The streets of Old Delhi are a delight to experience. For an amateur photographer, there is history to capture in every corner. A shopaholic can find anything they desire here, provided they know where to look for it in this crowded labyrinth.
As for food lovers, the streets are brimming with iconic eateries that have made a name for themselves over decades.
When we talk about street food in Old Delhi, everyone has their favorites. From kebabs to kachoris, the aura, that surrounds these establishments, further adds flavor to whatever it is that they serve.
Having lived in New Delhi most of my life, I hardly ever explored Old Delhi for its food. That all changed earlier this year when I went on a couple of Old Delhi food walks. Now, I’m addicted, wanting to go back and try more places, and revisit the ones I found appealing.
The sheer vibrancy around Old Delhi street food is astounding. Besides the food, the atmosphere is eccentric and has an alluring nostalgic charm, hard to relate for many who have grown up in the modern-day mall culture. Best of all, it doesn’t harm the pocket either, as the prices of the iconic dishes of Old Delhi are somewhat ancient as well.
This list tries to capture a small part of Old Delhi’s culinary heritage. You will find the occasional legendary Old Delhi restaurant missing here – Karim’s and Qureshi being the obvious ones. Some, I have yet to explore, others I haven’t eaten at for decades. In time, I hope to add them with photos to entice you, hopefully.
So, the idea is to keep on adding to the list. Thankfully, the one wonderful thing about Old Delhi street food and restaurants is that they have a tendency to go on and on, serving generations, for centuries on end.
Note: Clicking on the name of the eatery will take you to its Google Maps location.
Shop No. 526, Kucha Pati Ram, Sitaram Bazar Rd, Chawri Bazar, Delhi 110006
“Old Delhi’s Most Famous Kulfi” is quite simply unique and divine.
Operational since 1906, Kuremal Mohan Lal’s specialty is their fruit kulfi. High on flavor with the added drama of being stuffed inside a fruit, typically seasonal, makes it a delicious eat.
There’s a holistic charm to the kulfi that finally emerges with a fruity smell, overall lightness, and refreshing composition, perfect for the summer months.
Mango kulfi is Kuremal’s most famous dish. But it is best to ask the proprietor about the in-season fruit. He recommended the orange kulfi to us, which turned out to be excellent.
1795, Dariba Kalan Rd, Opp Central Baptist Church, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
Eating jalebis from a street stall can be a hit or a miss. However, there are a few reasons why Old Famous remains as iconic as ever.
The size of one jalebi is enormous. It’s thick and probably equals five normal ones that you get at Haldirams or Bikanervala.
They make the jalebis in small batches. In all likelihood, they will make a new one once you place the order. So, expect piping hot jalebis every time.
The syrup literally dribbles down your chin with every bite. There’s a childish excitement whenever this happens, that’s quite nostalgic. Not to forget, the sticky fingers you end up licking afterward.
2867, Bazar Sirkiwalan, Chawri Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
The Old Kheer Shop operates out of a house where, Madhubala, one of Indian cinema’s most loved actresses, was born.
Although the owners of Old Kheer Shop don’t have any affiliation with the legendary actress, their soft, smooth, and creamy kheer is in a league of its own.
Very much like most eateries in Old Delhi, the “shop” is tiny with just enough space for 7-10 people to sit and eat.
The menu comprises of only kheer, made in limited quantity every day. Once over, you have to wait till the next day to have your share of this sweet obsession.
Vaidwara, Maliwara, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
Arvind doesn’t have a signboard over his hole in the wall shop. There is no name anywhere, nor an address.
In all honesty, his shop is not actually called Arvind Pakode Wala. Arvind is the name of the owner, and I guess Arvind Pakode Wala is as good a name as it gets.
Arvind’s chili pakoras are popular. There’s nothing unique about them, except for maybe an authenticity that reflects in the batter and their perfect crispiness.
I’m not big on spicy food, and eating a chili pakora is a considerable gamble. You can luck out and get moderately hot chili or end up running around looking for a bottle of water to calm down your burning throat.
