My last afternoon in India was spent zipping through crowded streets of Old Delhi in the back of a bike rickshaw, ducking into tiny alleyways and making new friends with old men to sample some of the best street food the city has to offer.
It was delicious. It was insane. It was exciting and beautiful. And it was so India.
I knew I wanted to wander around Old Delhi before we left the country, soak up the old city and its vibrance. And, of course, eat some of its food. Via this blog, I found a wealth of information about street food in Old Delhi, its hidden secrets, its bustling wealth of deliciousness. I had to investigate on my own.
Once I stepped off the (shockingly clean and orderly) metro, however, I knew I was in over my head. Everything was loud and busy and I had no idea how to find what I was looking for. I needed help.
So I called a guy. I found Rahul’s number during my search for the ultimate street food treasure hunts, and I had scratched it down in the back of my Moleskine. Thank God. I dialed the number and explained I was looking to find some good street food spots.
“Meet me at the Jama masjid”, he said. “I’ll call you when I get there.”
Somehow I was already walking in the right direction. Magically I passed Old and Famous, arguably the best Jalebi joint in town. Jalebis are essentially squiggles of fried dough drenched in sticky syrup; certainly not for the faint of heart. I had tried them before in bakeries and they always seemed weird, stale, and greasy. But these ones….oh my God. They were freshly made, hot and doughy but crispy and sweet. Worth it.
With one little success under my belt I walked toward Jama Masjid…whatever that was. Down a long and narrow road I found the backside of what looked like some sort of fort or monument. “It’s closed,” an old man told me as I stopped to stare. “The Imam is here”.
Confused, I called Rahul back. “I’m at gate seven!” I proclaimed, expecting him to roll up immediately. “Meet me at gate one,” he responded. “I’ll call you when I get there. I’m at the spice market.”
Walking around the perimeter, I soon learned that the Imam of Saudi Arabia was in Delhi to appear at the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. Which explained the fact that when I reached the appropriate gate — gate one, the main entrance — I found swarms of Muslim men, milling around, entering the mosque, filling the streets. I wanted to stand still on a corner and wait, but the ebb and flow of the crowd made it nearly impossible. So I resigned to floating around with the swell of people, grabbing a few snacks on my way: toffee-like halva and sweet fried dough balls covered in sticky sesame seeds. After an hour of waiting (this is India, after all) and feeling conspicuous, I saw Rahul walking up to me.
“So how did you find me?”
I instantly knew I had the right guy.