Last updated on May 15, 2019
FROM SITTING ON THE FOOTPATH NEAR A TEA VENDOR’S STALL AND SIPPING TEA TO RELISHING ON THE SPICY JUICY MOMOS OF THE ROADSIDE MOMO SELLER. FROM GOBBLING UP AS MANY PIECES OF GOL GAPPAS AS POSSIBLE TO THE CHAAT STALLS, AND GORGING ON THE DELECTABLE SOYA CHAAP THAT HAS BECOME A RAGE AMONG DELHIITES. OUR DESI-STYLE STREET FOOD HAS ALWAYS BEEN SOMETHING TO DIE FOR. BE IT NATRAJ DAHI BHALLE WALA IN CHANDNI CHOWK OR THE MOUTH-WATERING KEBABS OF ABDUL GHANI QURESHI KEBAB CORNER NEAR JAMA MASJID, FATEH CHAND KACHORI WALEY IN CIVIL LINES OR LOTAN CHOLE WALA IN CHAWRI BAZAR, STREET FOOD JOINTS IN DELHI HAVE BEEN EVERY FOOD LOVER’S PARADISE AND THEIR POPULARITY CAN BE GAUGED FROM THE FACT THAT SOME WERE EVEN FEATURED IN THE RECENTLY RELEASED NETFLIX DOCUMENTARY, STREET FOOD. HOWEVER, IN THE RECENT YEARS, MANY STREET FOOD ITEMS HAVE BEEN REINVENTED BY FANCY FOOD CHAINS, WHO HAVE TRIED TO ENHANCE THE IMAGE OF DESI STREET FOOD BY ADDING A BRAND VALUE TO IT. DEPLOYING STRONG MARKETING TACTICS, THEY HAVE ADDED A NOVEL ELEMENT TO EVERY FOOD ITEM IN ORDER TO MAKE IT FASCINATING FOR THE CUSTOMERS. EVEN THOUGH THE PRICE IS A LOT MORE THAN WHAT WE PAY ON THE STREETS, MANY ARE LURED TO TRY IT FOR ITS SHEER BRANDED NATURE. MANY PEOPLE FEEL TEMPTED BY THE HUGE VARIETY SUCH CHAINS OFFER IN AIR-CONDITIONED OUTLETS, BUT OTHERS THINK THAT THEY ARE NOT JUST OVERPRICED, BUT THEY ALSO CAN’T REALLY MATCH UP TO THE ROADSIDE FEEL AND TASTE AND END UP JUST ROBBING STREET FOOD OF THEIR ESSENCE. HERE IS OUR COMPILATION OF FEW SUCH ROADSIDE VS FANCY STREET FOOD OPTIONS. WHAT WILL YOU CHOOSE?
KFC CHICKEN@800 OR HUSSAIN’S@400
WHAT’STHE first place that comes to your mind when someone says fried chicken? For most of us, the answer will definitely be KFC. One of the most popular fast food chains around the world, KFC has a turnover of over Rs 200 crore from India alone. There are 52 outlets of the chain in Delhi-NCR. So, it can be said that KFC is the epitome of fried chicken in the country.
If you take an eight-piece fried chicken bucket, which constitutes the whole chicken, it is billed at around Rs 800 including taxes. But what if I told you that you can get fried chicken — 1.2 kg of it — at just Rs 400? This is half the price that we pay for KFC chicken Haji Mohd Hussain has been selling fried chicken in the famous Matia Mahal Lane, opposite Jama Masjid, for the last 30 years. Existing long before KFC even made its first move in India, Hussain says he sold fried chicken for 25 paisa a piece when he set up shop.
Here, you get a full chicken fried at Rs 400, half at Rs 200 and if you want a whole breast, neck or thigh piece, you get it for just Rs 110. So, how does Hussain sell these pieces of chicken at such a low price? He says, “Hum jis daam mein murga kharidte hai, thoda munafa lagake bech dete hai (The price at which we buy an entire chicken, we sell it around the same price keeping only a small margin of profit). At the current market price, 1.2 kg of chicken costs Rs 200. So, Hussain sells one fried chicken keeping a profit of Rs 200, which is still half of KFC’s price.
