Should you be scared of the Delhi Belly? 48 hours & 8 food stops in Delhi that suggest otherwise.

Chicken korma and roti at Ashok & Ashok at Delhi's Sadar Bazar.
If Delhi Belly is your worry then you might want to avoid the raw onions at such places.
The korma is slow cooked and the roti freshly made. That's as big a guarantee
of a 'safe'  meal as it gets 

Run out by a Delhi Belly. Idioms that need a relook.

The world of cricket was abuzz recently when Ravichandra Ashwin ran Jos Butler out in an IPL match after the latter had stepped out of the non-striker’s end before the ball was balled. Though the dismissal was 'legal', questions came up about whether this was in the ‘spirit of the game.’ The term ‘Mankaded’ was bandied about quite a bit in this context. Turns out that one of the earliest Indian cricket legends, Vinoo Mankad, had dismissed Bill Brown of Australia in a similar fashion in 1947. The term 'Mankaded' has stuck on since then and is used to describe similar dismissals. I learnt that that that descendants of the Late Vinoo Mankad are not happy with this association to his legacy and want the terms scrapped. This got me thinking about another term that is associated with India and in this case our food, the infamous Delhi Belly. This needs a rethink too!

Interestingly, the Merriam Webster dictionary says that the first known use of ‘Delhi Belly was in 1943. A bit before the Mankad incident. The term refers to traveller's diarrhoea and while it could happen anywhere in the world, Delhi and therefore India, has been particularly associated with it thanks to the phrase.

I am sure that there were folks from the west who had come to Delhi and India and had bad stomachs back then. And in the years that followed. However, it would be silly to say that things have not changed since then. Coming to India, or to any other country, and staying away from trying the local food is indeed an unfortunate way of travelling. This post of mine is a sort of food love song to Delhi and its food, based on my latest trip to the city and my memories of visits to the city over the years. 

What I have realised over the years is that the people of Delhi have an unabashed love for food and for feeding people too. This, I feel, ensures that every meal that you would have here during your travels would be legendary. 

Moreover, things have changed a lot since the 1940s. India as a country has developed since independence, where the new nation was left with a shattered economy, and the partition and the misery that followed. The quality of products available is now a lot better.  The Indian customer has become a lot more demanding of quality too. The chances of getting a ‘Delhi Belly’ is therefore a lot less than in the 1940s. 

Coincidentally, 18th April, has been declared as the #WorldFoodTravelDay by the World Food Travel Association. Hopefully, this post will give you enough reasons to pique your interest about Delhi and its food and that of India too. And encourage you to explore our country.

What defines the soul of Delhi's food?

That's Dr Pant in the middle, chef Manisha in white and Pritha Sen in the sari
at the panel that I moderated for the Times Kitchen Tales Meet at Delhi

What is Delhi's food all about, is a question that I had posed in a panel that I had hosted for the Times Kitchen Tales in Delhi earlier in March this year. 

“Delhi is a like a paratha and has many layers,” replied one of the panellists,  Dr Pushpesh Pant. He is a former international rational relations professor at the JNU, an acclaimed food lover and historian, and a Padma Shri awardee too. 

There are many 'Delhis', he went on to explain and said that each of these has its own food ethos and gave examples from his own life to prove his point. He then urged us to focus on creating and relishing ‘personal memories’ rather than getting bogged down apocryphal food history stories, or the search for the best. A sentiment that resonated so strongly with what I believe.

This post is about my most recent Delhi food memories. I had gone to Delhi earlier in April to join Alex Hunter, who runs a very popular YouTube channel called Attache Travel, with whom I had shot in Mumbai once. Some of the stories here are from our food explorations in Delhi this time. The others are of those which I made with my friend, Amit Patnaik, with whom I have had many food adventures before.

Stories which I hope will leave your belly craving for the food of Delhi.

The allure of Lutyen’s Delhi

The revamped Kwality restaurant which I had visited in
March this year. One of the jewels of Connaught Place

Connaught Place is the hub of Lutyen’s Delhi (the part of New Delhi designed by the architect Edwin Lutyen) and where all tourists to the city flocked ever since it was built in 1933. It has recently got a new lease of life with the old favourites such as the United Coffee House, Kwality Restaurant and Embassy sprucing themselves up and with trendy restaurants chains such as Farzi CafĂ© opening up outlets. You will find your Starbucks and McDonalds’ of course, which as a foreign tourist, you might find comfort in. However, there are many home grown favourites too such as the local legend Nirula's and new joints such as Burger Singh.

