Author – Nupur Bhardwaj
Like most Indians, ‘Nani ka ghar’ (grandma’s place) is my favourite place to visit. However, my mom’s family hails from Mehrauli, which one of the seven ancient cities that make up the present city of Delhi. Just like an old man sitting in his armchair, Mehrauli has seen it all – right from the fall of Prithviraj Chauhan and the rise of Delhi Sultans to the division of India. What particularly fascinates me is the ancient monuments and the local street food in Mehrauli. I would like to take you on a street food tour of eateries alongside the popular monuments of Mehrauli such as Qutub Minar and little known ones like the Gandhak Ki Baoli.
Gobhi ka samosa, a typical favourite dish of the locals residing here, is available at eateries near Bhool Bhulaiya, which is also known as Adam Khan’s Tomb. Samosa is a familiar snack among north Indians, but what makes this one special is its unique stuffing made of cooked cauliflowers and its presentation. The samosa is stuffed with. It can be differentiated from the normal samosa by the strokes present on its fried, outer covering.
Rabri Falooda, is a lavish sweet dish, and quite heavy on the stomach. Falooda (boiled vermicelli) is mixed with rabri, rose water and dry fruits. At an extra price, you can add kulfi to this dish. I prefer rabri falooda with extra kulfi. This delicacy is also served near Bhool Bhulaiyan but I prefer eating it at Gandhak Ki Baoli which is a few metres away from Bhool Bhullaiyan. Gandhak Ki Baoli, which literally means ‘well of sulphur’, is said to have magical powers. The well’s water was used to cure skin ailments, but sadly, it has dried up now!
Turning left from Gandhak ki Baoli, you’ll reach the Dargah of Qutub-uddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. The street towards the Dargah is full with aroma of flowers and incense stick. A little far from the Dargah, you can tingle your taste buds with Dahi Kachori and gol gappe (panipuri). Dahi kachori is prepared using curd, boiled potatoes and kachori, which is a deep fried snack with moong dal stuffing in it. Dahi Kachori tastes similar to dahi papdi, but kachori has a tincture of spicy moong dal in it.
Another place to try a variant of Kachori, is the one situated near the Hanuman Temple. The poori sabzi and kachori sabzi made there is mouth-watering. The vegetable curry is made up with potatoes and tomatoes, and to increase its tanginess, curd is added to it. The best part is that you can quench your hunger in just 20 rupees. Milk cake and Ras Malai available nearby are the best desserts to complete your meal.
If you are in Mehrauli, then you shouldn’t leave without trying the seasonal sweet dishes like gajjak, gud ki patti ((jaggery bar), til ke ladoo and revdi. These sweet dishes are available in winter, when groups of women sitting and enjoying groundnut and revdi, is a common sight in Mehrauli. These seasonal dishes along with soothing sunlight, bring out the old neighbourhood culture which is dwindling now. I remember sitting beside my grandmother and a bunch of old ladies, listening to their stories and eating gajjak and revdi.
Murena Gajjak Bhandar, situated near the Mehrauli market, is the oldest shop that serves these seasonal sweet dishes. The owners allow customers to taste all their delicacies for free. Today, many shops with the same name have come up, but locals like me never fall for those counterfeits. Mehrauli market is another wonderful place that soothes the eye with vivid colours of flowers and vegetables.
Apart from these exceptional foods, Indian version of Chinese cuisine is also available near the Mehrauli market. Today, we can spot momo vendors, and they are crowded throughout the year. The soda shops are also a hit among locals, especially youngsters. I am sure tourists will go on a time travel, when they visit Mehrauli, since the place has an aura that touches your heart.