Asked if he has ever tasted KFC, Hussain smiles and says, “Khaya hain sir, par unmein humara jaisa swaad kahan hain (I’ve had it but our food tastes far better). “My wife makes the masala (batter) that we use for marinating, and that is what makes our chicken special,” concludes Hussain..
CHAAYOS@154 OR CHAI@10
QUIRKY INTERIORS, with knitted jute benches and ceiling lights nestled in the spokes of what looks like a rickshaw or a bicycle wheel, welcome you into a fully air-conditioned outlet for tea — Chaayos. From basic versions of tea, like the Kulhad Chai, Desi Chai (Rs 154) and Cutting Chai to the much fancier and unconventional ones, like Pahadi Chai, Shahi Chai (Rs 257), God’s Chai (Rs 257) — which is described in the menu as the Kangra masala chai from the hills — and Aam Papad Chai (Rs 333), you are sure to find every possible combination and variety of tea at such tea outlets. Most of the names give a desi and rustic feel, making it appear like an attempt to add brand value to the local tea vendors’ chai. For the price they charge, this might not seem like a fair deal to every Indian. As against this, on a footpath in Kamla Nagar (near Delhi University’s North Campus), a huge crowd surrounds a tea stall that is popularly known as Sudama ki chai. He sets up his stall only for five hours in the evening. A huge pot of tea is always boiling on the tiny gas stove and students flock around him in large numbers, so much so that he never sits idle. People can be seen scattered all over — they buy tea and sit on the footpath to have it. The aroma of cardamom is enough to drive any tea lover crazy.
“The best tea is the one that we have standing near the footpath at a tiny tea shop. Nothing can beat that taste. Some things are best enjoyed in their simplicity. At the fancy tea outlets that have sprung up in recent years, the ginger or cardamom tea does not even have that strong aroma or taste,” says Himanshi Khatri, a 22-year-old Delhi University student, adding, “When you can get a better tasting tea for Rs 10, I find it silly to spend so much on something like tea that is so easily prepared every day in our kitchen as part of our morning ritual.” `India runs on chai’, is the tag line for another fancy tea outlet — Chai Point. From Masala Chai, Ginger Chai, Elaichi Chai, Sulemani Chai, Lemon Grass Chai, Jaggery Chai and Cutting Chai, they have an unending menu. Another tea outlet — Chai Story — serves Cutting Chai, Kulhad Chai, Dudh Mei Patti Chai and Turmeric Tea Latte (Rs 267). But is this wide range of tea that they offer to their customers enough to beat the taste of the local chaiwala? Does the essence of tea remain the same if served with a tinge of luxury? Does it provide the same experience as having tea from the roadside vendor for Rs 10 or 20? That is up to you to decide..
ARDOR THALI@2,000 OR STATE CANTEEN THALI@150
YOU HAVE heard about our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 56-inch chest, courtesy his speeches and its mention on different news channels. But do you know that there is a whole thali named after the famous 56-inch chest? Connaught Place’s Ardor 2.1 serves a Modiji 56-inch Baahubali Thali that consists of over 40 dishes from different parts of India. Recently, this restaurant has also started the United India Thali, where you will be served one dish from each Indian state in a plate shaped like the Indian map. These thalis are priced at Rs 2,000 plus taxes, which comes to around Rs 2,600. The non-vegetarian option is priced at around Rs 3,000 including taxes. The restaurant says that this thali is sufficient for four people.
But what do the customers have to say about this thali? “I want my thali simple, not consisting of so many dishes. The one at Ardor 2.1, I feel, is overpriced and too many dishes are an overkill,” says Siraj Bhattacharya, a resident of Gurgaon. “If I want a good thali, I still prefer the state canteens,” he adds.