It seems it was my lucky day, as both the chili pakoras I ate turned out to be tolerable.
House No. 112 Chowk Barshahbulla, Chawri Bazar, Delhi 110006
Legend has it that it was Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru who suggested that Shyam Sweets should make matar kachoris (kachoris filled with peas).
Now, Shayam Sweets is famously known all over Delhi as “matar kachori wale.”
A popular breakfast destination for locals, Shyam Sweets, has a lot more to offer. A display case holds a variety of sweets whereas signboards promote their stuffed samosas.
There’s no place to sit, except for a couple of tables where you can stand and have your meal.
The matar kachoris come dipped in a potato gravy and are a little spicy but wholesome and flavourful.
1104, Gali Bhojpura Rd, Maliwara, Katra Lehswan, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
A tiny all-in-one establishment, JB Kachori Wala has a large poster on their wall proudly mentioning all the places they are reachable on the web.
The kachoris are stacked up in one corner, new ones being made alongside, and a steady flow of customers coming and going at all times.
Situated on a busy street, one has to stand on the side and often wiggle around passing cycles and scoters while eating.
JB’s kachori is what I would call typical Old Delhi food. Served crushed in a potato gravy; it’s spicy, crunchy, savory, and bursting with the kind of tanginess that makes you want to have another bite even if it’s too spicy for the tongue.
Shop No. 4 & 5, Matia Mahal Road, Opposite Jama Masjid Gate No. 1, Delhi 110006
Situated right at the corner, in front of the Jama Masjid, you can’t miss Kallan Sweets. It’s also one of the bigger shops in the lane right opposite the mosque.
While you will get the regular sweets at Kallan, it is primarily known for paneer jalebis and keema samosas available around Ramadan.
The paneer jalebi is quite thick, very sweet, but has a much softer texture to it than the usual jalebi.
The keema samosa isn’t anything like the traditional savory comfort food that we eat. This one looks like a gunjiya with what I believe is minimal filling inside. Both the jalebi and samosa are a popular part of iftar – the evening meal to end a day of fasting during Ramadan.
Kinari Bazar Rd, Kinari Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
While walking through the streets of Kinari Bazaar, Padam Chaat Corner suddenly comes up in one corner. It’s another one of those hole-in-the-wall street food joints without any boundaries on two sides.
The mountain of gol gappas on one side and the rather moody lighting – the street is relatively dark during the day – further makes it stick out.
Padam epitomizes Delhi’s street food scene. Everyone accommodates themselves to allow newcomers to place their order.
There’s typically some ongoing banter between regulars with a remark here and there on India’s political status or whatever is in the news at the time.
The dahi papdi chaat I had was perfect. The person making the chat, who was not the owner, even positioned it so I could take a better photograph.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if the food is good or bad, but the fleeting interactions we have while eating makes the experience memorable.
Urdu Bazar Rd, Jama Masjid, Old Delhi, Delhi 110006
Everyone who enjoys kebabs will have that one place that serves the “best kebabs in Delhi.” It’s next to impossible to try each one of these famous eateries, but a few stand out.
Lalu Kababee is only a few steps away from Jama Masjid’s Gate Number 1. It’s small and during festival-time remains crowded throughout the evening.
The kebabs here, or for that matter in most Old Delhi restaurants, look at a lot different from what I’ve grown up eating in restaurants. However, in taste, they surpass any kebab you might have had in the best and most expensive of places.
Made with buffalo meat, Lalu Kababee served the softest kebabs I’ve ever had. So soft that they were breaking up as I tried to pick one up.
The surprise factor for me, though, was that the kebab came with a butter “gravy.” A relatively new trend, more and more kebabris are serving kebabs or chicken with butter in this area.
In taste, the butter certainly does accentuate the flavors of the kebab to another level altogether.
1894, Opposite Driba Klan, Chhippy Wada, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
Lassi is the quintessential energizing drink to have during hot and humid Delhi months. Rambhoj is one of many places in Chandni Chownk who serves a delicious version of it.