In my previous blog post on Delhi, I had written about the majesty of the refurnished Kwality Restaurant at Connaught Place and the pomp and splendour of its channa bhatoore. Let me tell you about some of the other icons of CP that I visited this time.

1. Kake Da Dhaba, Connaught Place

Brain curry at Kake Da Dhaba

Dr Pushpesh Pant, in his talk at the Times Kitchen Tales meet, said that places such as Nirula's, Kwality's and Wenger's at Connaught Place were the ones that the city's middle class had aspired to go to over the years. He then pointed out that the outer circle of Connaught Place had far humbler, dhaaba-like places, which were very popular with the masses. He spoke of Kake Da Dhaba in particular, a restaurant which I too had become a fan of a few years back during my first visit to it. I went back to Kake this time with Alex and Greg (who shoots and produces the wonderful videos fro Attache Travel) after we met at our hotel (The Lalit) and then set out to eat.

Turned out that like Dr Pant, me and millions more before us, Alex and Greg too became fans of the the place. The tenderness of the slow cooked mutton in the saag meat that we had won them over. As did the dexterity of cooking evident in the 'brain curry,' with the perfectly cooked goat brain floating on the slightly sweetish curry (which Alex found spicy). The warmth of service in the humble dhaba… the happy faces of the people eating around us… the hearty food…a smorgasbord of slow cooked curries and fresh made rotis…all came together to welcome me and my friends from overseas to Delhi. 

Here’s a tip. Go there a bit after standard lunch hour to eat there as there are huge queues at lunch time and at dinner too.

Delhi Belly if you eat at Kake? Curries which are slow cooked over hours, rotis made fresh when you place your order, all ensure that the food is completely sanitised. The only sense of 'adventure' at the most would come in with the sliced onion, chaat masala and chutney on the side which is prized here and which you should be cautious about if you are not used to India and its food.

Incidentally, the outlet at CP claims that they have no branches though you will see Kake Da Dhabas across the city and in Mumbai too now at Bandra.

2. Nirula's, Connaught Place

Manhattan Maina, tutti frutti and cardamom flavours went
into our build your own sundae at Nirulas

My first encounter with Nirula's happened when I went to Delhi from Kolkata in ’92 to visit my aunt just after I was done with my school finals. With its sundaes, burgers and pizzas, it made the world of Archies and Pop Tates, which we could only dream of in pre-liberalisation India, a pleasant reality. International fast food chains were not present in India then after all.

I remember having an ice cream called Manhattan Mania that evening in '92. Plain vanilla studded with coloured fruit bits. Very Wham! Meets Pet Shop Boys in its execution. You will know what I mean if you are an 80s child too.

I suggested that we go to Nirula's for ice creams after Kake and we went to the small but two storied outlet of Nirula's at CP. The person at the counter told me that this is not where the original Nirula's outlet was and that this is a new branch. The old one does not exist any more he said. I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of young high-school and college kids there. Most seemed to be there on dates and we were the only adults around it seemed. Nirula's clearly remains a favourite with the new generation of Delhites.

I suggested that we have a sundae. A 'splurge dish' when we were kids. We could choose three scoops and I went for the Manhattan Mania of course. We added the elaichi with pista (cardamom with pistachio) flavoured one that Greg tried and liked. 

“Let’s make it completely kitsch,” I said and requested our third scoop to be tutti frutti. The ice cream flavour that folks in my generation would order when taken to a restaurant for a treat when we were kids. For toppings, I chose preserved pineapple syrup and which had pineapple chunks too. No sea salt, no caramel, no dark chocolate. ‘Nothing artisanal,’ was my unstated brief.

The three of us shared the sundae and each of us smiled with the first bite that we took. This was sugary heaven. The air-conditioning after facing the heat while walking in CP in the sun was a welcome respite.

My aunt, who had grown up in Delhi, later told me that the hot fudge sundae at Nirula's was something that they would covet but be unable to afford when she was in college. It's still on the menu so do think of her if you have one at Nirula's.

