Hungry? Check out Old Delhi’s paratha heaven

Paratha station

Welcome to Old Delhi’s Paranthewale Gully or, translated, the back alley of parathas.

Here two restaurants sit side by side serving up oil-fried parathas (also parantha, parotta and sundry other variants). Both claim to have been going at this trade since the late 1800s. Both also violate all manner of health codes, if they even exist.

And both are incredibly popular. I’ve eaten my share at both. Though I wouldn’t take Delhi tyros there, I have yet to die.

A paratha is stuffed bread that can be grilled, baked or, in this case, fried. It makes for unhealthy goodness and is a go-to Indian food served for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between.

See below for a look at one of the paratha joints in all its glory.

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Gully water tap

Work with what you've got

Water in India, like in many developing countries, isn’t exactly accessible to all. Here, in a busy gully in Old Delhi, amid bustling sari shops and dhabas and the like, a water tap is something a focal point for nearby residents.

During an afternoon visit, I watched this man come with several buckets to fill and dishes to wash. He had to fight for time with a nearby snack vendor who had similar intentions.

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Cheating on my kebabwallah

Old Delhi kebabs

I don’t hide the fact that I have a special relationship with my kebabwalla, but my outlet of choice, however, closed down this spring and I’ve been relegated to a getting my fix at a different, less convenient branch (that I swear just isn’t as good).

Given that, I took a visiting friend up to Old Delhi to the celebrated Karim’s Hotel kebab joint in the bylanes outside Jama Masjid. Karim’s is a legend in Delhi culinary circles and certainly deserves some of it’s fame.

We picked up chicken seekh rolls (for my friend) and paneer tikka for me.

It was good, that’s not in doubt, but it still can’t match my Aap ki Khatir. I’m almost relieved. Visiting any other kebab stand just feels like an illicit tryst.

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Squat for a shave

Old Delhi street grooming

Across India, barbers eschew the classic shop for something a little more open air. In this case, on the teeming bazaar road of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, you can get a close and proper shave for pennies on the dollar while sitting on the sidewalk.

Huzzah to the shaving wallah.

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Not exactly a fish-fry… but just as tasty

Roadside fry-up

Meet the Old Delhi pakorda wallah. On a roadside burner, he fries up batter-dipped vegetables for passers-by. Mmmm… I challenge you to not drool at the photo below.

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Paan, on the go

Mobile paan unit

From Old Delhi. A paanwallah’s carry-kit. Readers of this blog know of my flirtation (obsession?) with paan. While I don’t actually chew it all that much, every now and then I jones hard.

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Mirchi wallah!

Nap time for the overworked and underpaid

Meet the day laborer of Old Delhi. That’s a lot of packed hot pepper. See below.

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How much for that pickle in the window?

Achar!

My Old Delhi achaar (pickle) wallah. I love this man’s garlic pickle. I bought two kilos the day I discovered it.

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Kabutar!

Good luck birds

A flock of pigeons, fed often for good luck and other auspicious reasons, in Old Delhi.

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That’s no dried fruit

Almonds

It took me a good long while to figure out that dry fruits, in the Indian context, are not dried fruits. From a dry fruit wallah in the spice market of Old Delhi.

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