Korma, Kheer and Kismet: Five Seasons In Old Delhi is a record of the food experiences offered in the streets of Old Delhi. Pamela Timms came down all the way from Scotland to enjoy the tastes and flavors of Indian food, which she found it in the street food stalls.
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Pamela Timms decided to get away from the dampness of Scotland and enjoy the sun and heat in India. She came to Delhi and her mission was not just to enjoy the tropical climate but also to discover the heady flavours of Indian foods.
Initially, Pamela Timms found it difficult to sample the genuine taste of Indian food. She then decided that Old Delhi was probably the best place to find it. She began exploring the side streets and by lanes of Old Delhi and discovered the wonderful street food stalls, offering a mind boggling variety of foods.
She soon discovered the taste of korma, kheer and jalebis and began exploring even deeper into the heart of the old city. She made friends and was invited into the homes of the people who prepared the delicious foods sold in the food stalls.
Celebrating festivals with them and enjoying the delicious sweets and spicy foods, she soon began collecting recipes for many of the wonderful dishes sold in the streets. She is now a part of the community whose food traditions she set out to discover.
Rupa Publications has published this hardcover edition of Korma, Kheer and Kismet: Five Seasons In Old Delhi. This is the first edition.
This book is a delightful record of the year the author spent discovering the culinary delights offered by Old Delhi.
It contains tempting description of the delightful fare offered and directions to the best eateries in which to enjoy them.
Each chapter in the book also contains detailed recipes for the delicious dishes that she discovered, enjoyed and then learnt to cook.
What readers are saying..
Lovely. I have gifted this book to umber pus friends who have all loved it and followed in its footsteps, every delicious step. Can’t wait to return to delhi and follow the trail.
I purchased this book with some misgivings, to be very frank. Here is yet another “firang” giving her two bits worth about Indian food, I thought dismissively. So, i first downloaded a sample, and on Christmas Day, while my wife was busy preparing a lunch of Mutton Rogan Josh for me, I started on the sample. Beforte lunch was served, I had purchased the book, and was well into the intricacies of Ashok and Ashok’s Muton Korma recipe ! Pamela writes with a sure touch about the a subject she obviously loves to a fault – good food. Her writing is witty and sincere, and she brings a Westerner’s eye for detail into her recipes. And her descriptions of the bylanes of Old Delhi are charming and so evocative, that you can actually feel you are there with her as she dashes off on a cold winter dawn in search of the elusive Daulat ki Chaat, or understanding the mysteries behind Bade Mian’s creamy Kheer, or the simple delights of a coal roasted shakharkandi. Her accounts of life around the dusty alleys of Jama Masjid, or the cubby holes in and around Chandni Chowk, reveal a gourmand’s true love for food belonging to a bye gone era. The book is a must read for lovers of Delhi street food at its best.
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Was chatting with a friend of mine (who works as a corporate Chef and handles few of the major restaurants in Delhi) yesterday afternoon and realized that both of us were hungry but not for the run of the mill stuff. He is someone who has spent lot of time working overseas and in Delhi as well most of the food he does is ‘international’. A jaunt to Old Delhi is what doctor seemed to have ordered for him and yesterday we both grasped at the opportunity and after parking our rides at Patel Chowk Metro Station and we hopped in a train straight to Chawri Bazaar.
Daulat ki Chaat from Gali Arya Samaaj
Got out from exit no. 3 of Chawri Metro Station and headed straight into Sita Ram Bazaar, deciding to ignore temptations offered in Chawri Bazaar starting from Ashok Chaat right at the corner to Shakahari, Standard, Shyam, Kulle Chaat & Jain Sandwich to the road leading straight to Jama Masjid and the numerous meaty goodies on offer in Matia Maharl and Urdu Bazaar area. And let me not even mention the Lal Kuan, Balli Maran, Khari Baoli and Chandni Chowk waiting for us on the other side. We ignored them all.