Rambhoj’s specialty is that they typically serve the lassi in a tall kullad (mud glass). As is the case with tea served in a kullad, there’s an earthiness to the drink that one cannot get in a steel glass.
Sadly, the rainy season is when the kullads are replaced with steel glasses.
Still, it’s worth stopping here, in-between your Old Delhi food walk, for a sit-down and a refreshing drink.
Shop No. 1125, Matia Mahal Road, Opposite Jama Masjid Gate No. 1, Delhi 110006
The first time I held a glass of Sharbat E Mohabbat’s famous Pyaar Mohabbat Mazaa, I thought it was Roohafza milk with big chunks of “red” ice in it.
In reality, one of the most desired drinks during Ramadan consists of milk, Roohafza, sugar syrup, and watermelon. Cold, sweet, fruity, and a delight to drink, I now occasionally make a homemade version of the drink whenever watermelon is in season.
Mostly available during the summer months, the rhythmically named Pyaar Mohabbat Mazaa is a must-have if you come across it during an Old Delhi food walk.
34, Paranthe Wali Gali, Maliwara Tiraha Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
It doesn’t get any more iconic than the paranthas at Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan in Paranthe Wali Gali, Old Delhi.
Operational since 1872, six generations have successfully served a variety of fried paranthas to food lovers in this legendary lane of the city.
Available with more than 25 different fillings, the paranthas are fried in desi ghee and served with a couple of mixed vegetables and curries.
Crispy and satisfying, it’s worth experimenting with some of the more unusual fillings such as bitter gourd, banana or dry fruits. I, however, played safe and tried the paneer and peas paranthas.
No.113, Matia Mahal Rd, Bazar Matia Mahal, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
Fried chicken never tasted this good.
Known locally, and amongst gourmands, as JFC (Jama Masjid Fried Chicken), the proprietor of Haji Mohd. Hussain Fried Chicken still sits at the restaurant every day and makes the spice mix and marinade himself.
The secret behind the success of the chicken is that they fry it twice. At first, the skin gets a brownish color with a shallow fry. Then, the chicken is cut into smaller pieces. Finally, once an order comes in, the pieces are deep-fried.
The final dish is crunchy, juicy, and oozing the kind of meaty goodness that sends you to foodie heaven.
My favorite bit about the fried chicken is the special in-house yellow chutney that comes with it. Its robust flavors assure that every bite is zesty and finger-licking good.
722, Haveli Azam Khan, Jama Masjid, Matia Mahal, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
Deep inside one of the side streets of Matia Mahal is Haji Sharbati Nihari. Typically, Nihari is a morning dish, and most shops finish their stock by around noon at max.
However, during Ramadan, they serve this intensely flavourful meaty delight in the evening.
The shank of lamb is generally slow-cooked overnight, giving it an intense and full-bodied taste. Often, a little bit of the stock from one day is added to the new stock, to provide it with a hearty ongoing character.
The rotis, served along with the fatty and somewhat oily, in a good way, nihari, are huge and fluffy, with an unassuming lightness to them.
735, Haveli Azam Khan, Chitli Qabar Chowk, Jama Masjid, Delhi
Located only a few steps away from Haji Sharbati Nihari, Dil Pasand serves one of the best biryanis in Old Delhi.
Whether you choose chicken or mutton, there’s lingering goodness to the dish that comes from the slow-cooked meat and fragrance of the rice.
Already full from eating the nihari, I only had a few bites of the biryani. However, if you are in the area, it’s worth having the biryani packed for home.
The biryani goes well with raita and pickles, served on the side with the dish.
1st floor, Shop No: 755, Chandni Chowk Rd, opposite Town Hall, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
Food with a view, Old Delhi style.
Asha Ram is a surprisingly spacious vegetarian-only restaurant situated on the first floor of a building that overlooks the roundabout near the Town Hall.
They have indoor seating as well, but I recommend sitting in the little patio from where you can enjoy the traffic down below and get a front-row view of the tandoor.
