As the Capital of India, Delhi absorbs influences from across the country, and that includes food, but the city’s own, regionally based cuisine lays claim to some of the world’s most popular dishes.
Positioned in the northwest of the country, Delhi’s proximity to the cooler climes of the Himalayan foothills, gave rise to its trademark dishes – sumptuously rich, warming curries and spicy tandoori baked meats and breads.
Presenter and Chef Bobby Chinn takes us on a gastronomic journey across this ancient, grand and multi-faceted city, uncovering its dizzying range of delicious offerings, home grown and regional, and looking at the ways history and climate shaped its unique palette.
Indian food is synonymous with spice and Delhi is no exception. The city is home to the largest spice market in all of Asia. Bobby kicks off his journey exploring the market’s incredible range of classic and rare spices with celebrated Delhi Chef and Author Gunjan Goela. Together they cook a traditional north India Pumpkin dish using time honoured philosophical principles of Indian cooking – where spice is employed as much for flavour as for health and balance.
With a predominance of Hindus, much of Delhi’s food is vegetarian, but the arrival of Islam beginning in the 8th century, introduced many new meat dishes and cooking practices. Delhi became a major Islamic stronghold and by the 16th and 17th centuries it was the centre of an extravagant and worldly Moghul Empire.
The Moghul Emperors demanded richer, ever more flavoursome taste sensations. By merging cooking traditions from their homelands of Afghanistan, Persia and the Middle East with local practices, the Mughals were responsible for some of India’s most complex and iconic dishes. Many have stood the test of time. Bobby focuses on two of the most famous, Rogan Josh and Tandoori Chicken. The Mughals popularised the use of the Tandoori Oven in India. Delhi continues to trade off of its Moghul heritage, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Take to the streets and you’ll see why. The city is famous across India for the variety and quality of its street food or chaats. Bobby pounds the pavement sampling some of the incredible treats on offer including, Dahi Bhalla Papdi Chaat, a local potato and lentil offering involving yoghurt, tamarind and mint and Daulat Ki Chaat, a rich creamy dessert from the mountainous north.
Delhi’s cuisine is largely the result of three factors, climate, religion and historical tradition, but the city refuses to be stuck in the past. As India’s showcase to the world, Delhi’s cosmopolitan nature and constant drive for modernisation has opened it up to influences from across the globe. Food culture here continues to evolve and experiment, without losing the essence of its traditional Indian origins. And some of the results are mind blowing.
To conclude his stay, Bobby explores contemporary Indian food in Delhi, looking at the ways in which international cooking styles and ingredients are influencing the city’s culinary identity. It’s this fusion of time honoured tradition and a fearless curiosity for the new that is turning Delhi into the capital of Indian gastronomy.
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Delhi and Rajasthan
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