The Andhra Bhawan canteen at Feroze Shah Road offers a wholesome meal of rice curd, roti, dal, three types of subzi, curd, papad, chutney and a sweet dish in their thali — all this for just Rs 150. A traditional Maharashtian thali at Maharashtra Sadan, at Kasturba Gandhi Marg, will cost you Rs 120, while a Malayali thali offered at Kerala Bhawan will cost you just Rs 50. The best part about these state canteens is that you can have unlimited servings of any of the dishes that are served in the thali, that too at no extra cost.
So, while a vegetarian thali served at Ardor 2.1 costs around Rs 650 per person, at the different state canteens, you can have a tummy full of delicious appetising food at less than four times the price here. And that is why, perhaps, all these canteens are flooded with people during lunch and dinner hours..
DOLMA@40 OR WOW!MOMO@155
WHEN MOMOS first originated in Tibet, little did the natives know that they will eventually be found in almost every nook and corner of New Delhi and become a fixa- tion for many. From tandoori and Afghani momos to cheese and deep fried, one can get to savour this delectable snack in almost every other lane in the Capital.
Identity matters in today’s time, and momos too, had to undergo a transformation. The biggest transformation was through a food chain called Wow! Momo.
Having a plethora of outlets, Wow! Momos offer a huge range of momos. The Schezwan pan fried momos for Rs 155 (veg) are a rage.
However, before the air-conditioned outlets of Wow! Momo came into existence, Delhiites relied heavily on Dolma Aunty’s momos (Dolma Tsering). She ventured into the food space with her thela (stall) in 1994 — the first in the capital.
Dolma’s son Ramu, 33, who has been working for the last 17 years now, says that today the stall in Lajpat Nagar alone sells about”2530 kg of momos.” A plate of veg momos at the stall costs Rs 40. He adds that throughout the day, batches of momos keep coming from a makeshift space in Krishna Market where they are made.
“The main game about momos is to make a layer that is as thin as possible,” explains Ramu. People swarming in suggest that the only heat that they’re worried about is that of the momos. Within a span of one minute, Ramu gave at least 10-15 plates of the delectable steamed momos.
He likes the momos that his mom makes, and doesn’t fancy the momos served in restaurants. “I prefer the steamed ones and the thin outer covering is very important for me,” he says.
It’s the price, along with the quality, that matters, and Dolma Aunty’s momos are a testimony to that.
KUTTY’S@60 OR SARVANA BHAVAN@140
STROLLING AROUND Jantar Mantar where people are mostly staging protests, you will probably come across a South Indian food stall that is flocked with people. This is the most sought after dosaidli-vada joint in central Delhi. For Vibhav Mishra, who works for a private company, this is his go-to place during office breaks or after he leaves office.
“This place is near my office and the taste and the rates are to die for,” he says. Mishra is eating the Mysore dosa, which he says is one of his favourites at the joint. And this is when his cousin, Vibhanshu Dubey, who is currently studying at Aligarh University, joins the conversation. This is his fourth trip here in the last two days. “I really liked the dosa here,” he adds.
What makes Kutty’s South Indian cuisine stall a hit among the Delhi folks is its sheer authenticity and location. The love that Delhiites have for South Indian food that is customised according to the local flavour, is easily satiated here.
HS Grover, an old turbaned man who is a resident of Faridabad, has stopped to take a bite here on the way back from his office in Noida.
He says that they serve the most delicious dosas, which is why he keeps coming back. “Apart from the taste, the parking space here is really a bonus.They cook in front of you, so you can see how the food that you eat is cooked,” shares Grover. With the availability of curated spaces in Delhi like Sarvana Bhavan or a Sagar Ratna, that have made your humble dosa an exotic meal, it is natural to believe that anything that doesn’t show up on the Zomato app is non-existent. However, this South Indian joint is very much there and attracts a whole lot of food enthusiasts from around the city, who come here for their favorite meal. According to Kutty, it is the sambhar that is the deal breaker for most people who come to eat at his joint.