According to me searching for street food and hibernation are the biggest chores a foodie performs when it is 10 degrees centigrade outside. For the Delhi winter haze you need all the calories to keep the body warm and cozy, don’t you? The street food culture in Delhi is not a new revelation. It is older than when my father was a chirpy young lad. However, street food is not just a phenomena of Delhi. It pans across the country to showcase how various food cultures have intermingled and shown themselves on a plate for people to devour it with utmost pleasure.
Many food fairs and exhibitions include such food cultures and bring together hundreds of foodies under one roof. The month of December in Delhi is when I experienced such foodie spectacles this year. After living out of the capital and my beloved home I have arrived back to my hometown to be an audience to such events yet again. The events, both different in their own ways but ready to knock your pants off while you experience the various kind of foods from the numerable counters set of for foodies.
The first event which I trotted to with my beloved camera was organised by the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI). NASVI collectivises street vendors across India to ensure secure livelihoods to the hundreds of men and women engaged in the informal occupation of street vending (of various kinds). The event sprawling with street vendors, members of NASVI from 23 states with 200 counters serving biryanis, kebabs, litti chaukha, puttu, chicken 65, dabeli, mouth-watering sweets, buttery pav bhaji etc was organised at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the cities big sports arena. It was a sporting event as I saw it unveil in front of me, the jumps from one counter to the other, the relay of passing information to the friend who is planning to visit the next day, the run to the coupon counters as and when they are about to close. This being just tip of the iceberg. You needed an empty stomach and the whole day to even cover sampling a quarter of the delicious exhibition.
Ishad Ahmed from Etavah, Uttar Pradesh (UP) has been a member of NASVI since 1998. He had come with his group to showcase the famous Mutton Gosht, his group patiently elaborated on the rich food culture present in UP and the ways NASVI has helped them in collectivising in the state, while they served me the Mutton Gosht on a bed of fragrant white rice with slivers of onions over it. You could spot similar stalls with patient street vendors explaining the foodies about their state’s food culture while they took a breath from serving the hoards of people waiting in line to sample what they might not get from their local street food vendors. The annual event gets innumerable food maniacs every year who come and snack on food which the various regions of the country offers. It mixes a little food education with a lot of food love.
The second event which I skipped to was the Dilli ke Pakwaan (Dishes of
Delhi). The event was organised by Delhi tourism. It mixed the kitsch with tourism and showcased the foods from Delhi and a little food help of the neighboring states of Gujrat and Rajasthan. The event unlike the street vendor’s event was more about tourism than the food. The stalls from old Delhi were numerous and enjoyable but it missed the various other types of food which Delhi offers; the small
restaurants in the Tibetan colony and near campus’ of Delhi University, the Bengali food from CR park, the small vendors of Rajma and Kadi Chawal splattered all over Delhi, the not-so- south Indian food which the dilliwaalas run to, the moment they get an opportunity. The Dilli ke Pakwaan like its organisers was more about the tourism than the food. On the other hand it was a delight for the shopping, for
souvenirs, the festival would be more enjoyed by tourists coming to Delhi but for a ‘Dilliwaasi’ it was not titillating. Nevertheless, it was an event you would thoroughly enjoy if you are a sucker for the food from the old part of the city.
The judgement: The NASVI fair showcased the essence of food brilliantly. So, if you are in Delhi during the last week of December, visit the NASVI fair for a food-full