Tasting Delhi Through Five Iconic Dishes

Rich in history, these tempting and flavourful dishes narrate a unique story of invention and popularity
North Indian cuisine is a big hit with foodies
North Indian cuisine is a big hit with foodiesShutterstock

If you are a true foodie, you won't return from Delhi unhappy. The capital's history isn't just reposed in the many monuments dotting the city, but also across the many decades-old restaurants that continue to dish out excellent creations. From the rich butter chicken to 1.5-metre-long Turkish Adana kebab from Khubani, Delhi flavours are sure to enchant everyone's taste buds.

Butter Chicken and Dal Makhni, Daryaganj Restaurant  

In 1947 Kundan Lal Jaggi, a refugee from Peshawar, migrated to Delhi after India's Partition. After starting an iconic restaurant with two other partners in Daryaganj, New Delhi, he popularised the tandoori chicken, which Mokha Singh invented in Peshawar in the 1920s. In 2019, Jaggi's grandson Raghav Jaggi and Raghav's childhood friend, restaurateur Amit Bagga launched Daryaganj, reviving the secret recipes from 1947. 

The old lesser-known flavours and closely guarded recipes have created a dining experience that is bursting with nostalgia. The most popular dish on the Indian palate is an invention that arose out of sheer necessity. One fine night in 1947, Kundan Lal Jaggi was about to close his restaurant when a truckload of hungry guests arrived.  

There was no food in the kitchen, barring a few portions of tandoori chicken. Jaggi thought of doing something with gravy so that it would be enough for all. After finding whatever he could in the kitchen, he made a gravy with tomatoes, fresh butter, and a few spices. He then added pieces of tandoori chicken to it, transforming it into a dual recipe of tandoori and chicken cooked first, and then added to the makhani (butter) gravy. Since the guests loved it, Jaggi put this dish on the menu and christened it 'butter chicken'.

The mouth-watering dal makhani is a popular dish in Daryaganj
The mouth-watering dal makhani is a popular dish in Daryaganj

Dal makhani is another popular dish in Daryaganj. A major food enthusiast, Sucha Singh used to often dine at Jaggi's restaurant in 1947. He suggested Jaggi to try something more exciting with the regular 'maa ki dal', popular in Indian kitchens for centuries.

After thinking it over, Jaggi decided to slow-cook the black lentils in the tandoor with tomatoes, fresh white butter, and his choice of herbs and spices. He left it simmering overnight, and in the morning, he was satisfied with the results. As it was made with butter or 'makhan', Jaggi named it 'dal makhani'.

Service options: Dine-in and takeaway 
Address: Shop 4, Lower Ground Floor, Worldmark 1, Aerocity Access Rd, Aerocity, Mahipalpur, New Delhi, Delhi 110037

Tara Tiger Prawn, Punjab Grill

Punjab Grill's most popular dish is tawa tiger prawns, a creation of Chef Sareen Madhiyan, the brand chef. His passion for seafood led him to introduce a dish that was different from the traditional preparation, but had a traditional feel.  

The mild, sweet, almost dewy flavour of prawns makes them highly versatile and peasy to pair with various ingredients. The texture can vary from creamy to crunchy depending on the cooking method. It consists of pan-seared tiger prawns in a herb-infused sauce. The lemon-infused herb marination lends the prawns a distinct umami flavour, which sweet tomato 'murabba' and moilee sauce counterbalance.

The right balance of burnt garlic, fresh garlic and lemon does the trick. From the moilee sauce to the tomato murabba to the mayonnaise, all components are made in-house. The dish on the plate, with all the contrasting textures and colours, is a tempting sight. The umami garlic smell will titillate the olfactory bulb.

This outlet has various branches in Delhi. This is the address for the Connaught Place branch. 

Service options: Dine-in and takeaway
Address: 78, Janpath Rd, Atul Grove Road, Janpath, Connaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001

Adana Kebab, Khubani

Khubani surpassed all expectations when they introduced a 1.5-metre- long Turkish Adana kebab from Adana, Turkey. While calculating this dish, Khubani had worked through a long brainstorming process before coming up with the brilliant kebab. In terms of flavour, it uses an authentic Ottoman cuisine recipe. The quality of freshly cut lamb is impeccable. 

Service options: Dine-in, takeaway and delivery

Address: Asset No.1, Hospitality District Delhi, Aerocity, New Delhi, Delhi 110037

Edible Lava Coal, Molecule Air Bar

Dahi kebab is an iconic dish, but Molecule tweaked it to make it more appealing. Edible lava coal is a twisted dahi kebab with yoghurt and cheese inside and a crispy black outer, burnt on a charcoal fire. It is an improvised form of dahi kebab that looks like edible coal with lava ash. The gooey mixture pairs perfectly with the crisp crunch on the outside.

Service options: Dine-in and takeaway
Address: A-3, 2nd Floor, Main Road, above Mercedes Showroom, Green Park, New Delhi 110016

Galette des Rois is a flaky pastry pie filled with frangipane
Galette des Rois is a flaky pastry pie filled with frangipane

Galette des Rois, L'Opera

If North Indian is not your cuisine, here is a bonus dish you can try. The original French Galette des Rois is a flaky pastry pie filled with frangipane, a butter-rich smooth mixture of almond cream and pastry cream. Tradition holds that the family's youngest member hides under the table while the galette is being cut into even slices.

The child calls who gets which slice. A figurine is hidden in the cake. Whoever finds this is named 'king' or 'queen' for the day and gets to wear the crown that comes with thegalette. This French tradition celebrates the day on which the three kings, Gaspard, Balthazar and Melchior, came to pay tribute to baby Jesus. This is also known as L'Epiphanie.

Service options: Dine-in and takeaway 
Address: Shop No. 5B, Khan Market, Rabindra Nagar, New Delhi, 110003

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