By Jessica Festa, Epicure & Culture Editor
Delhi is full of chaos, making Times Square feel like the countryside. After a short break from the madness at the beautiful and intricate Akshardham Temple, I am placed right back into it in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk Market. Honking motorbikes and large carts carrying building materials barrel through the market’s narrow pot holed streets. I walk past people spitting red betel nut onto sidewalks, turning the ground red, and weave my way through throngs of locals who have grown accustomed to having bodies — and sometimes vehicles — bounding into them.
Detailed wedding dresses, silver bangles, festival flower garlands and patterned scarves flash past me. I am on a particular mission: having lunch at Pt. Gaya Prasad Shivcharan, a family-owned paratha shop dating back to 1872. The shop sits on Paranthewali Gali, translating to “Paratha Alley,” which once had about 20 of these legendary paratha shops selling the popular Indian flatbread. Today, there are about five, each with its own rich history.
Where To Eat Paratha In Delhi
It takes some stumbling and pushing to finally make it to the shop, and I’m impressed when I’m seated with all my toes still attached. Pt. Gaya Prasad Shivcharan is packed, with hungry diners squeezing together in booths to eat the tasty dough meals. Paratha is baked with whole wheat flour (atta) before being shallow fried and coated in ghee, folded, coated again and re-folded numerous times for a layered effect. I’m told by my friend and guide, Derek Baron of Wandering Earl Tours, that wherever you go in India you won’t really find paratha made in the style you find here, where it is stuffed with a dizzying array of fillings.
Our group of 12 — nine travelers, one guide and two drivers — stuff ourselves like sardines into one of the few booths of the no-frills eatery, with trays of spicy green chili, sweet banana and other dipping sauces being slid down the table like air hockey pucks. We stare at the sauces, unsure of what to expect or how to order our parathas to pair. Each patron is required to order a minimum of two, and the options for fillings are endless: lentils, raisins, mint, lemon, potato, cheese, almond, banana, tomato, okra, bitter gourd, mixed vegetable, dried fruit, green chili cashew, radish, papaya, carrot, green pea and cauliflower make up just a few options on the overwhelming list. I go with the lentil and potato, craving savory over sweet.
Parathas being made at Pt. Gaya Prasad Shivcharan
In almost no time, a man comes over carrying a stack of flapjack-like paratha. Despite the fact they all look identical from the outside, he seems to know exactly what’s inside each one. He starts shouting the fillings and tossing them like hot cakes — which they are, literally — to the claiming diner. My group grabs the flying paratha with steaming fingers, yelps emitting from our mouths as we toss them down the line onto the correct plate. When everyone has their two, it’s time to dig in.
Yum. The filling is a very thin layer, and because they’re only lightly fried they almost feel completely baked, unlike some of India’s more greasy breads like bhatoora and certain rotis. My favorite dipping sauce is a red potato condiment, though I mix in some of the green chili for a kick. By the end of the meal, my mouth is pleasantly burning.Here's how to #eat like a #local when #traveling to #Delhi. Click To Tweet
The fact they also serve original lassis — a yogurt beverage that reminds me of tapioca pudding — makes this even more perfect. While some eateries offer up flavored lassis in varieties like mango and papaya for foreigners, most locals stick with the original styles of either sweet or salty. I’m not a fan of drinking salt unless it’s on the rim of a margarita, so I opt for sweet. The beverage cools my palate perfectly, giving me the strength to head back into the busy market for some shopping.Paratha is the #best #food you can have when in #Delhi. Check it out! Click To Tweet
Eating Safely In India
One reason to visit India is undoubtedly the food. Yes, “Delhi Belly” — aka Traveler’s Diarrhea — is a real thing. Start taking probiotics two weeks before your trip and continue taking them during your time in India. Also, avoid questionable street food, tap water (including restaurants that wash their produce in tap water) and street produce without peels.
If you take all the necessary precautions, you should be able to try some of the most aromatic, delicious food of your life without needing to be married to a toilet for the duration of your trip.
Delhi Local Food Tour Suggestions:
Do you have other recommendations on where to eat in Delhi? Please share in the comments below!
India’s Karni Mata Temple Is Devoted To Rats [Blog Inspiration]
Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen [Great Reads]
Clever Travel Companion Pickpocket-Proof Garments [Travel Safety]
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