Cuisines in Delhi

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Foods in Delhi

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The concept of street food is by now almost extinct in many parts of the world. But in India, with so many diverse lifestyles and economic status street food vendors flourish. Poor hygienic standards not withstanding, they perform a very useful service and are an important manifestation of the diverse economic standards of Indian society

Nowhere else in the world can a man fill his belly equally well from a two rupee meal on the street to a meal costing several hundred rupees in a five star deluxe restaurant. Every city and town has its own typical specialities. Delhi being the greatest metropolis of India has, naturally, the greatest variety of street food.

The street food of Delhi can be divided into three broad categories: Proper Meals, Anytime Snacks and Taste Bud Teasers. Prices vary from aslittle as one rupee to a maximum of 10 rupees per head. Before we go into the details of what and where to eat the reader is forewarned that not every vendor has acceptable hygienic standards. One must see and judge for oneself. One must also remember the basic rule of survival on the street. Never eat off a washable plate, because a street vendor hardly ever has proper washing facilities. Insist on a disposable, bio-degradable, leaf plate. If a particular vendor doesn’t have them-, no problem, move on, sooner or later another vendor, who does, will turn up.

Proper Meals: These can be tried in any of the office areas- Connaught Place, Nehru Place, Rajendra Place or in big bazaars, such as the ones in Old Delhi. The cheapest and most visible of these proper meals is chhole, curried chick peas, served with season-Street food vendors—selling fruit chaated rice or bhatura, a fried unleavened bread, or kulcha, a slightly sour, baked bread. The combinations are variously known as chhole chawal, chhole bhature and kulche chhole. They are served with an accompaniment of pickles and onions and cost between two and three rupees on the street.

The bazaars in the vicinity of Jama Masjid are the place to experience regal Mughlai cuisine, on the street. Try a Biryani, a dish of seasoned rice with pieces of meat; or kababs served with rumali roti, a fine unleaved bread-, or perhaps halwa, a sweet made from semolina. Extremely popular with people on the move or those who can’t afford the restaurants, these street vendors have a very fast turnover. So they maintain fairly high standards but cost (depending on how much you eat) no more than three rupees for a portion of halwa, four rupees for a small plate of biryani and six rupees for four kababs with a giant rumali roti.

And finally, in this section, is Delhi’s version of “meals on wheels”. The wheels are actually static and belong to disused vans converted into street kitchens. Found in almost all the better localities, they are usually staffed by Nepali immigrants and serve a fairly comprehensive Tibeto-chinese menu.

Any Time Snacks: The food in this section can be found all over the city in almost every bazaar. Sometimes even at street corners in residential areas. Prices range from one to five rupees. The most popular are pakoras and samosas. No meaningful description of them is possible in English. One just has to try them. They are both deep fried and perhaps a little heavy on the stomach. For the health conscious, the streets offer a variety of fruit and vegetable salads and juices. Even sprouted beans and yoghurt. Health food is a little less common and is usually found in big bazaars and office areas only. The prices too, are a little on the steep side six to 10 rupees per serving) but the goods are usually worth it. Of fairly recent vintage, are vegetarian hamburgers and patties. The Connaught Place area is liberally dotted with their vendors. Served with a tangy pumpkin sauce, they are cheap (no more than two rupees each) and very popular among vegetarians with a penchant for junk food

Taste Bud Teasers: In this, by far the most interesting section, we have several varieties of a typical north Indian mania—”chaat” which can loosely be translated as a spicy salad” The most popular is gol guppa, an ultra light crispy pocket of deep fried dough with a small amount of seasoned potatoes, beans and a lot of tamarind water. The average Delhi woman couldn’t live without it. A little bit more substantial is papadi chaat which is made from the gol guppas that didn’t fluff up to the right amount, a kind of dumpling made from bean flour and lots or spices and sauces. And finally—tikky, a sort of a stuffed potato pancake, served with a variety of sauces. Chaat is the great leveller. It can be found all over the city. The rich love it as much as the poor and pay roughly the same price; between one and five rupees.

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