The busy roads of Chandi Chawk, Delhi lead up to many things one might dream of. My trails lead me to the Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest spice market. It’s the dream for all foodies ; nuts, spices, herbs, ingredients, it has it all. It all starts from the Fatehpuri Masjid where I am accompanied by a local guide company called Seek Sherpa. My Sherpa, a local college kid from the University of Delhi who knows her city well. We are told to mind our heads and keep moving along with the crowd as we walk. As we proceed we come across shops of dried fruits; almonds, dates, figs, ‘gur’ etc. The choices are varied and it’s hard to pick a few when in a guided tour.
My Sherpa informs me that it will take at least three hours to go around the market. I hurry with my purchases and follow my guide through those busy crowded lanes. The name Khari Baoli, Khari means salty and Baoli means step-well. The step well was built by Khwaja Abdullah Laazar Qureshi, the second ruler of the Sur Dynasty in the 16th century. Presently there are no remains of the step-well and the area has been taken over by commercial roads and the hustle bustle of the city which remembers the step well only through its name. I come across a gate which would lead us to the wholesale part of the
market. The air is filled with smells of spices floating around. The Sherpa guides me to cover my nose, as I start sneezing profusely thanks to my sinus. We climb about ten flights of stairs to get to the top an old building which would give is a full view of the market and Jama Masjid in a distance. I go around the terrace to soak in the full view of my tour. I see vendors going through the narrow lanes and people drying ‘vadis’ made up of pulses to sell in the evening. This has taken about 1.5 hours of the tour. My footsteps have covered most of the dry fruit areas of the market where I have managed to buy dried figs and dates, edible gum and some spiced gur.
While descend from the stairs I am hit by a man carrying a huge sack of fresh turmeric. As I get a stern look for coming between his everyday schedules, I find myself only surrounded with shops selling spices; dried, fresh and powdered, there are hundreds of choices, hundreds types and a mind boggling situation for a foodie. I enquire about a few spice which I am not familiar with. A few inquiries here and there and we reach our final destination the paan. The area is known for shops wholesale paan ingredients from the tambaku, the paan leaves, chuna etc, we try out a ‘meetha’ (sweet) paan made by one of the local shops, while the shopkeeper explains the health benifits of eating a paan I take a few pictures of his shops. A few minutes later, the Sherpa while taking spoonful of ‘rabdi’ along with me ends the tour. My conversations continues with the Sherpa about history and our lives in Delhi in general. A few hours later I am back home glad that I could take some time out to go and visit the market.
My buys have been bottled and kept in the kitchen while I think of a few recipes and reminisce about my time.