Asha Ram has a serious dhaba vibe to it; be it the wooden table and benches to sit on, or the open tandoor from where hot and crispy naans magically pop out after every few minutes.
Although they have the regular vegetarian fare, the butter paneer masala is heavenly. Soft pieces of paneer in a creamy gravy with quintessential Indian spices, it sounds run-of-the-mill but tastes fantastic.
Sheesh Mahal Tea Stall
There’s nothing special about this tea stall in an Old Delhi lane, except for that it happens to be right next to Sheesh Mahal.
Okay, so you also get an excellent cup of hot tea from a proprietor who could give a damn about being photographed. He went about his business completely ignoring me. Ha!
A residential building, Sheesh Mahal, is the location of Old St. Stephen’s College. The present-day residents are friendly and don’t mind if you step inside the courtyard to take some photos.
In fact, an elderly gentleman stopped me, seeing that I had a camera, and gave a little history lesson on the place.
The building doesn’t have its past glory anymore, but at one time, there were colorful mirrors all around its doors and walls.
Chandni Chowk Rd, Katra Nagpuri, Katra Asharfi, Delhi 110006
The classic “Banta” works like a charm every time you need to re-energize your body while exploring Old Delhi.
Very much like the specialty shops of Old Delhi, Pt. Ved Prakash has only one item on their menu. However, you can ask them to increase or decrease the masala in the lemon soda as per your preference.
Personally, if comparing, I prefer the original Jain Shikanji of Modinagar, primarily because it has more fizziness and masala to it. But, Ved Prakash Lemon Wala is a close second.
972, Bazaar Matia Mahal, Opposite Jama Masjid Gate 1, Delhi 110006
There are a bunch of shops named “Cool point” near the Jama Masjid, but this one also goes by Purani Dukan Zene Wali – Old shop with a staircase.
The specialty here is their shahi tukda. I’ve only ever had one from Bikanervala, so this one was a revelation.
There’s undoubtedly a guilt factor in eating deep-fried bread dipped in cream, but to take things up a notch, ask them to add a scoop of their homemade mango ice-cream for that perfect hot and cold bite.
Khadi Baoli Road
As “street” as it can get, I came across these two stalls selling rabri in a walkway on the side of Khadi Baoli Road.
It’s a temporary set up with a large plate filled with rabri, alluring shoppers to stop and indulge.
A signboard behind the seller boasts that this is the famous rabri from Hathras, a city in Uttar Pradesh. I shall take their word for it.
In taste, there’s an airiness to the rabri that makes is all the more addictive.
The sweetness is just right, and the rabri works well as a quick dessert after having tasted a variety of street food in Old Delhi.
374, Kucha Ghasi Ram, Kucha Ghasiram, Chandni Chowk, Delhi 110006
It might not be the healthiest of things to eat, but it sure is one of the most flavourful digestives you’ll ever have.
The little shop next to Brijwasi Bhoj restaurant is the ideal place to end your food walk in Old Delhi with a meetha or sada paan.
The large-sized meetha paan (sweet paan) I had, required a couple of bites to finish, and tasted great!
Gadodia Market, Khari Baoli Road, Delhi 110006
If looking to do something truly amazing, head down to Khari Baoli Road in Old Delhi. The Spice Market is the largest in all of Asia and is an explosion of hard to forget colors, smells, and sights.
Somewhere in the middle of the road is an old building by the name of Gadodia Market, next to Fatehpuri Masjid. Step inside and take the back staircase all the way up to the roof. It’s free, but a little dingy so avoid going on your own. However, you’ll find the occasional traveler there with their guide.
But before climbing up, ask one of the tea stalls on the ground floor to send over a cup of tea or two. One of the highlights of my Old Delhi food walk was having hot and sweet tea, under a slightly overcast sky, while watching the organized chaos of the Spice Market down below.
While I contemplate my next visit to Old Delhi, for another foodie adventure, if you know of any hidden gems, please let me know.