The guidebooks will lead you to Jama Masjid and Red Fort, even to Dariba Kalan, Old Delhi’s ancient silver jewellery alley and Gulab Singh Johrimal, its most renowned attar shop, and perhaps to the popular paranthewali gali. But it’s unlikely they’ll lead you to these.
When my friends and favourite instagrammers Kassia Karr and Shweta Malhotra offered to take me to Old Delhi last month, I screamed a hell yes. I couldn’t have asked for better company. (My other go-to option was buying a copy of Pamela Timms' Korma, Kheer and Kismet and ambling down alone to the food stalls she recommends.)
In short, I was terribly excited. We rode the yellow line and alighted at Chandni Chowk and our first goal was sustenance.
Natraj did the trick. The tiny shop is popular at all hours of the day for its two simple offerings: dahi bhalla and aloo tikki. We got the latter and they were delicious. Steaming hot crunchy potato patties that are pillow soft on the inside doused in sweet and tangy chutneys. You’ll find them at 1396, Main Road Near Central Bank, Opposite Paranthe Wali Gali, Chandni Chowk.
A side note. If you are ever in Old Delhi on a winter morning (it’s generally cold enough until Holi), you have to keep an eye out for Daulat ki chaat, an ephemeral cloud like concoction made from whipped milk tinged with saffron and nuts set in the early morning dew that near disappears on the tongue. I was lucky enough to try it at Unbox a few years ago. It was most unusual, and subtle but rather good.
We bought some claw head massagers off a street vendor and next made our way to the vintage sunglasses guy. Kassia and her boyfriend Grant have been buying their pairs from Shanu Jaffery for years and he likes them so much he’s had them over for dinner. He sells sweet vintage sunglasses from his little glass counter (and also teeth so there’s that). He can be found at Jaffery Optician, opp Church 82, Chandni Chowk.
A pair in the hand later, we wove through several gullies and passed the paper shops (the Delhi wedding invitations business is extremely lucrative I see) of Chawri Bazaar to find our next stop, sneaking into the central courtyards of a couple of gorgeous havelis on the way.
Another side note: Buy freshly tava baked (over hot coals) nankhatais from a roving handcart. They’re best served warm and taste like delicate, crumbly shortbread.
Our last stop was Kuremal Kulfi. An empty, unlikely shop (freezers are elsewhere!) that offers tons of kulfi flavours including a few that better resemble a sorbet. We tried the pomegranate and aam panna. If you go before the summer ends, be sure to get the stuffed mango kulfi where the seed of a mango is scooped out, filled with delicious rabri kulfi and frozen. Find them at Kuremal Mohanlal Kulfiwale, 1165-1166, Kucha Pati Ram, Sitaram Bazar.