07 Jul 2022

Delhi Food Walks: Stitching Together Stories Of People Through Food

delhi-food-walks-stitching-together-stories-of-people-through-food

Rising phoenix-like from the ashes of its former avatars, after the rise and fall of the many empires that held sway, Delhi– ‘the City Eternal’, is a treasure trove of unpatrolled culture experiences. Plunge into these incredible narratives that will grip you on beautifully curated, first hand-experience food walks that continue to engage the culture buff from the world over.

The passion of Anubhav Sapra for Delhi has not diminished an iota since he first launched Delhi Food Walks more than a decade ago. If anything, he is even more charged up with so many new discoveries of places and stories attached to them, which he can share with travellers around the globe to imbibe of the many charms of Delhi on these walks.

What adds that special edge to the walks is that each one of these walks in Delhi, and now in Jaipur, has been personally explored and curated by Anubhav’s first-hand experiences. This is one of the primary reasons why his walks are such a huge success.

The other most important thing is that these tours with Delhi Food Walks are not just about the places to visit or relishing the food or tasting it. It’s more about the story telling along the way.

It’s a good time to know that what drives these walks is the idea of sharing the stories of people through food. It’s about understanding the city, its culture, its heritage through food. It’s about the stories of the vendors, the dishes and how they are prepared; it’s about how food changes from one lane to another. It’s also about migration and how it has changed the food culture of that place.

The focus on the walks is also how food changes from community to community in a place. For example, when one walks through Old Delhi and starts with Chandni Chowk, it is quite noticeable that the food is influenced by the local Jain community. So, little things like this are shared with the participants of the walk with the aim to alert them to these differentiating elements in the food culture of a place. At the end of the walk, they have a fair idea about how food connects different communities in different ways in a place they visit.

On offer are over 15 food walks which cover many places in the city; amongst these are Kamla Nagar, Paharganj, Zakir Nagar, Chittranjan Park, etc. There are also theme-based walks such as Kebabs and Biryani walks apart from the festival food walks, such as Ramazan, Ram Naumi etc, held throughout the year.

That said, the focus is very much on Old Delhi, which is because you get the food heritage of the historical city. The walk here is not just about the food – you get to understand the context of the experience –the different communities, the influences of, say, the spice market of Khari Baoli, the cultural changes from lane to lane brought in by migration. Basically, it’s a complete experience of the place, rather than just a food tasting exercise.

The same thought process drives walks in other parts of the city as well, so that travellers get an all-round picture of the food culture of that place. The Little Kabul Walk has been one such new initiative. This covers the areas of Lajpat Nagar, Bhogal and Jungpura where the Afghan community seeking refuge settled in Delhi. The walk shares how in 1979 people migrated from Afghanistan because of the Russian invasion. The storytelling imbibes the historical factors that led to the migration to these parts of the city – and how the food habits of the fleeing Afghan community are co-related to that situation. It also touches upon how it changed the food culture of these three areas. These things are evident even in simple savouries like the mantu, the Afghan dumpling, and how it changes from community to community.

What has been very heartening for Anubhav is the enormous popularity of these walks with travellers from all over the globe who have shared these personally curated experiences with his team. He recommends, highly, that when travellers visit any part of the world, they should definitely start with a food walk on the very first day. That’s because those culinary persuasions offer a deep insight into the culture of that place; this also prepares the traveller for how to best explore and experience that destination. That’s how, he shares, Delhi Food Walks shortlists its recommendations for a place to be visited.

The success of Delhi Food Walks also rests on very effectively customising the walks according to the desires of their guests. So, whether the guest is a vegan/vegetarian… or is only interested in kebabs or just sweets – the walk just focuses on those food preferences.

Delhi, Anubhav believes, is the street food capital of India. There are 400 places in Old Delhi alone to sample these experiences – so the novelty factor of the food walks will always be influenced by such realities.

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