Shaheen Bagh, the new food hub in south Delhi

- March 18, 2024
| By : Yusra Nazim |

Shaheen Bagh, which shot into limelight during the CAA-NRC protests in 2019, has overtaken many established food hubs thanks to a variety of quality cuisines and crowd

An outlet of Javed Famous Nahari

Shaheen Bagh, nestled in the heart of Okhla, South Delhi, has swiftly emerged as a go-to destination for food aficionados. Boasting a diverse array of culinary delights ranging from Indian to Turkish cuisines and Afghan snacks, along with delectable desserts and refreshing beverages, this locale caters to a wide spectrum of palates.

The food street in Shaheen Bagh, known as chaalis futa (40 feet road) in local parlance, is giving stiff competition to the old and celebrated Muslim-dominated food hubs like Matia Mahal in Delhi-6, Nizamuddin and Zakir Nagar.

The area’s rapid development has been driven by successive waves of migration over the past four decades. These migrants brought with them not only their own unique cultures and traditions but also their rich culinary heritage, which has contributed in shaping the vibrant food culture of the locality.

Shayari Cafe

In short, it has emerged as a cultural melting pot with locals and tourists coming together to sample the latest trends and forge connections over plates of delicious food.

“Since 2000, Shaheen Bagh has undergone rapid transformation and turned into a multifaceted hub encompassing corporate, commercial, educational, and residential sectors. This transformation has not only brought economic growth but has also contributed to the area’s cultural tapestry, particularly evident in its flourishing food scene,” said Omar Khayyam Chaudhary, a journalist living in the area since 2015.

Okhla, where Shaheen Bagh is located, is home to students from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey; so, the diverse culinary scene comes as no surprise with food playing a central role in fostering social connections.

Waqar Ali, who is living in Shaheen Bagh since 2010, told Patriot, “When I came to Shaheen Bagh, it was very different, just like today’s Jaitpur. Till 2010, there was only one restaurant, Zaika. Shaheen Bagh residents used to go to Zakir Nagar for food.”

He says that restaurants and food stalls began opening in 2015.

“Restaurants and food stalls began mushrooming in the area in 2015 but they remained largely unknown outside Shaheen Bagh. However, the 2019 CAA-NRC protest brought the area into limelight as people from all around the city visited the hub of protests and discovered a new food hub where quality and crowd were much better than in other places. Things changed dramatically. Even the famous food joints of Delhi-6 have come here and more restaurants are opening.”

Ali also gave credit to social media for Shaheen Bagh’s rise.

Kebabs on the seekh at Qureshi’s

“Shaheen Bagh saw a sudden boom because some influencers noticed the place and their content went viral. More new places have opened here since last year like Lal Quila Haleem, Shayari Cafe and other restaurants offering different cuisines. This has led to a sudden rise in rent; it is difficult to find a shop here nowadays since the rent is very high.”

Providing platform

With the rise in footfall and a variety of people dropping in, restaurant owners have been encouraged to try out new things. Hence, restaurants like Ata Turk and Donar Valley, which offer Turkish food, and Shayari Café, which offers Turkish, Iranian, and different types of tea as well as fast food joints like Arabian and HOD rub shoulders with old Delhi’s iconic food joints like Aslam Chicken and Qureshi Kabab.

Shahab, who owns 1Mysa which offers Turkish coffee and desserts, told Patriot, “I am embarking on a journey to establish my own café with the ultimate goal of introducing an authentic and unique culinary experience in the market. I searched for different beverages of the world, and got inspired by the Turkish coffee concept because I was keeping both health and taste in mind. Hence, I thought of offering something distinctive: authentic Turkish Sand Coffee paired with traditional Baklava.”

Shahab added that he makes sure to import coffee from Turkey.

Visitors busy relishing their food

“We import coffee from Turkey. We want all the ingredients for coffee and Baklava to be authentic because I know, thanks to my background in hotel management, that if you offer any food or beverage you should retain the basic ingredients so that you can at least reach 90-95% authenticity.”

A generally crowd market

Here is a look at five spots in Shaheen Bagh that have gone off the beaten track of Mughlai food and experimented with new cuisine:

Ata Turk: Ata Turk has earned reputation for offering genuine Turkish cuisine, all crafted within its walls. Specialising in Turkish delicacies like kebabs, hummus, falafel, Turkish tea, and Ayran, this eatery also serves up tantalising Turkish platters showcasing a variety of kababs and other dishes. What distinguishes Ata Turk is its ability to deliver an authentic Turkish experience at pocket-friendly prices, with dishes starting from just Rs 200 and platters priced at Rs 500.

Afghan Delights: Experience the essence of Afghan culinary delights at the Afghan Chicken Samosa and Shawarma Shop, where authenticity and affordability converge. Run exclusively by Afghans, this spot offers an array of mouthwatering treats like Afghan chicken samosa, Afghan chicken shawarma, and chapli kababs, all starting at just Rs 40.

Arabian: Arabian stands out as a fast-food hotspot, renowned for its diverse menu featuring pizza, burgers, chicken broast, and rolls. What sets it apart is its commitment to preparing everything from scratch, ensuring freshness and quality in every bite. Don’t miss the iconic American-style buff burgers, priced at just Rs 60, offering a taste of American fast-food at affordable prices.

Hunger Spot: Indulge in a culinary journey at Hunger Spot, where authentic Mughlai and Chinese cuisines converge. From traditional Chinese momos, dimsums, and noodles to creative fusions like Afghan and tandoori momos, this spot offers a diverse range of options to satisfy every craving, with prices ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 500.

1Mysa: For a taste of authentic Turkish flavours, look no further than 1Mysa. This quaint spot specialises in serving genuine Turkish coffee and desserts, including the renowned Baklava in various forms. With prices starting at just Rs 40, 1Mysa offers a delightful and affordable experience for those seeking a taste of Turkey.