Exploring old Delhi’s culinary treasures on World Food Day

- October 16, 2023
| By : Mohd Shehwaaz Khan |

From kebabs to chaat, a delicious journey through time and tradition

Lalu Kababee, one of the oldest and popular kabab corner in Old Delhi

Every year, on October 16, the world celebrates World Food Day. This year, the special day falls on a Monday, and as always, it brings a host of exciting new initiatives and fresh ideas from organisations worldwide.

The theme for this year’s World Food Day is “Water is life, water is food. Leave no one behind.” It serves as a reminder of the critical role water plays in our food production and distribution systems.

But when in the walled city of Delhi, it is all about the food.

The bustling streets teem with tantalising aroma. For connoisseurs, there are iconic restaurants like Karim’s, famous for its Mughlai cuisine, and a chance to savour the legendary butter-chicken at Moti Mahal.

To fully enjoy this culinary experience, one must shed their high-brow attitude and indulge in the flavours and delicacies.

Patriot embarked on a gastronomic adventure through the oldest food corners of the walled city, each with its rich history and delectable offerings.

Fried Chicken

Those who have walked in the narrow lanes near Jama Masjid, must have seen Haji Mohd Hussain, sitting on a platform, near a big karai, chewing paan and adding his secret spices to the chicken.

Legend has it that he was the first to start selling fried chicken in old Delhi.

Haji Hussain adding his secret species to the chicken

Mohd Hussain has been selling it since 1976. However, his restaurant near Jama Masjid is relatively new. For the initial two decades, Haji’s fried chicken was just a roadside corner in Chawri Bazaar.

Kallan Bawarchi: A culinary legacy

Nestled between a Turkish ice-cream parlour and Haji Jameel Bakery, Kallan Bawarchi stands out on the bustling streets of Matia Mahal. With its distinct presence, the bawarchi khana (kitchen) stretches deep into the building, including stairs that lead up to an attic and down to a basement.

Stepping into this culinary sanctuary, you’re met with the sight of potbellied cauldrons, long metal ladles, platters of chopped green chilies, and smoke-blackened walls. The air carries the fragrant notes of elaichi (green cardamom), laung (clove)mirchi (red chlli powder), pyaz (onion), adrak (ginger), and lehsun (garlic). It’s a timeless world, and despite its appearance, Kallan Bawarchi’s roots in Delhi trace back to the Mughal era.

Haji Kallan, fondly known as Kallan Bawarchi, is the heart and soul of this establishment.

Asad, a family member, proudly states, “We are among the oldest khansamas of Delhi. Anyone familiar with Mughlai cuisine knows the legacy of Kallan Bawarchi.”

Tradional Khansamas: Famous kallan Bawarchi shop near Jama Masjid

Kallan Bawarchi, although not considered a traditional food corner, is renowned for its Korma. Haji Kallan began his journey as an independent bawarchi around 1955, offering three signature dishes — korma, biryani, and meetha zarda, which he prepared in his home in Galli Sakke Wali.

“Haji Kallan shaped the famous korma into what it is today. Our family has been involved in this business since the Mughal era. However, the tradition of khansama is gradually fading,” Asad reflects.

The family has adapted to contemporary catering, serving at weddings and events in and around the city.

 Ashok Chaat corner

For Delhi’s chaat connoisseurs, a visit to this tiny shop is a must. It sits in a corner in Chawri Bazar and has been there for more than half a century.

Chaat to heart: People waiting to eat chaat at the Ashok Chaat Corner, Chawri Bazar

“We have been selling chaat here for more than half a century. People come here for our tangy gol-gappe and papdi-chaat,” said the owner while serving gol-gappe.

“We started in 1948 and have been here for more than 70 years. The unique pakodi-bharke golgappa, is also our speciality,” he added.

The mouth-watering chaat corner opens at 10 am and caters to the gol-gappa lovers till 11 pm in the night.

Sizzling Kebabs

Just opposite to the iconic Jama Masjid, Lalu kababee have been selling mouth-watering kebabs for more than half a century. The tiny shop barely has space for a person to stand properly, but the crowd outside tells the story of their legacy.

Chicken Seekh Kabab at Lulu Kababee near Jama Masjid

Lalu, known to dish out soft kebabs which just melt in your mouth, serves mutton and chicken seekh kebabs. They are served with rumali roti.

“We are known for our juicy kebabs. I have been serving the customers who have been coming to taste Lalu’s kebabs for over three decades now,” said Mohd Shahid.

The moment you take the first bite, you realise how quickly the kebabs melt in your mouth, leaving behind silkiness of butter. With a perfect blend of spices and herbs, these mutton seekh kebabs are undoubtedly one of our favourite Purani Dilli snacks.