We were men on mission, and the mission was simple – Daulat Ki Chaat. Daulat ki Chaat is a dessert which as per my understanding is basically milk froth – making it very light in weight and texture, something they say is made from dew and beating the milk with hand all night long. It is served with some crushed Khoya, which I would call Indian Cheese in absence of a better explanation, some finely crushed dry fruits and maybe some saffron water/syrup.
Its a very fine dish available mostly in colder months in Delhi and available ONLY in Old Delhi. As Delhi moves into winter months, you can see the walled city dotted with numerous carts & hawkers selling Daulat Ki Chaat and everyone claims to be the best, accepting orders for weddings and other parties – complete with a visiting card offered to every inquisitive customer. Outsiders and/or novice food lovers get excited at the mere sight of them carts and find hard to control the temptation of trying them. Honestly speaking cannot just blame them, even the half good stuff commonly sold in Old Delhi (any part including Chandni Chowk) is good enough to make even hardcore foodies feel happy.
But then, I do not consider myself an outsider and my friend is not a novice foodie for sure.. 😉
Most of the Daulat ki Chaat sold on those carts parked in touristy, crowded or popular areas of Old Delhi sell adulterated stuff, or so I have been told by my cousins and family residing in that part of town. But then we are not the ones to believe in words and to be sure that we have a fare comparison we started by eating from a cart right on the Hauz Khazi chowk and actually enjoyed the stuff that he was selling. For bulk orders he quoted Rs.4000 for 12 kgs of Chaat, plus the transportation.
Daulat ki Chaat we had on Hauz Qazi Chowk
Post that we decided to skip everything else and walk straight towards Gali Arya Samaj, a bylane of Sita Ram Bazaar. Its a unmarked street on your right hand side, right after Lal Darwaza, which is on your left hand side. You walk into the Gali Arya Samaj and as the street starts to narrow down, on your left hand side would will find a small stall selling Daulat ki Chaat and some kulfis/icecream.
We ordered a plate each from this guy as well, and my chef friend straightaway started telling me that its more Pure, dense, flavorful, creamy and frothy. And as soon as he uttered those words my heart took a leap of joy, feeling vindicated & validated. The shopkeeper told me that they still have to make it with hand and have no other option, and quoted us Rs. 600 a kg plus transportation for bulk and party orders.
There is no name of this shop, but I believe I have mentioned several points in the blog, points which are sufficient to send you on a treasure hunt, a hunt for the BEST Daulat ki Chaat, which of-course is nothing less than a treasure.
Started this post to share the entire adventure we had yesterday which saw us gorging on some awesome Kachoris & Samosas as well, while finishing the gluttony with a rockstar Nahari and Kebabs, but I guess will limit this post to Daulat ki Chaat and save other details for another post.
Would love to hear some feedback from those who actually are able to find and try this much elusive delicacy. Do share your story in the comments below.
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This post is part of What to eat in Walled City OR Old Delhi? series. Chandni Chowk starts from Jain Temple towards the Red Fort and extends till Fatehpuri Masjid on the other end. The entire stretch would be approximately 2km and is dotted with legend after the Legend. There are outlets in these areas which are institutions and have been around for more than couple of centuries (yes.. CENTURIES) and then there are tourist traps, mediocre food sellers (still better than New Delhi food :P) and McDonald’s.
1. Natraj Dahi Bhalle – One of the most popular and talked about outlet selling Bhalle and Tikki from a corner shop. I have eaten here a couple of times, never really enjoyed the food, but then people around me have gone gaga about it. So better make your own call.
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2. Old Famous Jalebi – Have heard lot of mixed reviews about this one, generally bordering on the negative side, however when I ate their jalebis for the first time,a few weeks back, I ended up loving it. Most of the people look for ‘thin’ jalebis as that is their perception of good jalebi and they think if its thick, it’s bad. However it’s an art to make a good jalebi which is thick and according to me, this guy is a master of it. I did taste some Khoya / Paneer in his jalebi for sure. Crisp on the outside, its juicy and succulent on the inside. Just a warning – They come across as arrogant in their behavior, but then I don’t give a damn.
