Delhi's Food As Seen With a Historical Lens (Wine & Dine Magazine)
Delhi is a cornucopia of cultures. One of the oldest cities in the world to be continuously inhabited, the capital city of India has seen the rise and fall of many kingdoms and empires. As the dust settled after each victory or defeat, the city donned yet another cloak to add to its cultural potpourri. Is it any wonder then, that Delhi also boasts of food history that transcends the modern and the familiar?
I am immensely fond of the editorial team of Wine & Dine Singapore and when they asked me to do a feature on Delhi's best meals, I could not limit myself to a superficial take on where to eat in the city. After all, Delhi runs in my blood, it is where I was born and the one place I call home wherever I may roam. Thus, I undertook the seemingly-impossible task of trying to get under the skin of the city and understanding its culinary influences from a historical point of view.
As part of my research for this article, I returned to Delhi and met with many stalwarts of the food scene there like Chef Manish Mehrotra, who's Indian Accent has been rated the best restaurant in India for years now. He shared with me his favourite chat corners in North Delhi and how chaat has been Delhi-fied over the years.
Though I have dined in most of the best restaurants in the city over the years, I sampled menus at some of the newcomers who are making waves, like Fig & Maple and The Grammar Room. On the other end of the spectrum, I also did a breakfast walk with Anubhav Sapra, founder of Delhi Food Walks, to find century-old gems in old city.
But it was only when I dined with William Dalrymple, historian and author of bestsellers like City of Djinns and The Last Mughals, that I realised I was merely scratching the surface. We spoke about what the Mughals ate in their durbaars and how it was miles apart from what is now sold as Mughlai food in the lanes of Jama Masjid.
This story is close to my heart because it attempts to peek into the heart of a city that I love. It is but an attempt to pique your curiosity such that you itch to book your tickets and go taste all that the city has to offer.