3 March 2024

The constant honking of horns and jostling for space by bicycles, rickshaws, cars and motorcycles leaves no room for error. Crossing the streets can be a deadly trial of nerves. In spite of the noise and traffic, we decide to accept the challenge and walk to Gate 7 on Connaught Circle.

Street and Street Foods 

Knowing the gastronomic dangers of street food, what better way to greet Old Delhi than by participating on a local food tour? The operators promise “some of the best, cleanest, and most interesting street food spots.” I appreciate the guidance through the maze of crowded streets and amid the fragrant smells of the markets. I remain skeptical as to the ability to “avoid getting lost … or getting sick eating” Delhi’s street food.

Frozen Mango Kulfi, cool and delicious.

However, our tour resulted in several hours of wonderful wandering, exploring spice and food markets, and eating. A bit here, another snack there, tea around the block, then another snack. We are told by our wonderful guide Veny, there will be 10 snacks then a meal. I quickly learn, Indians love their snacks.

The adventure began by boarding the metro for a short two-stop ride into Old Delhi. It was clean, uncrowded and easy to use. The turnstiles require a bar code entering and leaving and unfortunately, sometimes the ticket did not work and require a trip to the ticket booth to replace.

We also enjoyed a ride in a rickshaw pedaled by a flip-flop wearing young man who works very hard for little money a day. With so much competition, it is a wonder they survive.

We slowly move through the noise, crowds of humanity and inhumanity; narrow lanes; decaying buildings; smells of incense, urine, dung and rotting vegetables. All create a continual assault on the senses amid what appears a poverty-ridden populace. 

Chicken and yogurt sauce, spicy and hot.

In general, I like Indian food. Nonetheless, on my previous trip to India, after more than three weeks of curry dishes, I admit I rebelled. Consequently, today, I cautiously sample the snacks at each little street seller. Gone is the overpowering curry replaced by the endless love locals have for red peppers. Some snacks were tastier than others, all, except the sweets, were hot.

Indian Culinary Arts

About the infamous Indian culinary arts: 

• Mix your favorite meat, seafood, vegetable, rice, soup, chutney or noodle into a thick sauce of ground pepper, ginger, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, cloves and a few other little-used spices.

• Add red chilies for flavor. The mix comes in Hot, Hotter, and Hot as Hell. My taste buds registers Mild equals Hotter.

Delhi street food is “take your chances” or join a food tour. I advise a food tour.

• At a typical dinner buffet, there will be 20-25 items of which maybe 2 are sans curry or without chilies.

• Only white rice and morning eggs tends to be exempt from curry.

• Even the native-grown cashews come curry or pepper flavored.

• Beer like local Kingfisher, desserts, and their garlic naan (a type of pancake tortilla grilled on a flame) are delicious.

• Does food taste different when grilled over camel dung as opposed to elephant or cow dung? I am not enough of a connoisseur to differentiate. 

Cough and Sneeze Market

Peppers in hot, hotter, hotter than Hell.

The spice market of Old Delhi represents one of many we will be visiting during the next month. Its nickname is “cough and sneeze” because the overwhelming scents of spices guarantee your sinuses won’t escape unscathed. Everyone wants to sell you something and most kiosks offer the same product. But here, they also sell in bulk. Huge bags of chili peppers line the walls.

Supreme Salesmen

A word on hawkers. These are sellers of goods, most of which you would never want. Hawkers are experts at the hard sell. Their philosophy is there is nothing they can’t sell. Haggling about the sale’s price that requires their time and they seem to love it. An item appears before your face and a ridiculous price requested. Or they offer three with the hope of selling for one. Then it depends on you as to how long the process goes. You can run but you can’t hide. Hawkers work in huge packs and lurk around every tourist corner. Hawkers are really quite nice considering the rudeness and abuse they receive from tourists.

Sensory Streets of Delhi

Organized chaos of Old Delhi

Absorbing the culture of the streets of Delhi is a vibrant and sensory experience. From the aroma of street food to the cacophony of sounds, bustling markets, and colorful attire, it’s a journey through diverse traditions, languages, and cuisines, offering a glimpse into the city’s dynamic and lively spirit.

While a challenge, and something I would not enjoy without a local guide, wandering in Delhi remains a worthwhile life-experience. And a food tour represents a great way to learn about Indian cuisine without the end results being “Delhi Belly.”


Retired. Have time for the things I love: travel, my cat, reading, good food, travel, genealogy, walking, and of course travel.


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