3. Wenger's, Connaught Place 

Wenger's Shammi Kebab

I am yet to meet anyone who has grown up in Delhi and who does not have their own “my parents took me to Wenger's when I was a kid" story.  

Wenger's was established in 1933 and was designed by a British architect and predates and the establishment of Connaught Place. It was owned by a Swiss couple whose surname was Wenger. Just as Flury's in Kolkata was set up by a Swiss family. Wenger's was sold in 1945 to Mr Tandon, an employee at the bakery. The ballroom and restaurant, which were a part of the establishment, closed down in 1979. The bakery in the ground floor is operational still and is packed with people whenever I go there. (Source: WSJ)

We went there for a bite before heading back to out hotel. I bumped into my friend Mohit Balachandran, who blogs as Chowder Singh, at Wenger's. "Can't come to CP and not go to Wenger's," he told me with a smile before he headed back to his office in Gurgaon.

Wenger’s sells really old school bakes and sandwiches still. Its display shelves are packed with patties, sandwiches, pastries, eclairs and sponge cakes with icing of the sort which you can still see in old Irani bakeries such as Merwan's in Mumbai or the Jewish family run Nahoum's in Kolkata. Food that is far removed from today’s gluten free and lactose intolerant hipster world.  

I once again had the shammi kebab for which Wenger’s is famous as I had in my two previous trips to the place. It is a winner every time. It is soft inside and flavoursome and very meaty too.

I tried the chicken sandwich as well this time. With the indifferent quality of bread used and chicken pieces which were as tough as the heart of Cersei (GOT), it turned out to be the rare Delhi dish about which one could say, “we do it better in Mumbai!” Especially in Candies. 

I had once visited Wenger's with chef Manisha Bhasin of the ITC Maurya, who told me that she remains from her childhood days, a fan of the eclairs at Wenger’s.

  Shop and eat at Bengali market

4. Bengali Sweet House, Bengali Market

Papdi chaat at Bengali Sweets

I can never go to Delhi and not have the chaat there. My favourite is the papdi chaat. I find the delicious harmony of the contrasting flavours, colours and textures of the ingredients that make this treat bewitching. 

While Delhiites have many favourites when it comes to chaat joints, my choice of place is often dictated by proximity the hotel I am staying at. In my market research days, it would be at the sweet shop at Khan Market when we stayed at the Ambassador Hotel next door. When staying at a Connaught Place or Barakhamba Road hotel, then I go to Bengali Sweets at the Bengali market. The name has nothing to do with my community by the way.

It is said that chaats were invented by the cooks of the Mughal rulers of Delhi and was meant to be a dish that could boost the immunity of people and help them fight waterborne diseases in the process. Ironically, the use of unfiltered water in chaats today is a worry many have while having chaats etc on the streets. You are likely to be protected from this when you have your chaats at established sweets shops such as the Bengali Sweet Shop, who put a premium on hygiene and use filtered water. 

The experience would be less ‘atmospheric’ than having chaats on the streets no doubt but definitely more Delhi Belly-resistant.

Breaking bhatoore with the backpackers of West Delhi

5. Sita Ram Diwan Chand, Paharganj

The other dish that I try to never miss when in Delhi, apart from the papdi chaat, is the channa bhatoore. I have had it before at sweet shops such as Nathu’s and Evergreen and in old Delhi, at Shivam Mishtann Bhandar. The latter has a slight cheese-like taste thanks to the paneer added to the dough. During my previous trip to Delhi, I had an exquisite one at the very posh and newly revamped Kwality. Each offers a different experience  from what I have observed.

A channa bhatoore place, whose name often comes up in recommendations is Sitaram Diwanchand. This was on Alex’s list of recommendations too and we decided to go there for breakfast the day after we met. 

Sitaram is located at Paharganj in west Delhi. A place known to be popular with foreign backpackers as a place to stay at and which is a busy local market too. I Ubered it from Barakhamba Road and it did not take me long to reach Paharganj. The last mile involved us driving down narrow lanes, past grocery shops and jalebis stalls in a world which very different from Lutyen’s Delhi that we had left behind twenty minutes back. When GPS was unsure about where we should go, I would roll down the window and ask for direction. “Woh chhole bhatoore walah?” would be the answer. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew where the shop set up by the descendants of the late Sitaram Diwanchand is located. It is the Taj Mahal of Paharganj after all!

