As the chilly winds of the Himalayas begin to sweep into the Northern plains – Delhi has begun to experience dropping of temperatures on the daily. Early morning fogs are starting to be seen, people have started air drying their heavy blankets and wearing sweaters on the daily, tea stalls are experiencing a sky-rocketing growth and all in all the city seems to be moving a little slower. I guess we can safely say – Winter is here!! It may be more difficult to wake up in the morning to go to work but it is definitely the optimum time to be tasting winter foods in Delhi.
In the winter, the cuisine of the city experiences a revival. Many dishes and snacks that are not popular in the summer become rampant on the streets and you can often see vendors selling dishes that you didn’t even know existed. One such thing is the delicious Daulat ki chaat, but more on that later. One of the best places to be tasting winter foods in Delhi is the famous Chandni Chowk. From hot gulab jamuns packed with syrup to kadak chai for those cold winter evenings, Chandni Chowk has a lot to offer. Other hotspots include Majnu ka Tilla, Connaught Place, Chawri Bazar, Nizammudin, Amar Colony etc.
If you are new to the city or just excited to explore the way Delhi populates its cuisine during the winters, here is a list of the top 10 winter foods in Delhi you must taste!
Daulat Ki Chaat
From its name, it might sound spicy but this is a very rare and famous sweet dish. Made only in the winters months, Daulat ki chaat is a milk-based concoction that is prepared by vendors with a lot of hard work. Milk is mixed with cream and left outside overnight to gather dew. It is then mixed thoroughly for hours and the foam off the top of it is collected to be served. This light airy milk foam is garnished with saffron flavour, pistachios, almond shavings and khoya crumbles to make one of the most perfect, melt-in-your-mouth winter foods in Delhi.
This yummy street food is one of the most well-known winter foods in Delhi. Shakarkandi or sweet potato chaat vendors can be found in almost all marketplaces during this season. The sweet potatoes are first boiled to perfection, skinned and diced into bite-sized pieces. Next, the vendor sprinkles a variety of spices and a sizeable amount of lemon juice on it and mixes it up. The result is the most delicious sweet and sour snack that is super healthy at the same time. This is not a snack you have to think twice about!
If there is one thing that feels seriously fulfilling on a winter day – it warm spicy meat cooked the desi way. And this is where Old Delhi nihari becomes a scene stealer. Served with soft and fluffy khamiri roti, this delectable dish of slow-cooked buffalo or goat meat is slathered with royal spices and a good helping of fat. Served traditionally as a breakfast dish, nihari is one of those culinary delights that will stay on your palate long after you are done. Haji Shabrati Nihariwale in Old Delhi has been selling nihari made with a secret family recipe since 1857. The aromatic spices, the expert blend of the stew and the juicy meat with bread makes for the most irresistible meal. You might sniffle and sneeze because of the spices but nihari is one of those winter foods in Delhi you will not be able to resist taking another mouthful of.
Paranthas with Butter
Another gem of Old Delhi is the Paranthe Wali Gali. Fill to the brim with old shops selling paranthas of all sizes and stuffings – this gali is a place where all your winter foods in Delhi cravings can be satiated. A parantha is very simply a stuffed dough pancake which is either roasted or fried in oil. The fillings of the parantha typically include potato, peas, meat, cauliflower, radish, cottage cheese, egg etc. But the Paranthe Wali Gali offers a variety of options like khoya parantha, rabri parantha, green chilli parantha, manchurian parantha etc. Several celebrities and famous figures like Indira Gandhi, Amitabh Bachchan, Jawaharlal Nehru, Shiela Dixit, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Lola Kutty, Cyrus Broacha have had their fill of paranthas here. And in the winter a hot and toasty bite of a parantha with a rich potato curry can really make your day.
Be it steamed, pan-fried, fried, tandoori or gravy – Delhi loves its momos. And a taste of winter foods in Delhi is incomplete without these yummy balls of joy. Momos are an Asian speciality but in Delhi they have taken a flavour of completely their own. But no matter how you like it – a crisp winter afternoon spent with a plate of oozy, delicious momos can hardly be topped. Momos are essentially balls of dough filled with scrumptious fillings like cheese, potato and beans, mutton mince, pork shavings, cabbage, carrots etc. Both the vegetarian and meat options are equally satisfying. Served with a side of mayonnaise or hot and spicy red chutney, this dish is something that a definite winter staple across the state.
