There&rsquos something about the food in Old Delhi&ndashit is what makes life in the city better. And by a stretch, even the city better. On any given day, winter or summer, the narrow alleys of Old Delhi are always crowded with yearning foodies from the farthest corners. Even those who call the mansions of the posh South Delhi their home and frequent the happening restaurants of Khan Market are pulled over to the other side when the craving for soul-satisfying nihari strikes.
But there&rsquos more to why Old Delhi&rsquos food continues to cast its spell on walled city&rsquos every visitor. Like its intertwined lanes, the food&rsquos history is also made up of several crisscrossing throughout history. And if one was to take up the arduous task of tracing its history, they find themselves all the way back to the 12th century, when the Delhi Sultans arrived.
A Simmering History
Amir Khusrau&rsquos writings on the spreads in Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq&rsquos courts paint a vivid picture of the food culture blooming during the time. Mentions of dishes such as naan-e-tanuki (bread baked in tandoor) link the bygone era to this day. Even in Travels of Ibn Batuta, there&rsquos enough proof that some dishes have withstood the test of time.
In the 16th century, the arrival of Mughals&ndashespecially Humayun&ndashinfused the food with Persian flavours. The medley of the subcontinent&rsquos food and Persian influences lead to the creation of a cuisine that has become a unanimous favourite&ndashMughlai.
Ain-i-Akbari delves deep into the polished food culture developed under Emperor Akbar&rsquos rule and some 400 Persian cooks working the royal kitchen. With Shah Jahan and, later, Bahadur Shah Zafar&rsquos succession, the cuisine&rsquos subtly spiced scent wafted through the walled city&rsquos every nook. The robust flavours of what has come to signify the finest of Old Delhi&rsquos culinary gems developed significantly under Bahadur Shah Zafar&rsquos patronage.
In the sixteenth century, Purani Dilli&rsquos delicacies adopted the hit of red chillies brought in by the Portuguese. The tantalising tang of chaats in Dilli 6 favoured from it. To this culinary map, the well-eating Kayasthas&ndash&ndashknown for their unflinching love for khadi masala ka gosht and bhuna gosht&ndash&ndashbrought their characteristic richness.
The culinary tapestry of Old Delhi that continues to flare weaves together the capital&rsquos glorious historical past through the soft naans, luscious gravies, and the unapologetic indulgence of rabri and shahi tukda.
The Dehlnavi Trail At ITC
Although Old Delhi&rsquos decrepit surroundings and centuries-old edifices bring their character to the culinary trail around the area, the ITC Maurya, New Delhi, has brought its decadent flavours through its thoughtfully curated Dehlnavi Trail.
Conceptualised over close to a decade, Corporate Executive Chef Manisha Bhasin and her team of experienced culinary experts have achieved brilliant feat by recreating Old Delhi&rsquos famous and a few hidden gems for the capital&rsquos discerning gourmands.
The menu presents a complete journey of Old Delhi&rsquos becoming through fine flavours. It includes the widely loved nihari, the unique butter chicken (sans the red gravy), the golden fried chicken, and cumin dal (a combination of moth and split yellow lentils cooked on low heat), among other select specialities.
Even the mohabbat ka sherbet (delicious and refreshing combination of fresh watermelon, rose syrup, milk, sugar, ice cubes, and rose petals) imbued the spread with refreshing flavours. The Dehlnavi Trail will also be brought to ITC Hotel&rsquos other properties throughout the year for those in other cities.