From signs painted on the walls of the shop, I learnt that the late Sitaramji used to sell chhole bhatoore from a mobile cart during the 1950s here. He continued till he opened a small shop in 1970. The current shop is apparently bigger than the original one.

Channa bhatoore prep at Sitaram's

When you walk in to the shop, you will see a set of cooks, heating pre-fried bhatoore on a flat tava and then putting them on a plate along with channa (chickpeas) and pickle and then handing it out to those who had bought a token (Rs 60 a plate). There is a section inside behind them where you can stand and enjoy your stash of the legendary channa bhatoore.

Best chhole bhatoore in Delhi? It is hard to compare the one at Sitaram with others as the one here is quite unique.  The bhatoore at Sitaram's is not fried after you place your order you see and hence is not the puffed up ball that one is used to at sit down eateries. The bhatoore here is flat, soft and chubby inside. It seemed less deep fried therefore and felt more comforting for someone of my age! The dough is seasoned with chillies and coriander leaves and masalas which add layers of flavour to it. The channa is competent no doubt, but the bhatoore is the star of the dish at Sitaram's.

Ditch your cappuccino in the morning is my recommendation here. Chase your chhole bhatoore with a refreshing, chilled, light and frothy lassi instead. There are chaiwallahs outside at Paharganj as well as tiny cafes to hawk coffees to the backpackers here if you want either for breakfast. 

With Greg in the middle and Alex on the right. The Attache Travel team

Can one ever tire of Old Delhi? 

6. Al Jawahar, Jama Masjid

The world of Al Jawahar

I had heard a lot about the food of old Delhi even when I was a college student in Kolkata. I had wanted to go there for years to eat but it seemed so inaccessible from New Delhi back in the day when I would go from Mumbai to conduct focus groups in the city. Then the Metro happened and I actually managed three food trips to old Delhi and have ticked off most of the famous places there by now.

This time around, I took Alex and Greg to old Delhi for dinner on the first night. We took the metro from the Barakhamba Road station, hopped tracks at Rajiv Chowk and went to the Chandni Chowk Station. We did the last bit on a motorised rickshaw (Rs 10 per head or Rs 50 for 3 and the entire vehicle). My brother later told me that there is a station at Jama Masjid now which takes one straight to the Karim’s area.

We were headed to Al Jawahar, the place everyone on social media told me I should have gone to when I went Karim’s a few years back. 

I was stumped when I reached our destination as I saw that there were two 'Jawahars' there…Al Jawahar and Jawahar Hotel. 

I called my friend Amit Patnaik and he suggested that I go to Al Jawahar and that's what we did. On the way back, our electric rickshaw driver with whom I shared the front seat (travelling business class as I put it), told me that one restaurant is run by the uncle and the other by the nephew. “Both are the same,” was his verdict. He added that the restaurant was named Jawahar after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, who had inaugurated the restaurant.

The rotis and kebabs were the stars of our dinner at Al Jawahar

The service at Al Jawahar was prompt. The place neat and clean and clearly geared towards a middle  'cosmopolitan' clientele the way Karim's is. Neither serve beef for this reason. 

How was the food? The sheekh kebabs were juicy and pleasantly flavoured. The nihari was flooded in oil and the taste of the dish left no memories once one I left. I also called for the chicken changrezi as I had heard so much about this dish. The dish was very spicy as the waiter had warned us it would be. I found it tasty but the chilli heat was a bit intimidating for me. The two foreigners at the table loved it though!

The fresh rotis from the tandoor were lovely. We ordered a biryani too. It was again very spicy and greasy with the most interesting thing in it being the pickled chillies that I found in them.

Would you miss much if you go to Karim’s and not here? I am not sure about that! A case of ‘the journey being more fascinating than the destination,’ perhaps.

Al Jawahar: Roti, chicken changrezi, mutton biryani, mutton
nihari, sheekh kebabd

Sadar Bazar With ma homie, Amit Patnaik

    6. Ashok & Ashok Meat Dhaba, Sadar Bazar

“This is a part of old Delhi that is very tough to reach as the traffic on the way is just too much. Unlike the Jama Masjid part  of Old Delhi which is over- run with folks on food walks all thanks to the metro now, you will not find any tourists here.”

