I just love October…the soft chill in the air, festivity, colors, sparkle, joy, excitement, shopping and my favorite…food! Delhites need an excuse to satiate their taste buds with the yummiest treats the city has to offer. Since I am not much into fasting, navratras for me are nine days of sheer gastronomical paradise. I get to savor the best of vrat (hindi word for fasting) and non vrat food. From the bhog at Durga Puja pandals to the specially designed navratra thalis at restaurants, it’s my yearly ritual to have them all.
One event I really look forward to every year is the baadaa at Sitaram Bazaar, Old Delhi. Sitaram bazaar is Old Delhi’s chaat capital and when they come up with something special, it’s a must have. I first went there 4 years ago and since then there has been no looking back.
Baadaa is a midnight food festival (mela) organized during navratras and goes on till Dussehra. Nine days of festivities, late night melas and lot of joy. Sitaram Bazar, during the day is swarming with people. However, for the baadaa, shops close early and makeshift food counters are setup.
The moment I stepped out of the Chawri Bazzar, the glitter, lights and the aroma of delhi’s delicacies surrounded me. Wow! I couldn’t wait to get started!
In front of Sitaram Bazar
Making our way through the crowded lane and the umpteen rickshaws, we first reached New Ashoka sweets. An otherwise famous shop of Sitaram Bazaar, they serve special delicaies for navratras. All shops serve 100% vegetarian food and most will also dole out dishes you can have while fasting. In fact, I was surprised to see every second counter serving vegetarian seekh kebabs. The shop was crowded as if it was serving food for free. The 20 min wait for my order was a torture as I could see (and worse, smell the amazing aroma) the delicacies people enjoyed and my mouth watered and watered. But the wait was worth it. Kebabs made of cottage cheese, served in spicy gravy, served with onion lacchha (salad) and rumaali rotis, made to perfection. I was amazed how, despite the mad rush, the order taker made no mistakes in delivery while the rumali roti guy dished out roti after roti within minutes.
People waiting for their order
Veg Kathi kebabs
The rumali roti expert
Veg Kathi Kebab with Rumali roti & onion lachha
Next in line was aloo paneer tikki…flattened balls of potato and cottage cheese, spiced up and shallow fried till crispy. Tikkis have to be cooked on the right flame for the right time else the result gets messed up. Maybe thats why, people didnt seem that patient to wait and the stall was relatively less crowded. But patience pays.The guy served the tikkis with generous helpings of tamarind and mint chutney and … My mouth still waters as I write. Crispy, hot, spiced up, with dash of chutneys, I loved the tikkis.
Aloo tikki and chaat
I had heard so much about Kanji vadas from my mother in law, so the moment I spotted the cart selling them; I was after my hubby to try them out. Kanji vadas are pakodas (fritters) served soaked in spicy water (kanji) and is a must try whenever u come to Delhi. The pakodas could have been softer and fresh but the spicy water made up up for them.
Once a week, I have a date with Chhole Kulchey, but the ones I had here were very different than the others. In a hurry, the guy, just sprinkled lots of masala on the chholey and sprinkled lemon juice without bothering to mix it up. But, voila, what a treat it was! Every bite a super spicy affair! My eyes were watery (tears of gastronomical joy!) and I was loving it.
I also tried the moong dal chilla, pancakes made of moong dal, stuffed with coriander, cottage cheese and served with chutney. Didn’t find much difference between them and the usual stuff I get to eat at every second wedding.
Moong dal chilla
People waiting for their chilla
Right next to the chilla counter stood Om prakash Kulfi waala. The ice creams at Sitaram Bazzar are prepared in unique manually operated ice cream makers in front of your eyes, from real fruits, no added flavors. You won’t get this stuff anywhere else. A must try. I tried the mango and pomegranate ice cream and they just melted in my mouth! One of the best ice creams I ever had.
Manual ice cream machine
Mango ice cream
Pomegranate ice cream
I was about to leave when I spotted this cart with nankhatai. At Rs 20 for 100g, I got the freshest, warmest and softest nankhatais that only Old delhi can offer. I quickly gobbled few and got some packed for my tid bit treats at home.
It was time to leave. The crowd was growing every minute and I was told this would be so till 1-2 at night. The liveliness was infectious and I didn’t want to leave. I filled the aroma one last time and hurried to grab the metro…
Some more pics from the fest...
Masks popular with kids during Dussehra
Masks, bow and arrows
Servers in traditional attire
Rickshaw carrying water jugs back from shops
The joy of eating
Outside New Delhi Railway Station