Kanji is a digestive and cooling beverage that is made from a solution of black carrots and beetroots in water. Although this drink has nothing to do with beating the chill, it is mostly made and sold in winter because the vegetables used in this are seasonal. First, the carrots and beetroots are placed in water. Spices like salt, rock salt, mustard powder, chilli powder etc are added to the mixture and it is left to ferment in the sun for 4 – 5 days. The water takes in the colour of the vegetables and the flavor of the spices to make a drink that is great for digestion, increases metabolism, promotes skin and hair health and is rich in essential nutrients for the body. Although it is not too commonly found in stalls selling winter foods in Delhi, this refreshing sour and spicy drink is surely unlike any other. Grab a glass when you can!
A lot of sweet Indian preparations are best enjoyed in the winter months because they are served hot. The hot syrup of a gulab jamun or the crackle of a freshly fried jalebi is unbeatable in the winter months. Another fan favourite is the halwa. Halwa is a dense dessert sweetened with condensed milk or sugar syrups. It is made with a variety of base ingredients. Some common ones are gajaar (carrot) ka halwa, suji (semolina) ka halwa, moong dal (mung bean) ka halwa, badam (nuts) ka halwa etc. It is quite evident why these Indian sweets are some of the most consumed winter foods in Delhi. The aromatic flavours, the rich ingredients, the sticky sweetness and the warmth of these desserts are what make them perfect for this cold season.
A staple in every Indian household – pakode or fried fritters are the glue that holds winter gatherings together. Cups of steaming tea with crunchy, crispy fritters served with a sour green or tangy tamarind chutney can make anyone’s frown turn upside down! Typically, pakode are made with vegetable pieces dipped in batter and fried. But honestly, the recipes and fusion pakodes are endless. You will find mix pakode made with a variety of grated vegetables, chicken and mutton pakoda made with minced meat, stuffed pakode that are made with vegetables stuffed with various fillings, egg pakode, cheese pakode, paneer (cottage cheese) pakode and even ice cream pakode in a few eateries. It is amazing the different varieties this lip-smacking snack comes in. Winter foods in Delhi is incomplete without a taste of zingy and savoury freshly fried pakode and chai. Speaking of which…
Chai. Chai. Chai. Who does not know the warmth that spreads around the body as soon as one takes a sip of strong masala chai during the winters? Tea might be stereotypically associated with the British but I doubt anyone enjoys milk tea as much as Indians do. Every city is littered with tea shops of numerous sizes. Be it a tea bar that serves 70 varieties of tea or Raju Ji’s small stall at the corner of the market – chai is something that is one of the most in-demand winter foods in Delhi. It can be enjoyed with biscuits, crisps, pakode, samose, kachori or even completely on its own. So next time you are out, don’t forget to cosy up at the end of the street with a small kullad of delicious, aromatic masala chai.
Fancy stuff aside – what really makes for a happy winter brunch is a steaming plateful of homemade Maggi. No fuss. No waiting. Instant gratification in 2 minutes. That’s what winter needs! Even though the marketplace has an abundance of instant noodles formulas and brands, Maggi remains to be overthrown by any. There is just something about the slurp of the noodles, the spiciness of the soupy masala and the mesmerising aroma of freshly made Maggi that make it one of the best things during the cold seasons. Winter foods in Delhi experience is incomplete without huffing and puffing while engulfing big bites of hot and spicy mouthfuls of homecooked Maggi. Garnish with eggs, cheese, vegetables, oregano – the possibilities are limitless really.
I bet reading about all that hot, spicy, tangy and sweet foods have left you quite rumbly in your tummy. I can’t blame you either – I am about to go looking for a plate of pakode as soon as I finish writing this. To take a food tour of the wonderful streets of Delhi and sample the delectable local winter cuisine, book a stay with us at The Hosteller Delhi. Enjoy the scrumptious treats of our in-house cafe (cheesy Maggi yummm) and explore the Old Delhi’s lanes packed with vendors selling recipes passed down from generations. It is all here – in this marvellous city. Come and experience Delhi!