Of all the things I had to look forward to with my trip to India, the food was by far top of the list. As I found on my journey through Rajasthan, there’s no shortage of dishes to discover. In Udaipur I tried Boiled-Bhurji. In Jaipur I tried Gol Gappa. All of it amazing but nothing would compare to what the streets of Old Delhi had in store for me. The endless shops and vendors serve up the city’s (if not the country’s) best dishes. That said, finding the best of the best amongst the organized mayhem that is Old Delhi is challenging, even for this seasoned traveller. With that in mind I enlisted the help of Anubhav and his Delhi Walks Food Tour to help navigate the busy streets and unearth the tastiest gems. This is my Delhi Walks Food Tour review.
Hitting the Busy Streets of Delhi
This Delhi Walks food tour review kicks off with a bit of chaos. What was supposed to be a 15-minute walk from our Bloomrooms hotel turned into an exhausting 45-minutes and Erin’s personal hell. We left in the midst of rush hour so decided on walking. Little did we know that traffic is so bad in Delhi that bikes and tuk-tuks take to the sidewalks making it a nightmare to navigate on foot. I won’t get into the details, that’s a post to itself. I will just say we got lost in the narrow streets of the Chandni Chowk Market and missed the first two stops of the food tour.
To be fair, Chandni Chowk Market is one of the busiest markets in India. It’s certainly the busiest I have ever been to. The combination of heat, crowds, and smog from the tuk-tuks and scooters jammed into the tiny streets was intense.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to do it alone. After a couple confusing calls, Delhi Walks owner, foodie, and our personal saviour Anubhav was able to pinpoint our location and get us on track. Embarrassing apologies to the other guests followed before heading to the next stop.
Clearly, the value in having a personal guide to navigate the busy streets of Delhi was already paying off.
Back to the Bazaar
Ironically, the next stop took us back into the very jam-packed bazaar we emerged from. Anubhav explained that although Chandni Chowk is the busiest market in Delhi, it is especially busy on Saturday’s. Add to that the holiday of Diwali and you’ve got the perfect storm of claustrophobia and chaos we found ourselves in.
As we waited outside one of the most famous shops in the market for our chance to squeeze in I thought to myself, “there’s no way.” Again, it pays to have connections as Anubhav had us in and seated in minutes.
On the menu is Parahtas – traditional flatbreads filled with various vegetables and served with tasty chutneys. They are so well loved that the street we were on, Gali Paranthe Wali, is dedicated to the dish!
Old Delhi Street Food
Although the Parahtas are great, the real draw of this Delhi Walks Food Tour review was the ability to sample all of the interesting street food. Here are a few of my favourites:
I can’t even count the amount of times I passed a pan of golden Jalebis on the streets while in India. Each time I questioned, “What are you??” Finally on this Delhi Walks Food Tour review I got to not only answer this question, but sample it too. I quickly found its popularity is not by chance. This warm glowing dough coil of love and sugar may sound and look odd but it is one of the best things I tried India. Squishy, sweet, greasy, amazing.
Although found throughout India, Anubhav took us to a stall that has been around for over 135 years!
Daulat ki Chaat
The sweets continue with another confusing yet awesome dish. Daulat ki Chaat is a mix of churned milk and powdered sugar. It is prepared with care over several hours to give it a light and cottony texture. It is enriched with saffron and when ready to serve, it’s topped with pistachios. Although it looks like an ice cream dish, it’s only served in the winter. India’s heat does not play nice with the fluffy, meringue like texture.
Not to be outdone, our next sweet treat of Kheer proved to be a refreshing break from the hot and muggy night. This creamy rice pudding is served in a one-time-use clay dish. It is flavoured with cardamon, raisins, saffron, and it topped with crushed pistachios.
Curry and Kebabs
With the sweets mostly out of the way, we headed to what I can only describe as a curry heaven. We past several men in red shirts working at various stalls and sat in a small seating area. This restaurant circle around separate kitchens that specialize in different things. In one corner, nann. Another kebabs. Across from that goat curry. And yes, we sampled them all.
This was one of my favourite stops on this Delhi Walks Food Tour review for a couple of reasons. One, the curry and kebabs. My God. Two, it provided a moment of peace from the busy streets of Old Delhi.
