Today afternoon I met somebody whose job is envy to many of us who are in love with the city’s street food. As promised we meet near Gate No 5 Chandni chowk Metro station. He orders five bottles of water puts them in the jute bags for the leg of customised food walk kick starting from 5pm and shares with me his thoughts on JFC , Natraj ki aloo tikka, best nahari, paya and much more.
Anubhav Sapra, the man behind Delhi Food Walks very graciously agreed for a conversation over his journey of Delhi Food Walks which has been in news for the street food tours across Delhi and beyond Delhi as well. His transition from working for Centre for Equity Studies to being his own boss, bringing street food to the forefront and his journey from being blogger in 2010 to owning and running Delhi Food Walks, is a wonderful inspiration and I thought it would be great to wrap up 2014 for itiriti readers.
The anecdotes he shares is meaty and juicy for a small budget film if not a blockbuster. He began organising food tours for his foodie friends on Sundays along with a day job in Centre for Equity Studies. Slowly those food tours metamorphosed into Sunday walking tours as the numbers increased. And facebook played a revolutionary role here. Way back in 2010 Anubhav posted an event that he was going to organise a food walk in Paharganj. Thirty odd people showed up. It was a huge success. This response encouraged him to organise more such tours on Sundays mainly around Old Delhi.
Slowly by 2011 Delhi Food Walks was conceptualised and recently he has quit his day job and he works seven days a week from 8am to 9pm for Delhi Food Walks. Though he organises food walks around various nook and corner of Delhi, he loves to talk about the street food cultures of Old Delhi which as he endearingly puts it represents our syncretism. ‘Which place under the sun will have the best dishes made from vegetables, pulses and no onion and garlic and moment you walk over to another lane you can have the choicest pieces of lamb, goat and chicken?’ As I remind him of the best fried chicken, he remarks ‘oh yes, JFC you mean’. For all fried chicken lovers, it is a treat to get the best fried cuts from the shops right across Jamma Masjid and JFC rules!
He tells me that old Delhi’s by lanes have a story to tell through food. I agree. He adds that each lane is a telling tale about food proscriptions practiced by community. One example he cites is the absence of onion and garlic in the condiments or stuffing of parathawallas of parathewalli galli. The owners, practicing Jains refrain from using onion or garlic and this is only paratha which is deep fried in ghee and I add, served with pumpkin curry and banana tamarind chutney. Nestled few yards away are the bakeries – a telling representation of cultures of bread making in India. As he recounts to me the bakeries in the by-lanes of Delhi he also recalls that in his childhood his mother used to knead the dough and send it off to local dhaba for rotis to be made. Our conversation moves to communal nature of making breads with the series of bakeries in Old Delhi still surviving by making rotis. No conversation of breads is complete without the famous kebabs and for kebab lovers Delhi Food Walks will soon announce a kebab and biryani trail in Old Delhi in January 2015.
As time runs out and he welcomes me to join him for aloo tikki at Nataraj (Chandni Chowk) he also shares a passionate project geared to make use of left over food from city’s professional kitchens. Anubhav and his volunteers have done a survey regarding the management of excess food across city’s restaurant counter-tops. In this project called Save food foundation, their aim is to collect the food and redistribute it to the homeless in the city.
As his guests arrive I join them for a piping hot aloo tikka chat at Nataraj and resist the temptation of joining them for the walk. On weekdays, he organises customised food walks across the city. Customised walks are tailor-made for your tastebuds and it can be a combination of Old Delhi, Majnu ka Tila and Kamala Nagar. Some of the food enthusiasts across the world and India also join his specialised by-lane walks (available on requests) which lasts for three to four hours in Old Delhi. Apart from food, there is a lot of food talk about the spices, the process, and the people involved in making the food.
On weekends, he organises community walks. These walks are listed in facebook and anybody can sign the walk. Of late he is organising walks around specific food items. For instance in December 2014 he organised a chat trail in Old Delhi which I hear was a huge success. What is best about Delhi Food Walks is that they do not outsource the walks. So, Anubhav is here to guide you to have a taste of Delhi’s street food from 8 am to 9pm through city’s best kept secrets, and well known ones.
As I leave him with the guests and make my way through the metro station I add the kebab and biryani trail to my wish list for January 2015 and head back home with food for thought.
To more food talk in 2015!