3. Gali Paranthe Waali – Skip it! it’s a sham, it’s a tourist trap. It’s a black spot on Dilli ke paranthe. The paranthas that they make, are nothing like paranthas are supposed to be or are in our homes or anywhere else. You can go there to try the food item on offer, but then it’s not really delicious and it’s not really Parantha. However in the same street you will get some awesome Nan Khatai being baked on a cart, do try that , plus there are couple of shops selling decent Khurchan, Rabri and Milkcake.
4. Ghante Waala, Annapurna, KunwarJi – Sweet shops that I have heard a lot about, but never got around to trying. But you might want to try or do your own research.
5. Dogra Snack, Outside Gandhi Maidan Parking, PhatPhat Service’s stand – Now this is bit off the trail, but this guy sells some of the yummiest Ram Ladoos (Dal ki pakodi), Bread Pakode and other things like Karele ke pakode (Yes! pakoda made out of Bitter Gourd). Must try.
6. Haldiram’s / Wahi Ji Wah / McDonald’s – Ignore, unless you want the chain effect.. 😛
7. Ved Prakash Lemon Waale, Near Town Hall – If you are a firang (foreigner :P) you might want to avoid this due to the ice used, or else this is one of the most refreshing and popular drinks you can have in Indian Summer.
Lemon Soda at Ved Prakash Lemon Waale
8. Shiv Mishthan Bhandar – I have been there once, went there for Halwa Nagori, ended up having Puri, Chhole Bhature and couple of other things. One of the few places where you can savor Halwa-Nagori-Subzi. Plus I have been told that they are well known for their Jalebis as well, you might want to try them out.
Halwa Nagori and Subzi at Shiv Misthan Bhandar
9. Adarsh Bhojanalaya – This one is just off the main lane, in an alley towards your left. It’s more like a dining hall and they only serve a thali (Set Meal, Unlimited portions). The food is sattvik in nature and given the nature of the food is super clean and hygienic. For anyone who has been born and brought up in North India this would come across as the food from their home, however if you are a firang or someone not familiar with routine North Indian food and what to see how and what we eat at home, this is a perfect place to visit.
Thali at Adarsh Bhojanalya
10. Amritsari Lassi Corner – I am not a big sweet lassi fan, though it can be very healthy, still its filling, its full of calories and it puts me to sleep. However I never skip a chance to savor and enjoy an occasional good one. Have tried their basic sweet lassi (I do not believe in flavors) and it’s amongst the better one you can get in Delhi. As they do in Amritsar, these guys put a dollop of butter on your lassi too and then put a spoon on top to show how thick the lassi is as the spoon does not drown in the lassi. Must try if you are a Lassi fan or have never tried it.
Notice how the spoon is affloat on the lassi, though spoon is a super light, but still a cool gimmick.
11. Chaina Ram Sindhi Halwai – Now this location is legendary, bang on the T-Point, in the premises of Fateh Puri Mosque. Besides the location, they have managed to survive 2 centuries (Yup! you read it right). This place is an institution in itself and is a hot favorite for its sweets and other delicacies amongst the discerning audience of Walled city area. The most revered delicacy for me being Karachi Halwa, which they do like none other. I have also enjoyed his Poori-Chhole at breakfast and Paneer pakoda as a snack. Besides that I have savored their Ghevar, Gujiya, burfi etc. – each one manages to impress me.
