Delhi is home to me, Born and brought up there I love the city. Love it’s food, it’s nuances, it’s shortcomings, love it in totality. It is a city I moved out of almost 15 years ago and though I visit it atleast twice a year to meet parents, I haven’t lived there for 15 years now and it is a long span of time. The city has changed a lot in that time, got the fantastic metro to boot, grown even more if it was possible but if one thing remains the same in the city it is Purani Delhi, it’s narrow streets and fantastic food.
Last month, I was invited by JW Marriott Aerocity to a 3 day event they called Delhi Ki Delhvi rang. It was essentially an event designed to explore Dehlvi cuisine (that is what the Delhi cuisine was called in the older days) and dishes that Delhi is known for, food that is quintessentially Delhi.
I wondered before accepting that how will it be to explore my own city as a tourist, but I set out with clean mind and the first thing that blew me was the hospitality of the JW guys. They almost treated us like kings and queens, there was an Audi to receive us at the Airport and everything was planned so well, right from the welcome to the check-in to cold towels on the streets of Chandni Chowk to our personalised Rickshaws. I have in my life attended a lot of events but this stood out for the meticulous attention to detail.
We started the exploration of Delhi with a trip to Jama Masjid, Jama Masjid is the largest Mosque in Delhi, built by Shah Jahan during the time he ruled Delhi, it marries the Hindu and Mughal architecture so well. I have been to Jama Masjid before but this time around, JW folks had had organised a walk with Delhi Walks and she did a lovely guided tour for us, explaining the time lines in which the city formed and how the Masjid and the areas around evolved. Pointing out things like how the symmetry is very Mughal in nature but the carvings through the Masjid are kalash and lotus both used in Hindu mythology, makes your wonder if they could kind of co-exist in a way at that time, why not now?
Once we finished the Masjid as such, we moved on to what was mot important to us, yes what else but THE FOOD. I was eating in the Jama Masjid area after so long that I was excited like a child. I also noticed that a lot of things looked same but a lot of things had changed as well.
The streets still had the old charm of ice-cream cones hanging around, sellers selling sheermal and fried chicken on the roadside, tons of dates and aam papad lined on the cart
And then while these exists, I some kiwis and hold it dragonfruits on the road side cart. A proof that even Jama Masjid is adapting with times 🙂
Our first stop was Qureshi’s for the fabalous bada seekh kababs, bada seekh kababs is what they call Beef Kababs, beef in general is called “bada (big) meat” in the Old Delhi area. The kababs were succulent and so full of flavour and I was amazed at the the speed that guy was skewing them. I think I stood there for 5 full minutes staring at him and understanding the technique he was using, barely spending 30 seconds on each skewer it was awesome just looking at it. If you ask me for my personal recommendation this is what you need to eat, kababs with chutney, raita and may be a roomali roti though there is a lot to eat and try there this clearly was my favourite dish of the day.
The next stop was barely a 5-6 minutes walk away, Haji Mohd. Hussain in the search of that perfect Fried Chicken. Now the minute you enter Jama Masjid area you will see almost every alternate shop having pounds of fried chicken at display, though most of them are good. Haji Mohd. Hussain is your place to eat. Again this wasn’t something I was eating for the first time, I recall dad getting home tons of it in the weekend and we having it for dinner along with movie in rented VCR during childhood but I was eating this after so long that I found deep comfort in the taste.
Like always, I am most curious in how the stuff is getting made and the way this fried chicken comes to your plate is also very interesting. The whole chicken is lightly coated in besan batter and fried on medium flame, then after resting it for a while, it is strategically twisted at bone joints and fried again in hot oil. It is then chopped and sprinkle with raw spices and served with onion rings and super spicy chilly chutney. Honestly this could put any tempura to shame.
From the fried chicken we moved on to the Al Jawahar, now I know Al Jawahar vs Karim’s is a age old debate and honestly I think both are slightly over rated, as always the thing about places like this (and Koshy’s, MTR etc) is the nostalgia value rather than the food. I am not saying the food is bad but this is not the place you will have the best of the curries, you might though have the best of the khameeri roti. We ordered a variety of curries ranging from kaleji, korma, chicken curry etc. I found most too greasy for me though the kaleji was nice
And with that we moved on to desserts, the Shahi Tukra we had at the shop opposite Al Jawahar was spectacular. Not over bearingly sweet the first bite actually had me surprised as I was expecting a super sweet sugar syrup soaked stuff, instead what came was light and balanced with mawa and bread. Full points to the shahi tukra at Haji Tea Point
And when in Jama masjid area, you can’t end the walk without a paan can you ?
Coming up as a follow up for this post – The jugalbandi between Delhi & Lucknow cuisine at JW Marriott, Aerocity and the food trail at Chandni Chowk (some of which is already there on the blog) so stay tuned