After making this enticing announcement, my young friend with whom I have had many food trips together, Amit Patnaik, began to drive cheerfully while I sat next to him in his car. Amit is a food blogger and writer too and above all, a true food enthusiast and a very kind soul who often leads me to great food.

We were headed to Sadar Bazar. Our destination? Ashok & Ashok Meat Dhaba, a palce which I had first read of in Pamela Timm’s blog.

We soon left the order and neatness of New Delhi and entered large roads packed with chaotic traffic caused by trailer trucks and buses heaving with people, not the BMWs and Mercs that you see at Chankyapuri and Connaught Place in Lutyen's Delhi. The old buildings on both sides of the road reminded me of those at Central Avenue in Kolkata and Md Ali Road in Mumbai. 

Fellow pilgrims at Ashok & Ashok

Ashok & Ashok is literally a hole in the wall joint. They dish out the kormas to those who came to their altar. With an unlimited supply of green chilli spiked aata rotis, baked fresh in the tandoor, to mop the curry up with. There are a couple of tables set on the pavement outside and you can stand there and eat. 

The mutton gets over within 15 minutes of the shop’s opening we were told and the place is open only for lunch. We had reached our destination at 2.30 pm.  So, chicken korma it was for us that day. 

The majestic chicken korma at Ashok & Ashok

The korma is slow cooked over 3 hours we were told. When you place your order, they take out your portion (priced according to the no of people and around Rs 300 PAX), put it on a stainless steel plate and then place that on a small coal fire oven. The plate is brought to you once the curry begins to sizzle. I guess we stuck out as being ‘tourists’ what with the phone videos that we shot and the visible enthusiasm on our faces. This possibly prompted the waiter to actually get a sigri (oven) to our table. Our korma began to sizzle in front of us. Amit suggested putting the raw onions on the plate to sanitise them.

When the tourist was made to feel at home at Ashok & Ashok's

The korma is a Punjabi styled one and is cooked sans onion we were told, in shudh desi ghee with a melange of masalas. The taste of the korma was very, very intense and unforgettable. The chicken in this majestic curry was very tender. They had used the small sized chicken here and cooked it on the bone. It made for a rather imperial treat with the rotis, had in a nondescript by-lane of old Delhi.

The eatery was started in 1970 by two friends, Ashok & Ashok, who were local strongmen or so the legend goes. They are no more. The wife and daughter in law of one were in the shop that day running the place.

I truly owed Amit big for this experience, and there was more to come that afternoon.

That's a picture of Ashok & Ashok on the wall. The ladies who run them today
are the wife and daughter in the law of one of them. Joining us in the picture
was a young brother and sister duo, students & foodies who had come to eat here.
The bother had called in advance and booked a plate of mutton for his kid sister.
Now you know what to do. Question, is where will you get the number from?!

7. Sardar Meatwala, Sadar Bazar

“Come on, when will you come here next after all,” said Amit to coax me at the end of the very filling meal at Ashok & Ashok. He wanted us to head out in search of the mutton (goat meat) that had eluded us at Ashok & Ashok. He suggested going to a place called Sardar Meatwala close by at Sadar Bazar which he had heard of. He told me that a source of a lot of his 'discoveries' were the writings of Rahul Verma, the veteran food writer.  Amit checked with those eating at Sardar and Sardar and the staff there too about the place. Everyone vouched for the quality of the food at Sardar Meatwala and confirmed that it is open all day and hence we should get our meat.

Google maps failed us so we got on to a cycle rickshaw where the scrawny driver was briefed by his fellow rickshaw drivers. “Daroo ke dukan ke paas,” (near the booze shop) they said and he said that he knew of the place too.

We went down tiny and bumpy lanes which would have given the physiotherapist treating my wealklower back nightmares, though I had grown up riding these as a kid in Kolkata. We then came on to a bigger road. A road packed with traffic…rickshaws, water tankers, bullock carts, porters carrying big bojhas on their heads…every Steve Mc Curry and foreign TV channel India clichĂ© that you could think of, was on display there. A bull with huge horns, who wanted to whisper sweet nothings into Amit’s ears, gave our intrepid young foodie a bit of a scare while we waited in the rickshaw.

