The walled city abounds with vegetarian khana, finds Trisha Gupta.
If you’re a standard-issue New Delhizen, you can be forgiven for thinking that all people eat in Old Delhi is kababs, qormas and kulfi. Because that’s what most often appears when swish South Delhi hotels or Delhi Tourism in its occasional bursts of enthusiasm decide to showcase “Purani Dilli ka Khana”. But as all self-respecting Sheherwalas know, Shahjahanbad has some of the best vegetarian food in town. And no, we don’t mean chaat – these are substantial meals, many of them under Rs 50 per head.
Whether you seek solace in Dilli-style bedmi-aloo, buttery Punjabi, or homestyle Marwari sans garlic and onion, the Walled City will not disappoint. Almost before you enter the old city, in the midst of the auto parts market opposite St James Church, is a little shop whose board reads “Makhan Lal Tika Ram - mltr”, but which has for years gone by the name of Mitthan ki Bedmi. Strictly speaking, it’s a sweetshop, but it has a tiny balcony into which you can cram yourself (along with about seven other people) and eat mltr’s fantastic bedmis (Rs 7 a plate). Served with a mixed aloo-chhole ki sabzi and a lovely khatte aam ki launji, two of these are a meal. Add a glassful of creamy, cold lassi, and you’ll even stop thinking about the heat.
For Punjabi food, the most famous eatery in the area is the deceptively nondescript Kake di Hatti, near Fatehpuri Masjid. “The food is simple, but rotis are fresh from the tandoor, and something as simple as cucumber raita is memorable for being perfectly-spiced,” said customer OP Bhuwania. And the dal makhani here (Rs 30) is legendary. “People who know it come all the way from Gurgaon to eat it,” declared owner Gurdeep Singh, whose great-grandfather started the shop 62 years ago. If you arrive before lunch is ready, make a meal out of dahi, achaar and any of the eleven kinds of stuffed parathas on offer. (They’re infinitely superior to the overrated greasebombs at Parathe-wali Gali). More “fancy” than Kake di Hatti is the double-storeyed Shakahari, next to Chawri Bazar Metro Station. Filled with feasting families on a weekday night, Shakahari’s restaurant-style north Indian food clearly has a devoted local clientele. The urad dal fry (Rs 45) and baingan bharta (Rs 43) seemed excessively chilli-laden and oily to us, but people at the next table seemed to love it.
Our top vote, however, goes to the Marwari-style ghar ka khana on offer at several bhojanalayas – no-frills eateries characterized by spotless tables, large stainless steel thalis and phulkas hot off the tawa. Try Sony, New Sony, Brijwasi or Adarsh Niwas for an extremely satisfying meal. The Rs 45 thali at New Sony, for example, offers unlimited dal, aloo-tamatar and chapattis, along with a limited helping of the day’s sabzi and either a raita or a sweet dish. Located more or less on the corner of Nai Sarak and Chandni Chowk, New Sony is managed by a genial old Marwari gentleman and his middle-aged daughter, both of whom remain perpetually perched behind the counter and keep up a constant flow of largely unnecessary instructions to the various young men serving the food. But as long as they also keep up a constant flow of that phenomenal tadke-wali dal, who cares?
Adarsh Niwas, 483 Haider Quli Corner, below Andhra Bank, Chandni Chowk (2398-7576). Daily 10.30am-6pm (lunch), 6-11pm (dinner).
Brijwasi Bhojanalaya, 376 Chandni Chowk, near Kucha Ghasi Ram, (2397-1376). Daily 10am-4pm, 6pm-11pm.
Kake di Hatti 654 Church Mission Road, Fatehpuri (98109-09754). Daily 7.30am-12.30pm
Makhan Lal Tika Ram, 1259-60 Bara Bazar, Kashmere Gate (3255-9415). Daily 5.30am-10.30pm.
New Sony Bhojanalaya, 5568 Nai Sadak (2393-6143). 11am-4pm (lunch), 7pm-11pm (dinner). Sundays closed.
Pandit Gaya Prasad Madan Mohan, Gali Parathewali, Chandni Chowk. Daily 11am-10pm.
Shakahari, 3624/9 Chawri Bazar (2327-7366). Daily 12-4pm (lunch), 7-11pm (dinner).
Sony Bhojanalaya (2398-1331, 2396-0281)
Published in Time Out Delhi, May 2007