Old Delhi. What it immediately brings to mind is paranthas stuffed with fresh vegetables — and deep-fried in ghee. Whoa!! Salivating at the imagery the thought evoked, I decided to head over to the legendary Paranthe Wali Galli in Chandni Chowk where I had heard of the most sumptuous parathas stuffed with fillings like chili-and-lime, cashew, almonds, peas, radish, carrots, methi, pudina, cauliflowers and more! Vegetable parathas——served with tamarind and mint chutneys, salad, potato curry and pumpkin mash—are priced at Rs. 50 while specials like kaju and pista parantha are Rs. 75. Hmmm this should be worth a visit!! 


But before I continue, I must confess here that though Ive been living in New Delhi since ten-odd years, Ive never visited Old Delhi except for a pilgrimage to Gurudwara Sheesh Ganj Sahib. Yes, its inexcusable, I agree! So I set about rectifying it. Boarding the metro from Jorbagh, I reached Chandni Chowk in ten minutes! The moment I walked out of the metro station, wham, I was Alice falling down the proverbial rabbit hole. What follows needs to be experienced. Hey, one needs eyes in the back of the head! Making your way down the roads and labyrinthine by-lanes requires a degree in chaos management to navigate rickshaws, pedestrians, cows, horse-drawn carts and bicycles to reach the paratha shops situated precariously astride crumbling buildings, tangled wiring and broken paths. Rickshaws and cows dart out at you from all sides, even on the pavements, and it's vital to zig zag, always alert to jump to one side at the blast of a horn or the 'moo' of an irate cow! Picnickers are scattered everyplace and transistors compete with snake charmers blowing on pipes, with cobras entwined around their neck! Shudder!! Once you've managed to learn the art of navigation, however, it's time to explore—and eat!! In the late 80s, many closed shop though today few paratha shops — "Babu Ram Paranthe Wala", "Pandit Dayanand Shivcharan", "Kanaihya Lal Durga Prasad", "Babu Ram Devi Dayal" — are run by the sixth generation.


Alarmed at first, I was soon drawn to the sight and aroma of stuffed parathas being dipped into cauldrons bubbling with ghee. They emerged deep-fried and transformed into a gourmands delight. "The tawas we use are deep and weigh10 kilos. This prevents parathas from soaking the ghee" explained one of the owners of Pandit Dayanand Shivcharan when he saw me dubiously eyeing the cauldron. I placed an order for six paranthas and waited, clicking photographs with glee! The pace was slow, the service prompt and polite. As expected, the parathas packed with veggies, was fresh and flavourful! But, yes, it did not live up to the historical hype. And then I summoned the nerve to walk a few paces down to "Jung Bahadur Kachori Wale", "Natraj Dahi Bhalle", "Lala Babu Chaat Bhandaar", "Bishan Swaroop Fruit Chaat", "Gianiji Ka Falooda" and "Jalebi Wala". Now, I would return for another fill of this soul-satisfying street food i.e. jalebis; aloo chaat smattered with onions, sauces and spices; creamy phirni served in earthen pots and pomegranate or mango kulfi! Paranthas, not.


Hey! If you're still unsure about visiting Paranthe Wali Gali, here's trivia — former Prime Minister Late Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru visited this place with his sister and daughter as did late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi."Pandit Dayanand Shivcharan" even displays photographs of the Nehru family dining in the shop! Contemplating this visit to old Delhi on a serious note, however, if the legendary Paranthe Wali Gali and other foodie nooks and corners witnesses a makeover—in keeping with its heritage—considering Old Delhi is a historical region, perhaps one day it'll headline the tourist trail. After all, Old Delhi is a preferred choice for International tourists who wish to explore its food culture and vibrant markets, which haven't changed in the past decades. So, why not make it easier and safer for them to explore Purani Dilli [instead of dodging dangling electrical wires; falling bricks from old buildings; animals, carts and rickshaws]. Now that's food for thought.

CHANDNI CHOWK My experience during a Fod Walk In Chandni Chowk!



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