Monday, December 17, 2007

Delhi: A Wonderful Culinary Expedition

If the sights of the city have impressed me, then the food there has bowled me over completely. Throughout my stay for 6 weeks, I made it a point to satisfy my taste buds in all possible ways, and so checked out almost all the notable eating-places.

Near the hostel where we had put up, there were these two places in Gole Market, which served a palate of delectable culinary fares at a reasonable rate. One was the Bangla Foods, where I had the best Chocolate Mousse, some amazing cocktails and bought an assortment of cookies for home. The other one was Kaleva, located just beside Bangla Foods, which stocked close to 1000 varieties of sweets, namkeens and other traditional sweetmeats. They are famous for sweets that are made in the traditional way passed on to generations for the past 500 years. But what it is famous for is its fruit-flavoured kulfis. The kulfi is frozen inside the whole fruit and is served alongside. I was simply bowled over by their variety of kulfi and chuski flavours.

Speaking of kulfi, (for the uninitiated, it is a solid chunk of thickened milk, topped with saffron, cardamom, nuts and generally, falooda i.e. rice noodles), I must mention Roshan Da Kulfi located in Ajmal Khan Road in Karol Bagh. Though it is known to be the best in the business, I somehow found it over hyped and overpriced at Rs 30 per serving.

The Connaught Place houses many eating-places in and around, ranging from a number of McDonalds outlets, fine dining restaurants, cafes, dhabas etc. Shopping at Janpath usually meant a quick bite at the ‘Mc D’, a stroll at the CP Park with friends meant mouth watering chaat alongside, while CafĂ© 100 was the restaurant where we chose to have our farewell dinner along with our room-mates of the hostel.
But two eateries of CP, which earned my eternal love was a confectionery and fast food shop called ‘Wengers’ and a shake joint called ‘Keventers’. Wenger's is the oldest name in town and still one of the pioneers of Swiss confectionery in India, with a wide range of delectable viands to offer. For the past 75 years Wenger's has maintained its standard & quality introducing new items from time to time. Wengers’ Cheese Ham Sandwich and Chocolate Truffle remain my favourite, while one MUST try out the ice-cream shakes and milk shakes of ‘Keventers’, located just beside Wengers, around the corner. The chocolate ice-cream shake was perhaps the best that I have had in my life, and scores over Baskin Robins also, which till then was my favourite.

Another place that has won my heart (rather, tongue!) is the Andhra Bhavan. Their lunch thali has been voted the best in the capital city by the Times Food Guide. The vegetarian thali worth Rs 60 served us with rice, puri, two types of sabji, one bhaji, rasam, sambar, curd, pickle, chutney and halwa. Along with this, we had ordered Mutton Fry for Rs. 40 per plate, instead of Fish curry. (Being a Bengali who’s fed fish everyday at home, I, of course preferred mutton. But I have heard that their Fish Curry is even more famous) Even after all these months, I remember what a delicious lunch it was and how full and satisfied it left me. In my opinion, this is a must-experience for foodies if you are in Delhi.
A few tips from the author:-
Before you enter the place, be warned,
1. If you're the fork-spoon-napkin type, forget it. This is as basic as it gets.
2. Carry a couple of hankies. The non-vegetarian items are S-P-I-C-Y!
3. There are no bookings. One might need to wait for 15 to 20 minutes if you don’t arrive before 1 o’ clock on a weekday.
The entire staff is from Andhra. So is 80 percent of the clientele. All the Telugu chatter can be a little overwhelming sp. for non-Andhra-ites.

Another part of Delhi, which serves mouth-watering culinary fares, is Chandni Chowk. This stretch of road houses the oldest sweetshop namely ‘Ghantewala’, which went into business in 1790. Down the centuries, it has remained in the same family and is now in the hands of the eleventh generation. There’s an interesting story behind how it got its name. Ghanta actually means a big clanging bell in Hindi. Legend goes that whenever the royal procession moved down this road, the emperor was in the habit of stopping here for a snack – a habit that his elephant acquired too. We all know how passionately fond of sweets elephants are, so of course came the day when he found the way to the shop himself. Apparently he refused to budge and kept on shaking its head until people rallied around with assorted sweets. The bells hanging from the elephant’s neck would tinkle whenever the animal went into stubborn mode and shook his head. And from there came the shop’s name – beat that! The Ghantewala Halwai is celebrated for its sohan halwa, a sweet made from dry fruits, sprouts and sugar. I was in so much love of this particular type of sweetmeat, that I went back to the place on the last day of my internship (after my senior handed me the cheque!) and bought some for my sweet-crazy mother.



There we also had amazing kesar jalebi in the famous shop named ‘Jalebiwala’. It had been a long day at the Akshardham Swaminarayan and by this time, we were raring to sit down for dinner, and what better place than the super famous Karims, located in Gali Kababian near Jama Masjid! It is one of the best non-vegetarian restaurants in all of North India, and serves exquisite, "royal" Mughal cuisine at popular prices. Once you locate and meander through the tiny passageway leading to the courtyard of Karim's, the restaurant itself is really nothing to look at. The royal cuisine so revered by generations of Delhi-ites and international epicures are served in a shabby setting that belies the delicacies on offer.