Different versions of Karachi Halwa at Chaina Ram
Karachi Halwa at Chaina Ram
Paneer Pakoda at Chaina Ram
Paneer Pakoda at Chaina Ram
Suji Halwa at Chaina Ram
Breakfast of Puri Chhole at Chaina Ram
12. Gole Hatti – Right at the entry of khari baoli, it’s an outlet that I have been keen on visiting for couple of years, however got around to doing so few days back. I was expecting them to be serving stuffed Naans, like New Gole Hatti in Patel Nagar (run by same family). However here they have a very limited menu, serving Chhole Bhature, Chhole Kulche, Veg. Pulao, Chhole-Chawal-Palak, Dahi-Bhalle and Ras-Malai. It’s a super old school outlet, must try if you are in the area. Chhole-Palak-Chawal being the highlight for me. If you are a Delhi-hite you might not appreciate their style of serving Chhole Bhature, however I would still ask you to try them, just consider it a different style of having them, which it actually is (from Amritsar and beyond maybe).
Chhole Kulche and Chhole Bhature at Gol Hatti
Chhole Palak Chawal at Gol Hatti
They serve in a Kullad, adds lot of Character.
Chhole Palak Chawal at Gol Hatti
Dahi Bhalle at Gol Hatti
14. Giani Faluda – Another Super legend from the area, best known for its Rabri-Faluda and Dal-Halwa (only in winters, amongst best in New/Old Delhi). I cannot write anything about them which has not already been written. Must try as per me too.
Rabri Faluda at Giani’s
Rabri at at Giani’s
Gajar ka Halwa at at Giani’s
14. Kake-da-Dhaba – Better known for its naans, it sure is very popular in the area. During my couple of visits, I have enjoyed their stuffed naans and paranthas, however have been indifferent to their subzis and main dishes. If I were to recommend something, I would say order Dhurandar or Dhuandhaar Naan (confused between the actual name, however it has been named such as its stuffing is super fiery… :P) and Dal Makhani.
Dal Makhani at Kake-di-Hatti
Naan being served at at Kake-di-Hatti
A full Naan at Kake-di-Hatti
15. Mahalakshmi Sweets – Have only visited them twice, both times hunting for Halwa Nagori which is a breakfast item. Was not able to eat the Halwa Nagori, the first time round, Why? – Because we got there at 9 AM on a winter morning and they were already finished for the day. Then went there again couple of weeks later and just barely managed to get my hands on a few of those Nagoris at 8:30 AM. Was it worth it? HELL YEAH! The best I have ever had.
16. Inderpuri Dhaba – Have been there once, did not like anything that they served, however the day we visited them was a bad day and this place was a compromise for us. However some of my friends have recommended this place for their Dal Makhani. Just saying.
This brings us to the end of this list and just to remind you guys, this is neither comprehensive nor complete, this is just a list of places I have eaten at. There is this Samose waala, this fruit-cream waala, this paranthe waale, that Pulao waala that I am yet to checkout in the area. Plus random Chaat guys, Kanji Vada guys which have also satisfied my taste buds over the years. I hope I can eat and add more info into this post in times to come.
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PS : If you found this post helpful in your explorations, do come back and leave a comment.. 🙂
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First things first, when people talk about Chandni Chowk, they often confuse it with all other parts of Old Delhi and vice versa is also true, that is when people talk about Old Delhi, they end up talking about Chandni Chowk itself. So Old Delhi or Walled City or Dilli 6 (Chhe) as it is fondly called in common parlance has multiple streets, areas and bazaars. And then there are Galis, Kuchas and Katras. Some of the popular areas besides Chandni Chowk being – Chawri Bazaar, Jama Masjid, Sitaram Bazaar, Nai Sarak, Lal Kuan, Khari Baoli, Balli Maran, Sadar Bazar etc.
So to rephrase the question or rather it can be rephrased in any form like :
* What to eat in Old Delhi / Walled City / Delhi 6 / Purani Dilli ??
* What to eat in Chandni Chowk / Chawri Bazaar / Any area of walled city ??
* How not be a tourist in Chandni Chowk / Old Delhi / Any other above mentioned area ??
