The street food in Delhi in the capital of a thousand superlatives of India, in this city of a thousand excesses, several million men and women pass each other every day in overcrowded alleys, colonized by street vendors who pull on their carts dishes as tasty as disconcerting.
In New Delhi, we eat at the street, morning, noon and evening, while walking, sitting on a plastic stool or on a piece of sidewalk which then becomes a bench in front of which a striking spectacle is played.
Fresh but spicy
Know as a preamble that Indian “street food” is fresh food. The vendors stock up on fruit, vegetables and cereals every day, thus bypassing storage problems and breaking the cold chain. And if India has a bad reputation in terms of digestive acclimatization, it is often because of the spices that Western stomachs are not used to consuming in such quantities, more than for reasons of cleanliness.
The chaat, the essential salty snack
It is the essential snack in the Delhiites day. Sold by street vendors all over the city, chaats are a snack from the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh whose name derives from the Hindi words “tasting, gluttony” and the expression “to devour with relish. An entire program ! Traditionally made from potatoes, crispy fried dough, and chickpeas, chaats are served with spicy spices and a sour sauce usually made of peppers, ginger and tamarind.
They are served in a small cardboard cup or a dried banana leaf, easy to transport and allowing a quick tasting while strolling through the streets. Among the dozens of varieties of chaats that exist, do not miss aloo tikki, aloo chaat (made from potatoes), papri chaat (yogurt, chickpeas and peppers) and of course the samosas and pakoras. To taste traditional recipes in complete safety, go to Bishan Swaroop, a stand opened in 1923 in the Chandni Chowk district, or to Prabhu Chaat Bhandar, which has delighted locals for more than thirty years.
Panipuri (or golgappa), an amazing snack
We see it everywhere without understanding what it is at first glance. Panipuri comes in the form of a very thin hollow donut made from semolina or wheat flour, which resembles a kind of puffed shell, into which is poured a cold broth of fresh herbs seasoned with various spices. . It is then stuffed with a mixture of boiled potatoes, chickpeas, cilantro and a sweet chutney and is usually served with a whisked yogurt poured liberally over the donut.
An unexpected snack, a tasty mix of crunchy and soft, cold and hot, which can be eaten by 10, or even more if you like. Among our favorite addresses, Prabhu Chaat Bhandar on Man Singh Road, near India Gate, Prince Chaat Corner in the Greater Kailash district or Ashok Chaat Bhandar in Chandni Chowk.
Paratha, the Indian pancake
Spread throughout India, and even in Pakistan and Afghanistan, paranthas (or parathas) are a bread in the shape of a thick pancake, plain or filled with vegetables. Prepared from wheat flour, clarified butter and water before being fried, parathas have a flaky texture that makes them more digestible. Usually eaten for breakfast, they are a perfect snack to calm a craving and can be enjoyed as an accompaniment to a dish in sauce. What a delight to dip it in a curry!
Among the many varieties that exist, the most popular are aloo paratha (with potato filling), paneer paratha (with cheese) and palak paratha (with spinach). To test this omnipresent bread in Indian cuisine, head to Paranthe Wali Gali, an alley entirely dedicated to parantha, in the Chandni Chowk district, since the end of the 19th century. Among the addresses that have survived, Kanhaiyalal Durga Parshad offers a dozen varieties, some of which are sweet.
Momos, Tibetan dumplings with Indian sauce
Originally from Tibet, momos were imported to India by exiles who fled to the subcontinent following the Chinese invasion. These ravioli, made from wheat flour, are stuffed with vegetables or meat and are most often steamed. A healthy and digestible alternative, perfect for palates sensitive to spices and excess fat! They can also be fried or baked in a tandoori oven and are usually accompanied by a bowl of chili sauce (optional).
You will easily find them in all districts of the city but here are some addresses that caught our attention: Nagaland Old and Sikkim in the precincts of the Dilli Haat market, an outdoor market that brings together artisans from all over the country where you can elsewhere find beautiful souvenirs, or at Dolma Aunty in the bustling Lajpat Nagar market.
Kulfi, the local ice cream
Make way for the sweet with the most popular dessert of the inhabitants of Delhi: the kulfi. It is a flavored ice cream, usually with pistachio or cardamom. Traditionally served in an earthenware pot, it is now available in the form of cones sold by street vendors. The perfect dessert to cool off in the hot heat of Indian summer.
Some shops make a more elaborate version, in the name of “kulfi falooda”, which is inspired by Iranian faloodeh: the ice cream is then embellished with vermicelli and dried fruits, and accompanied by a syrup.