From “Chaat” to “Momos” — sampling Delhi’s street food landscape

October 20, 2020

I had only spent a week in Delhi, India’s bustling metropolis, when I found myself in front of the familiar food stalls and street vendors of Karol Bagh with a watering mouth and a question on my mind. Do I heed the advice of my aunties and uncles, who had lived here for generations, and avoid street food to be safe? Or do I venture into the tempting landscape of chaat, aloo tikkis, biryani, and momos?

“You’ll get sick, Ankur bhai,” said one. “You’ll get Delhi belly,” said another.

I calculated the risks: I had three weeks to go and didn’t want to squander them in bed with an upset stomach. But on the other hand, resisting the smells from the roadside booths was becoming a challenge.

So I decided on a compromise. I wouldn’t go to every single stall, but I would try my luck with street food unique to India, recommended by friends. Specifically, I wanted to eat the best “chaat” — a savoury snack served as an appetizer everywhere around India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. I also wanted to try gol gappe (pani puri), aloo tikis, kulfis, and more. Since I’m not a local, I asked friends, family, and colleagues to recommend places they knew where I could go for the best roadside eats, and then I set off on foot, bicycle, auto-rickshaw, and metro to fulfill my cravings.

What I was looking for

Chaat: Fried potato pieces, called papri, covered with yogurt and chutney, chickpeas, onions, coriander, and spices. But that’s just the baseline — every vendor adds their unique twists and flavours, making it one of the most versatile dishes on the continent.

Aloo Tikki: Like a vegetarian burger patty made out of boiled and fried potatoes mashed together with peas, onions, and various spices. They are sizzled in vegetable oil in large frying pans called tawas.

Momos: Steamed or fried dumplings common in the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan region of Asia. They are filled with vegetables or meat and sometimes served with tangy sauces.

Dahi Bhalla: A type of chaat prepared by soaking fried sour balls in salted yogurt, usually served with tamarind sauce.

Gol Gappe (Pani Puri): Found everywhere in the capital, a round, hollow ball, or puri, filled with spicy flavoured water.

Best spots I found

If, like me, you find yourself wandering Delhi before or after a G Adventures India tour and are looking for some exciting eats, I found a few spots that appeal to all taste buds. As my journey came to a close, I didn’t get sick, and I left with delicious food memories for a lifetime. Be sure to check out some (or all!) of these places on your next trip to India.

Shri Prabhu Chaat Bhandar: Also known as the “UPSC Chaat Walla” because of its location next to the Union Public Service Commission building in central Delhi, this is one of the city’s most famous stands, serving Delhi for 82 years, started by Nathu Laal. This place is legendary for its history and plates, on which fried chaat loaded with chutney is prepared.

Natraj Dahi Bhalle Wala: This place has two items on the menu, and that’s all you need: dahi bhalla and aloo tikki. There are as many varieties of chaat as there are religions in India, but sometimes, the simplest menu attracts the largest crowds.

Multani Tandoori Momos from Indus Flavour: When you think “Momos,” you might picture the serene plains of green Tibet, but did you know that momos have become a staple of the Indian food scene? The momos at Multani Tandoori are fire-charred and served with tangy sauces that make you consider just moving to Delhi permanently.

Kamal Kachori Wale: Chandini Chowk is the beating heart of New Delhi. It is here that Kamal Kachori Wale is located among the thousands of vendors. Kachori, a fried flour ball stuffed with dal, is devoured all over India and served here with chickpeas.

My honourable mentions

Dilli Haat for authentic chaat

Roshan Kulfi Walla

Natraj Dahi Bhalla

Getting There

Grab some savoury street food on any one of our many India tours!

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