try when in Delhi.
Despite my best efforts to encapsulate my memorable experience of our ‘Foodyatra’ to Old Delhi, it is not possible to convey the stimuli via words. Food is something that indulges all of our senses- visual, hearing, smell, touch and taste. One can only try and convey the same via a writeup but you will resonate with my excitement and fondness of the place only when you visit Old Delhi.