Dilli Diaries: How Safe Are Delhi’s Favourite Street Food Haunts?

Street food makes for an intrinsic part of the Capital’s foodscape. From spots that go years back to popular new nooks, the city is speckled with a throng of street food vendors, populous gallis, shops, and even sit-down restaurants that rolls out authentic Dilli-style street grubs. But let’s take a moment to at the “vintage” spots in retrospect and ask ourselves just how safe these places are.

Now, we don’t mean to rant, look down upon or even – god forbid – trash these holy street food nooks, but can’t not overlook the obvious threat that these places harbour! No, we’re not speaking in terms of food hygiene and quality, because FSSAI is already taking care of that, but more like physical hazards. And if Delhi’s popular party and recreational markets like Khan Market and Connaught Place pose a risk, can the old and ageing street food Meccas like Lajpat Nagar and Chandni Chowk be far behind? So at the sake of sounding grim and cynical, we point out all that’s wrong with Delhi’s popular street food centers.

For starters, the rustic lanes of Old Delhi reverberating with the sizzle of parathas at one end and the trin trin of rickshaws at the other. Why do we have fabrics and zari trimmings dangling so close to a kadhai filled with hot oil? Where (and how) does one run to a safe spot in case of an emergency? Is there enough space for let’s say an ambulance to come in, or even near, these lanes? We never really ask these questions, do we? Because somehow the “risk” seems worth that fifty-rupee plate of aloo gobhi paratha and our worries seem drowned in the extra raita. Moreover, where’s the fun in savouring some street food without a pleasant melee of hawkers all around, right?

Dilli Diaries: How Safe Are Delhi's Favourite Street Food Haunts?Image: (CC) India.com

Next up, Lajpat Nagar’s Central Market, a.k.a. the place you can purchase everything right from a shoelace to a 60 grand smartphone. Frequented by local street food lovers for its ram ladoos, Dolma Aunty’s momos, chhole bhature, and Golden Fiesta among many others, this market too falls short in safety parameters category. Seriously, think about it, where do you see the space to squeeze in a police car (let alone a fire truck) amid all those hawkers, crammed shops, and constructions work?

And finally, Noida’s Brahmaputra Market (or BP) and even the neighbouring Ganga Shopping Complex. Though the latter is not really a street food lovers’ hub, it’s an aesthetic and safety hazard no less. That said, these markets despite posing a great threat with all those shawarma booths, kebab skewers dangling all over, and colossal tawas are still probably one of the safer spots to flurry about downing some momo and biryani. And that’s saying a lot!

Dilli Diaries: How Safe Are Delhi's Favourite Street Food Haunts?Image: So Delhi

But are these four market places all that we need to look out for when we go out chaat binging? Not really, this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even touched upon some of the major street food sites like Paharganj, Karol Bagh, and Punjabi Bagh! Point being, that while it is great to explore and go on an adventure around the city’s popular food streets (heck with all this talk of street food, we’ll probably end up at Central Market this evening!), it is also super important to be aware of just what you are stepping into.


Feature Image: D for Delhi