What has Uttar Pradesh given us? No, it isn’t Mayawati’s famous elephant parks or Akhilesh Yadav’s disfigured nose. It is the humble Chaat in its various variants which have found it’s placed in Delhi’s identity from the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, well I’m not that sure about Banaras, but every great gastronomical treat except the Moradabadi dal and kheer has its roots to Banaras, yes even the Bedmi Poori and the famous Paans.
Delhi has it’s own stories of awesome food in the good old Chandni Chowk from Natraj ke Bhalle to Paranthe wali Gali to Giani ki Kulfi to the famous Jalebi waala close to Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib.
Getting back to Chaats, I decided to explore and recommend 5 awesome places for lip smacking chaats that work wonders even in 2016.
This famous Mithai Shop cum Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) is at least 150 years old and today is a chain, though it’s more famous for its Gajak and Patti, it serves some really good Bhalla Papdi. Today it has outlets even in Gurgaon and Sonipat but somehow I have a special liking for the Chaat that is served in its Pitam Pura outlet where I’ve been a regular patron for the last 20 years despite being a Gurgaon waala for the last 15 odd years.
4. Chhotte Lal Chaat Bhandar
Ever heard of Sitaram Bazar, one of the many bylanes of Chandni Chowk. Well if you haven’t then you have no right to call yourself a Dilliwaala, forget about being called a foodie! Well, I would give the traditional chaat a miss here because nowhere else you would get a Dry Fruit Chaat!! They consider themselves the founder of the dry fruit chaat and the Makhane ki chaat, but in winters what keeps me going is there Aloo ki Tikki (you will not even think of Bittoo Tikki Wala if you have one here).
3. Shree Balaji Chaat Bhandar
If you come out of Sitaram Bazar and walk towards the famous Fountain Chowk in Chandni Chowk, you will run into this awesome and very old shop. If you ask the locals in Chandni Chowk for their favorite chaat you’ll be surprised that nobody would mention Chhotte Lal or Natraj, the latter being the oldest shop there and was highly recommended by my father didn’t impress me too much and in fact I found it to be pretty ordinary (I tried twice in 15 days!) The difference is with the imli chutney or as we call it, saunth, it lacked the extremely sweet taste that we all are used to, instead it had a peculiar sourness to it, that worked for me.
2. Prabhu Chaat Bhandar
I remember going to Prabhu Chaat Bhandar which is right next to the UPSC center close to India Gate (Shahjahan Road, if I’m not wrong) with my grandmother when I was a little kid, she would authoritatively tell our driver “Khushiram, UPSC le chalo” and with a brief pause she would say “Saahab ko mat batana” Prabhu Chaat Bhandar is the place where my fondness for Gol Gappas and Papdi Chaat began as 4or 5 year old. They have the best Aloo Chaat in Delhi hands down though many people would vote for its Papdi Chaat or its’ Tikki. For me, Prabhu is the only place where I would have an Aloo Chaat followed by a Kulfi. Don’t forget to ask them to make it extra crispy for you, it makes all the difference!!
1. Raju Chaat Bhandar
I will be very frank, I had to travel all the way from Gurgaon just to get the name right as during my at least 500 trips(and counting) here during my lifetime, I’ve just known this place as the Bharat Nagar Chaat Wala. Parking here can be traumatizing but it’s totally worth it. As a chef, I feel the secret is in their curd, they set the curd with sugar and cardamom and maybe some other spices. Simply made and garnished with cashews and raisins. A humble Rs 80 Papdi Chaat is a meal in itself and even a foodie like me would give a regular meal a miss after having this. The Pao Bhaji and the Roomaali Roti with Kathi Sabzi are popular but can be given a miss.
Don’t be surprised that I haven’t covered the Pani Puri / Puchkas / Gol Gappas in the list. I’m a bigger Golgappa fan and I’ve tried from at least 500 different places including 9 places in London (My roommates in 2007 didn’t even believe me that London had 9 places that served Golgappas). I’ll tell you the winner, Hoshiarpuri in Ludhiana, Punjab serves the best Golgappas on this planet, with an incredible mixture of Jaljeera, Saunth, Curd (Yes all together!!) Give me a shout out if you want to share my Golgappa journey with you, which starts from Rishikesh and goes as far as Kolkatta, Indore(Yes! the street food capital) to Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab and even Chennai(Yes, it’s pretty famous there too!!)