'Time lagta hain, jaldi karne se kuchh nahin hoga," it takes time, we have to accept this truth, said our rickshaw driver sagely.

There's Lucky Singh. The new gen Sardar of Sardar Meatwala

We finally reached our destination. We saw a Sardarji (Sikh gentleman) standing on the pavement with a couple of degs (cauldrons) in front of him from which he served his food. People stood by his stall and ate, walloping curry and rice as late as 4.30 pm, way past lunch time. 

We asked for a plate of mutton and rice (there were plain rotis on offer too) and a side serving of  mutton liver. There was chicken curry on offer as well. The curry/ gravy was common. The meats separately cooked. Once you place your order, sardarji would dunk in the meat in the curry and then serve it to you. 

On seeing that we were sharing a plate, the kind gentleman put some extra rice on our plate. He later told me that his name is Lucky Singh. That the shop was started by his father, the late Attar Singh, who operated out of 'Rui Bazar' first, way back in 1970.

The most beautiful plate of food that you can ever come across

I ditched the plastic spoons and urged Amit to do so too and used our fingers to mop up the mutton curry and rice. I broke into a big smile with the first bite. If the korma at Ashok & Ashok was a 70mm Mughal-E-Azam-like blockbuster, this was more like a mellow Hrishikesh Mukherjee love story. Each mouthful was so soulful. It tasted just like home food. The curry and rice was flavoursome and yet not excessively oily or high on chilli heat. The mutton tender too. The liver, had just the right bite to elevate its texture.

To me, this was the standout dish of the trip. 

Me and ma homie, Amit Patnaik. Auditioning to be
the Gully Boys of the food writing world. Luckyji clicked
us in between dishing out his curries

The memory of standing on the pavement at Sadar Bazar and eating the meat rice an unforgettable one. 

I was in my elements. I felt so alive, so free, so rejuvenated as I dug into the meat chawal at Sardar's. This is where I was meant to be. This is what the phrase 'happiness in this world' translates to in my life!

At home at Sardar Meatwala

The meal with a bottle of water cost us Rs 300.

We took an electric rickshaw (Rs 50 for 2) on the way back to Ashok & Ashok’s, where Amit had parked his car. This seemed like a Lexus after the cycle rickshaw and it used wider roads too.

Rush Hour at Sadar Bazar

8. Madan Lal Sweet Shop, Sadar Bazar

The jalebi at Madan Lal took me back to the jilipi of Kolkata

That was not the end of our Sadar Bazar escapades though. I wanted to have some jalebis and we were not sure if we should pick some at the folks making and selling them on the streets. Which is when we spotted an old and sleepy-looking sweet shop in the lane outside Ashok & Ashok and Amit suggested that we go there.

We saw a man frying samosas at the front. We got him to fry us some fresh jalebis too (minimum order of 200 g for this). The jalebis took me back straight to the jilipis of Kolkata thanks to their crunchiness with the first bite that I took. We tried a samosa too and that was lovely as well. 

Few things can compare with the clean and pure joy of having freshly fried jalebis and samosas in my book.

The ustaad at Madan Lal

There were a couple of gentlemen at the counter and the more elderly of the two called us in to eat. “Beta, andar baith ke khao.” He later told me that his father had come to Delhi from Lahore and had set up the shop in 1947. The two gentlemen at the counter were the son and grandson of the founder. They then treated me to a glass of kanji, a drink made with fermented black carrot. A winter special here. A beautiful palate cleanser after the afternoon’s multiple feasts.

Madan Lalji with the first PM of India, Pandit Nehru. He had the makings of a
food blogger if you ask me

On the way out, they showed me black and white pictures of dignitaries who had eaten here. The first prime minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru, had inaugurated the place it seems, just as he had Al Jawahar’s where I had gone to the previous night. He seemed to have been quite a foodie as I saw his picture at the Kwality Restaurant too. There were pictures of his daughter and former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, railway minister Babu Jagjivan Ram and many others with the family.

I too felt like a VIP when I left the shop, lavished by the love that I had been here and across Delhi during the trip.

Raising a black carrot kanji toast to the founder of the shop the late Madan Lal,
with his son and grandson

Let’s hear it for the Delhi Belly.

