“Don’t eat street food in India,” said the travel doctor at the travel clinic.
“Don’t go anywhere near the street food in India,” said the pharmacist at the pharmacy.
“Yes, there is an overwhelming likelihood that you may need to spend a little extra time on the thunder-bucket, but it won’t kill you,” said Anthony Bourdain on YouTube. “It won’t poison you. You are far more likely to get ill at the hotel buffet.”
Who would you trust?
Me? I’m with Anthony all the way.
And so, with Anthony Bourdain’s reassuring words ringing in my head, I felt pretty fearless and was prepared to eat just about anything on my food tour of Old Delhi yesterday. But I did have a secret weapon with me—and no—it wasn’t bottle of Pepto-Bismol.
Ladies and gentlemen, please may I introduce my culinary secret weapon: Chef Ranjeev Goyal of Food Tour in Delhi.
This dimpled imp spends his days taking foodies deep into the darkest corners of Old Delhi to sample pure culinary pleasure at his favourite street stalls. And when he’s not doing that, he’s running bar crawl tours of Delhi. Tough gig, eh?
But don’t be deceived. It’s not all fun and games with Rajeev. This man is serious—very serious—about his food. He’s studied ancient Indian cooking, he’s worked with Gordon Ramsay, and he knows the winding streets of Old Delhi, its food stalls and its culinary secrets like the back of his hand.
And probably most impressively of all (if you believe his website), he can eat up to 40 percent of his body weight in one day!
At Shyam Sweets we tried the potato curry and a selection of breads, samosa and lassi. Flavors danced around my mouth as Rajeev encouraged me to move from savory dish to sweet and back again, telling me before I took each bite that each spoonful would taste sweeter, sharper, spicier or salter than my last spoonful of that dish. And he was right every single time. He either knows Indian flavors like nobody else on earth or he is a practitioner of some sort of bizarre food voodoo. Either way, I wasn’t complaining because the food was incredible.
We moved through the streets and sampled fruit sandwiches (it sounds strange I know, but trust me, it works); dhokhla with fresh green chilli, aloo chat that simply blew away any other aloo chat I have ever tasted before, kulfi that had been frozen in a whole mango and—my absolute favorite—kulle ki chaat—a palate-cleansing slice of watermelon served with spices, lime and pomegranate seeds.
I do hope the travel doctor and pharmacist don’t read this blog. I could be in trouble. But I have to say, I do think Anthony Bourdain would have been proud of me.
Vickie Sam Paget is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver, BC. When she’s not creating dynamic travel or tech content, globetrotting or gazing at the North Shore Mountains, you can usually find her curled up with a good book or sipping a pint of the good stuff in her local Irish bar.