Spices and Tea
Full-up on kebabs and ready for round two tackling the Old Delhi streets, we made our way through the spice district for a stop at the markets oldest flower shop. Anubhav spoke on the significance of the shop and the area but I couldn’t concentrate. The spice in the air was so intense I kept coughing. Knowing now just how spicy “India” spice is, this should not have been a surprise. All that heat has to come from somewhere!
Another few twists and turns through the alleyways and we arrive at Delhi’s oldest tea shop. Each batch of Masala Chai is made from scratch over a fire with buffalo milk and spices. I become used to my Masala Chai breaks over my time in India however, this was next level.
This stop allowed for some downtime from the chaos and I was able to chat up Anubhav on Delhi Walks and its ambitious expansion. Business for Anubhav is good for and he is expanding to neighbouring areas such as Jaipur. He is also planning on expanding from the “walk” side of his successful business with plans of private food tours around the country. Along the way, guests would not only sample the areas culinary treats but take cooking classes as well.
What a great way to see and taste India. Sign. Me. Up.
The Most Buttery, Butter Chicken Ever
On this Delhi Walks Food Tour review, each bite was better than the last. To that Anubhav kept saying “Just wait. I have a special stop for you.” With trickery to come I tried to pace myself but it was hard. Everything was so freaking good. Perhaps if I had known what to expect I would have held out, or brought a second stomach.
As we arrived at our mystery dish location I still had no idea what was on the menu. We made our way through a small restaurant to the stairs and climbed…and climbed. Each floor we passed a packed seating area where everybody was eating the same dish – a simple looking white curry with chicken.
“What is the magical place?”
Five to six flights of tiny stair cases later we emerge on the roof to find a well oiled (buttered) operation. In one corner, several men feverishly tend to fire grilled chicken. In another, a man fiercely works around a mound of spices. Overseeing it all, a man with muscles so big it is visibly pushing his crisp white Kurta to the limits. Arms folded, he watches and barks the occasional order.
This is Aslam’s Chicken Corner, and we were in the heart of it.
Aslam’s Chicken Corner is famous for its literal take on butter chicken. Essentially, Aslam has done away with the tomato sauce (good ridence) and replaced it with a delicious butter gravy. Suddenly the huge slabs of butter stacked everywhere make sense. The smell alone is enough to clog your arteries. I couldn’t wait to try it.
It goes without saying, the dish is amazing but oh-so heavy. I was struggling after the curry and kebab stop. Chicken swimming in butter? Forget about it.
As I breathed heavily over the dish I questions Anubhav how someone as fit as the man in the white Kurta could possibly work here?
“Oh, he only eats pomegranates.”
My stomach groaned as Anubhav said he still had one last stop us. Thankfully our day ended with something light – ice cream. Being Old Delhi, there isn’t anything plain about the ice cream shop Anubhav took us to. Kuremal Mohan Lal Kulfi Wale has been churning out interesting flavours for over 100 years. From mango to tamarind to strawberry and good old vanilla, you will find it here. You will also find curious ice cream stuffed fruits.
Like a conveyor belt, Anubhav pushed out what seemed like everything in the freezer. Although I was struggling to breath, it was hard to resist sampling each flavour.
Delhi Walks Food Tour Review
As Anubhav sent us off in a sweaty heap, I reflected on the jam packed evening. Delhi Walks offers incredible value. Having a personal guide to show you the hidden gems of Old Delhi is truly awesome. Even though some of these gems are not so hidden, based on my short experience navigating the market alone I would struggle to find these spots. Clearly I am not alone on this thought. At the end of our tour we met up with another group of Delhi Walkers. The group consisted of guests taking their second tour of the week just so they could return to some of their favourite stops.
Yup, it’s that good.
For this reason alone I highly recommend Delhi Walks Food Tours. Anubhav’s personal knowledge and love of food is just the butter on your already buttery, butter chicken 😉
Where to Stay
For my time in Delhi I chose to stay at the brightly themed Bloomrooms. It proved to be a nice little oasis away from the noise and featured free tea and cozy rooms. I opted for the train station location for its Old Delhi proximity. That said, I recommend taking a tuk-tuk as the streets can get hard to navigate on foot come rush hour!
All in all, it was a great place to call home while in Delhi and recommend Bloomrooms for those looking for a clean budget hotel that is well located.
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— Delhi Walks on Twitter —Although I was provided a complimentary day out with Robert and Delhi Walks,
the opinions, experience, and belly full of butter chicken are my own.