When a Mumbaikar roots for Delhi

Does this list qualify to be the ‘Best of Delhi’ or the most comprehensive list of Delhi eateries?

Of course not! This is my n’th food trip to the city and I have eaten at many of its other iconic places before. I would put the buff niharis at Kallu Mia’s in Old Delhi & Javed’s at Jamia, way above those at Al Jawahar and Karim’s. For every Sitaram channa bhatoore fan, there will be those who will root for the ones Nagpal or at Chache Da Hatti. There will be those who will say that the place to have chaat is at the UPSC guy’s and not Bengali Market. Or that Kake or Ashok & Ashok or any other icon is not “what it used to be.”

Delhi has its share of modern cafes too and then restaurants such as Indian Accent and the Bukhara which have made waves among the upscale diners from abroad. I have eaten at both in the past. There’s north eastern food and I have eaten at Yeti before and I heard it is still going strong. The regional food at its state ‘Bhavans’ and I made it to the one at Andhra Bhavan sometime back.

Yes, there is a lot more to Delhi’s food that what you have read in this post and that is what makes the city so special. What I can tell you for sure though, that this list is a good place to start off to understand the heart of Delhi’s food. 

Open your heart to Delhi and Delhi will love you back. Delhi Belly be damned.

Come to think of it, this applies to the rest of India too. And to anywhere else in the world.

Can one ever get enough of Delhi?


1. A video that we shot at Sitaram Diwanchand for my YouTube channel, Finely Chopped TV, courtesy Greg:

2. A video that we shot at Ashok & Ashok and this is courtesy Amit Patnaik:

3.  More food from this trip:

China Kitchen, Hyatt Regency: Delhi Posh

Being the country’s capital, you have a fair bit of foreign cuisine dished out by expat chefs apart from local chefs here. The canteen at the Vietnamese Embassy for example, is talked about a lot these days. And at the end of this trip, seeking the comfort of air-conditioning and of Chinese food too (true story) after two days of korma, kebabs and channa, I accepted the invite from the team at the Hyatt Regency, Delhi, and had one of the most exquisite Chinese meals that I have had in India at their restaurant called China Kitchen. The restaurant has been a bit of a Delhi icon for a while I am told. It was first recommended to me by Delhi based food critic, Marryam Reshii.

The most memorable parts of the meal that I had there would include the dumplings with diaphanous skin, the exquisite roast duck with ethereal crackling, the roast pork belly which was a true testament to wonders of slow cooking, the stir fried mushrooms which ‘smelt’ of the Chinese restaurants of KL, Singapore and Hong Kong and the juicy prawns served with crisp garlic. 

With expat chefs who need interpreters and imported produce, surely places such as these in the five star hotels in Delhi would be as removed from the ‘scary’ world of Delhi Belly as the chicken tikka masala of the pubs of London are from the world of Indian food!

Mohit joined me for lunch at China Kitchen and it was lovely
chatting with him. The milieu a bit different from the usual
street food explorations that he and I often go out on. Yes, there
are many Delhis as Dr Pant said
Amit Patnaik, the Thailavva of the food world

With Alex at Nirula's

The gentleman in the middle came up to us at CP. He said
that he lives in Fiji and has watched my videos. "Do you know
how far Fiji is," he said, looking most happy. I felt thrilled. I
didn't know that anyone knew of me in Fiji!
You can catch more of my Delhi stories in my book, The Travelling Belly. Here is where you can order it from.

Here's the Attache Travel Guide to Delhi. The food bit starts after 7 min 20 secs:

From the Finely Chopped archives on Delhi:

Old Delhi nihari & kebabs
Old Delhi Kareem's and Aslam with Mohit
Old Delhi Breakfast with Amit
First time at Kake
Evergreen chhole bhatoore
First time at Bengali Sweets
Connaught Place with Manisha Bhasin
Channa bhatoore at Nathu's with Pamela Timms
Pandara road food explorations with Amit
CR Park, Delhi's Bengali settlement

Sources referred to:

WSJ on Wenger's
Merriam Webster: Delhi Belly
Pamella Timms: Ashok & Ashok
Wikipedia on Mankad


sunky said…
Fantastic blog. For someone who hasn't really gone on a food trip to Delhi, this made me salivate several times. Keep exploring places and capturing them through such articles ��