There were six of us, one being a pure vegetarian ‘Tam Brahm’. My friend and I were staying in a Working Women’s Hostel, which served only vegetarian food. So we were raring to savour the first taste of non-veg food in 3 weeks. We started off with sheek and shami kebabs, and ordered some four plates of them to share among ourselves. I ordered Keema Naan with Mutton keema and discovered heaven! My friends tried out the Biriyani along with Chicken Rezala and raved equally about them. We have had these culinary fares before, at famous restaurants in Kolkata namely Aminia, Arsalan, Shiraj etc, but that day, all of us unanimously agreed that Karims served the best of them. Are you wondering what my veggie friend was doing all the while? She waited with a bottle of Pepsi and romali roti for the plate of paneer butter masala, which never arrived! At last, we had to cancel the order and my friend came out of Karims hungry. So if you are a strict vegetarian, take her advice and ‘do not go to Karims. It is only for those meat lovers’! Well, the rest of us left with vows of another return for that ‘raan’ in the menu, which sadly, never happened for me. For those who badly want to know the pocket pinch, it was only Rs 135 per person!
It was especially for our poor hungry friend, that we rounded off our dinner treat with mouth watering halwa and gulab jamun from a nearby meethai shop. And then came paan time. It was so jumbo in size and full of so many stuff, that my friends competed to put the whole of it into their mouth at one go.

I also had lunch at Sagar Ratna, a restaurant famous for south Indian food, thanks to the junior advocate of my sir. I really loved it there, especially some unknown chutney served alongside my dosa.
Whenever we used to be out in the streets of Delhi, we always cooled ourselves with soda shikanji, and the lip smacking gol gappa. Coming from a city where all of us swear by our phuchkas, it was surprising that I actually liked the sweeter version of it in Delhi. It is tad costly, with a serving of only six pieces at ten bucks, compared to the five pieces at two rupees in Kolkata. Though a hard-core phuchka lover, I became a fan of its Delhi counterpart also.

There are places, which I could not explore. I did not try out the roadside kebabs near Jama Masjid, (my friends did not let me, due to hygiene reasons, though I was all game for it) and also the famed Khan Chacha’s Kebabs. I missed out on sipping coffee at the old fashioned Coffee Home and numerous small eateries in and around Connaught Place. Well, I know there is a second time. I can go back to Delhi again and again just to eat. Who needs any other reason?

6 comments:

driver said...

1.Couldn't agree more about Andhra Bhawan.
a.]Next time you should also try their biryani--it's the most original splendid thing over the karim's/arsalan vintage that i have tasted.
b.]do you remember the yellowish dust that was served with the thali/table?..as far as i can remember it was processed ricedust, but can't remeber either its name/preparation.It could even be had with oil/ghee with rice.
2. Do try the Kerala Bhawan also-awesome range of piscean delights at very reasonable prices.
3. both khanchacha/paratha gali are lajawaab.
4. for "saudh indan" delicaicies, you may try this outlet of the "saravana bhawan" chain at cp- delectable.
5. only problem with the delhi food scene is that unlike kolkata,the "heritage food walk"s are in and around heritage sights only. And the general pinch and palate-wise range of delhi "officepara" food is also very limited to say the least.
6. i agree hygiene/"spoon-fork-napkin" are completely redundant things for a gastronomical 'vaganza.
7. LOVED THE POST

WHAT'S IN A NAME ? said...

The vivid description of such 'delectable viands' is tempting!

blade said...

Food...tempts me in all its forms! Delectable post! :)

Avnish said...

What a mouth watering & lip smacking article? I read it over and over again and this article became tastier with every read!

madhavisb said...

Hey the next time you're on the prowl for some totally yummy khana do get yourself across town to an area called Baara Hindu Rao very near the hospital where you get the best qorma and sheermal. Check out Noor Ahmed Nihariwale near Sangtarashan, Thelewali Gali. Before you enter this area, you'll be hit by the fragrance of the baking sheermals and fresh bread.. It's unbelievable. Just across from this gali is a guy who's name i have completely forgotten who sells a mean makhan wala tandoori chicken...Oh man, it's the ultimate.

madhavisb said...

Hey the next time you're on the prowl for some totally yummy khana do get yourself across town to an area called Baara Hindu Rao very near the hospital where you get the best qorma and sheermal. Check out Noor Ahmed Nihariwale near Sangtarashan, Thelewali Gali. Before you enter this area, you'll be hit by the fragrance of the baking sheermals and fresh bread.. It's unbelievable. Just across from this gali is a guy who's name i have completely forgotten who sells a mean makhan wala tandoori chicken...Oh man, it's the ultimate.