Street food in Delhi isn’t just a local custom, it’s absolutely a way of life. The country’s political capital also serves as its culinary one and there are a multitude of carts and stalls on almost every street corner serving up mouth-watering cuisine.
Of course, those with little or no knowledge of Indian gastronomy can find the sights, sounds and smells (not to mention sheer weight of choices!) of Indian street food a little overwhelming. Throw in rumours about “Delhi belly” and the less adventurous amongst us might be tempted to forego the street food scene altogether.
While the safe route might seem like the most sensible, it would be a crying shame to take it. Why come to one of the world’s most vibrant cookery hotspots and leave without sampling the goods? In you’re in doubt about what to go for, but still want to see what the fuss is all about, here are a handful of suggestions on where to try the best street food Delhi has to offer.
There’s a good reason why this district is world-famous for its homemade Indian bread: it’s utterly incredible. The first stalls opened up almost 150 years ago and a handful of them are still going strong today. Order your parantha stuffed with vegetables, fruits or pulses or plain alongside curries and dahls. Perfect for vegetarians.
Katra Lehswan, Chandni Chowk
Comprised of spiced chole (chickpeas) and potatoes smothered in a tomato and onion sauce, this scrumptious stew is a backbone of North Indian cuisine and an absolute must during your time in the capital. It’s customarily served with freshly-baked kulcha (mildly leavened flatbread) and a garnish of herbs and spices and can be ordered with three different levels of heat.
2368 Chatta Shahji Rd, Manohar Market, Nai Wala
Those chickpeas crop up again, this time dispensing with onion and garlic but still achieving a rich sauce that’ll have you coming back for more. Add in the deliciously fluffy texture of the desi ghee ka bhatura (thick leavened fried bread) and it’s no wonder this tiny store has drawn plaudits and pilgrims from all over the globe.
29 Paan Mandi, Sadar Bazaar, Lotan Jaat Gal, Pahari Dhiraj, Chandni Chowk
This Delhi institution only offers three dishes on its menu: aloo chaat (fried potatoes with spices and chutney), aloo kulla (scooped-out boiled potato filled with chickpeas, spices and lemon) and fruit chaat (a fruit salad). Simply put, it’s one for the potato lovers! The stall is tucked away between the Central Bank of India and Ashish Medicos, but don’t lose faith if you struggle to find it. It’s well worth the effort!
421 Chandni Chowk, Chandni Chowk
This tasty snack has propagated all across the world, even if it’s spelled and pronounced (pakode) slightly differently in its home country. At Khandana Pakode Wala, you’ll find an unprecedented array of filling options, from soya skewers and lotus stem leaf for the vegetarians to minced meat kebab and bitter lemon for the carnivores. You’ll never look at those served at home in quite the same way again.
Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia Marg, Sulekha Vihar Market, Sarojini Nagar
While the core customer base are the kids which attend the nearby school, Fateh Chand Kachori Waley’s target market includes the neighbourhood’s city slickers and high rollers as well. But when sampling the spicy kachori chaat (fried dumplings topped with chopped onions, chilis and sauce or yoghurt), the playing field is levelled as everyone, no matter from which strata of society they hail, will be unable to resist licking their fingers clean.
Raj Niwas Marg, outside St. Xavier School, Kashmiri Gate
No list of street food places to eat in Delhi would be complete without a mention of something for those with a sweet tooth, and kulfi is sure to hit the spot. Although often dubbed the Indian version of ice cream, kulfi is creamier in taste and denser in texture. As such, it stays frozen for longer and the mixture of chopped fruit pieces and caramelized milk is often served on a lollipop stick. The perfect way to round off your meal.
629 Gali London, Kundewalan Chowk
Kulfi not quite sweet enough for you? Not to worry – jalebi is sure to satisfy. This Asian favourite of deep-fried flour batter dipped in syrup is popular all over the continent, but the Old Famous Jalebi Wala in Delhi has earned its reputation. That’s because the jalebi is fried in country-made clarified butter and fashioned into thicker pretzel shapes than normal. Seriously addictive.
1795 Dariba Kalan Road, Chandni Chowk