These are the questions that are asked often enough and it is something which is impossible to sum up in a blog post for multiple reasons. First – the sheer variety and plethora of information that is required to cover it and second – till now I have not been able to sample everything that I have heard about and I doubt anyone else has been able to do that as well. But then I decided to take the first baby step and start documenting what I know about or at least of what I have pictures of. The information would be as indicative as possible and most of the locations and spots can be found using google and bit of common sense. So here I am trying to create a photolog and trying to answer ‘What to eat in Chandni Chowk?’
First of all we need to understand bit of social map of the area. There are pockets in walled city which are dominated by Muslim populace and then most of area is being populated by Hindu traders and is largely vegetarian. In my knowledge you get non-vegetarian food only in Jama Masjid (Matia Mahal) and Balli Maran (and Lal Kuan) area. All other areas being largely vegetarian food dominated.
What also needs to be shared is that the commuting between these areas can be daunting, though most can be reached in maximum 15-20 minutes of walk but human, vehicular and ‘other’ traffic makes it a chore. So if you are not going there only for a ‘Hog Session’ you better stick to your bazaar or area for eating. For Easy Navigating I have further divided the information in multiple posts.
If you have been born and brought up in Delhi, chances are that the memories of evenings spent with family at the melas or carnivals of the “pre-mall” days, occupy a very important part of your childhood nostalgia. Remember the old feeling when your feet are screaming for a break from all the walking – but instead your eyes, filled with excitement, refuse to listen, and keep on pulling you towards the next attraction?? That was exactly how I was feeling today at Jama Masjid, and all the joy-rides were for my taste-buds.
Our gang of FED’s got together at the Chawri Bazaar metro station, and we started walking through the small eateries mainly catering to the Chawri Bazaar businessmen and the local residents. Until we reached the Jama Masjid area, the fare was only vegetarian, and rightly so, because had we gone straight to the other part, our vegetarian friends would have run away at the very beginning.
My narration starts forms the part 2 of our FED walk, or as I like to call it “The Carnivore Carnival”.
Ramzan or Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, during which, participating Muslims strictly refrain from eating food and even water during the daylight hours. It is only after sunset that they are allowed to take their first sip of water of the day. The fast breaking meal of the day is known as Iftar, which traditionally starts with the ceremonial eating of three dates, just as Prophet Muhammad used to do.
We were at the area called Matia Mahal which is the lane leading in towards the market opposite gate no: 1 of the Jama Masjid entrance. And since It is the holy month of Ramzan, we were there to join in on the celebrations. When we entered the lane, we couldn’t help being overwhelmed by the festive energy of the place. The joyful spirit instantly overpowers as you are drawn into the labyrinth of lights, colors, and best of all the succulent aroma of wonderful food.
Our first halt was at a biryani vendor, he had two different types of biryanis, the Chicken and beef (or as they called it “Bade ki Biryani”). Both of them tasted nice as they were cooked very well. But I must admit that this guy’s biryani was not the best one of the evening.
Twenty steps further into the lane was a grilled chicken outlet, I think its name was Aslam Chicken Corner. This guy is basically sitting on the street with a huge tawa, at-least 3 ft in diameter, full of marinated chicken breast pieces, and a small grill besides it. The Chicken was juicy and simply amazing, even though it was drenched in yellow butter, the taste was perfectly balanced with all the spices used in marinating it. At Rs. 65 for a skewer with 7 pieces it was just awesome.
Here, I met a few local youth, (who for some reason were convinced that I was from London and not Delhi ??) I asked one of them about his favorite food in the lane and he recommended a Chicken Biryani place and pointed out to the outlet. I’m glad I followed the dude’s advice.
The biryani here was out-standing, much better than the earlier place, it was cooked to perfection with each individual strand perfectly separated, and the aroma was a flawless melody of spices. The quality of rice they used was nothing like what I have ever seen before, each grain was at least half an inch long. The guy sitting at the Deg (the biryani vessel) told me that only a very special type of rice will make the biryani taste this good. This guy even had us try some of his Korma which was again great. I love mixing a little korma with my biryani.
Also, adjoining this place was an outlet making Rotis and Sheermals. We were tempted to try the sheermal and they were superb. It is a flat bread which is mildly sweet and only slightly glazed and cooked in a tandoor. They too would have been a perfect accompaniment with the Korma.
All the food had me craving for a nice cool drink, and at that moment had I wished for something else, it would definitely have been granted. Just a couple of shops down the lane I saw something spectacular. This shop had a giant soda vending machine which had every flavor imaginable on offer. They had at least 15 different varieties of soda ranging from Leeche to Mango, Blueberry to Strawberry, you name it, and the taste was surprisingly commendable. We guys went crazy with delight. Seriously, I wasn’t kidding about the Mela part.
Up next I met the happiest food vendor I’ve seen in my whole life. This guy (who by the way had a striking resemblance with the actor Randeep Hooda.. see pic) was just so jubilant. He served us with an energy that was both entertaining and inspiring with a smile as big as the old city, and this was besides the fact that he was super-busy. He was selling this unique sharbat made with water, milk, Roohafza plus little chunks of watermelon added in the mix. It was only mildly sweet, delicious and totally refreshing.
Right next to this jolly fellow was a guy selling different curries out of a cart, now, how often do you get to see stuff like that? We asked him to give us a plate each of all his non-veg preparations. He set up a small table for us and sent us Hari Mirch Keema, Magaz (Brain) Curry, Mutton Korma, Dal Meat and Bade Ka Salan. We all had our favorites, mine was the Korma but the Magaz was the first one to be wiped off.
You have to pardon me for not giving you any names as these places are known more by their food and location. Most of them have been sitting at the same place selling the same food for decades without choosing any name for their outlet. In order to find them all you need to do is start walking into the lane and go on exploring.
To finish off, we decided to culminate the evening at the outlet which has made the Jama Masjid area food famous all over the world, we ended up at Karim’s. This place is an institution in itself. To reach there we had to walk back to the entrance of the lane where the very first Karim’s is located. It opened originally in the year 1918 (I think) and they have been putting smiles of people’s faces ever since.
We are all too familiar with Karim’s food, as any foodie worth his salt would be, so we just ordered a few of our favorites. In fact, I doubt if the majority of their visitors even look at their Menu card before ordering.
We had their Burra Kebabs, Nihari, Keema and Seekh Kababs. I even wanted to have the Raan which is the roasted whole leg of the goat but it was sold out, sadly.
The Burra is their most famous and popular preparation. It is made of pieces of goat meat marinated in their secret mix of spices and then slow cooked in the tandoor. The meat is soft and it melts in the mouth within a few bites, perfect. I could eat it all day.
The Nihari is again a goat meat preparation and is more popular during Ramzan. The gravy is very rich and creamy, again with a lot of spices added to create Magic. We finished off with the famous Phirni which is their version of kheer.
The food is no doubt very heavy with all the spices and Ghee, but, I feel, that is the essence of Mughlai food. After eating so much I’m glad I walked all the way back till New Delhi railway station, where I had parked.
When it comes to working with red meat, the Muslim chefs have definitely written the book on the subject. It will always be their art. I just hope their younger generation takes on the reins so we can continue savoring the delights as their art of cooking is passed on from generation to generation.
One last word on the prices. Karim’s by all standards is priced like any other mid-priced restaurant, Meal for two between Rs. 600 to Rs. 800 range. But the outlets outside on the street are all in the very affordable category, dishes range from Rs. 50 – Rs. 75 on average, and I reckon one can have a royal feast for well under Rs. 200.
Going to Jama Masjid for food is always joyful, but being there during Ramzan, is unlike any regular experience. The positivity, jubilation and the merriment that is so prevalent, just multiplies the flavor of the food fiesta.