Things To Do In & Around Khari Baoli, Old Delhi – Insider Tips

Khari Baoli, the biggest spice market of Asia, is a paradise for a traveler who derives inspiration from by history, heritage and food. Once you reach Khari Baoli, it keeps throwing surprises with its buzzing street life, smell of spices, vibrant food scene and numerous tales from past. Its a grand theater where protagonist changes every passing moment, his role is in the eyes of beholder.

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Khari Baoli in Old Delhi is dynamite of nostalgia for me, which when explodes brings old days memories when I used to accompany my father in his quest to search for best quality ingredients. Still he fondly used to ask for spices with its geographical origin. I have inherited this trait in me and that’s why quite often i find myself in the busy streets of Khari Baoli sourcing best spices and dry fruits for my kitchen. Food is my weakness and for me its not just about eating good food but also cooking and knowing the nuances of food.

History of Khari Baoli

Khari means Salty in Hindi and Baoli means Step well, so Khari Baoli means a step well of salty or brackish water. Foundations of the Khari Baoli  were laid by Khwaja Abdullah Laazar Qureshi during the reign of Salim Shah, the son of Sher Shah Suri in 1550s. It could not flourish and soon was lost and forgotten probably because it had salty water in it. Nothing much is available in recorded form which tell more about this step-well.

During the construction of walled city, Fatehpuri Begum, wife of Shah Jahan, built the Fatehpuri Mosque and a market was built around it which was frequented by traders of those era under the stewardship of Jahanara Begum the daughter of Shah Jahan who is believed to be a very successful business women of that era having trade links with traders of Central Asia, Iran, Turkey and also with Dutch East India Company.

Since then, Old Delhi was plundered and looted by many starting from Nadir Shah (1739) Ahmad Shah Abdali (1757), Rohilla chieftain Ghulam Qadir (1788) and then britishers demolished the very fabric of Old Delhi in 1857. The bustling city lost its glory as the center of business and culture.

In 1936, Punjab Government issued a law cancelling all debts of the villagers which resulted in huge loss to numerous Agrawal traders (main trading community in India who are known for their enterprising nature) and they migrated to Delhi. They spread all over Delhi and  also occupied the shops around Fatehpuri Masjid giving rebirth to the market which is now the biggest spice and dry fruit market of Asia.

Khari Baoli – Asia’s biggest Spice market

Over centuries diverse cultures melted in a pot of spices and thus incarnated spicy Indian food on this earth. After all India was the Golden Sparrow and everyone wanted to take to own a  golden Feather which brought people from all across globe to India. they came with their food habits and being a open society, India welcome them and their culinary style too. Traders, seekers, plunderers and rulers all added some flavor to Indian food.

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Careful mix of Spices gives Indian food a distinctive aroma and taste which lasts longer in your senses than the food inside your body. Food here is prepared not by hand but by sense of smell. People like me do not taste the food while its being prepared but uses the nose to smell the aroma till it reaches its desired level.

All this makes spices and its aroma so very much important and hence Khari Baoli is the go to place for any Indian food lover interested to unearth the layers of Indian style of cooking. This market gives you an opportunity to see the eclectic mix of spices and dry fruits that plays crucial role in Indian cuisine. This market is a trove of exotic condiments which once must have catered to the Royal Kitchens and was also the epicenter of Indian Spice Route. making this whole market heritage worthy.

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Amidst all around chaos and full of noise, picking your spice is a unique experience here. You can converse with shop owners discussing the usage and origin of the spices. the welcoming nature of shop owner makes it a heaven of chefs and home cooks like me.

For most of the people, Khari Baoli is all about spices and dry fruits, however for a true traveler and explorer this heritage place offers some unique experiences beyond that. So, let me give you some more reasons to visit Khari Baoli and a list of must to things in and around Khari Baoli.

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Things to do in and around Khari Baoli – 

Take a Rickshaw ride

No matter from which side you enter Old Delhi or which mode of transportation you take, Rickshaw ride is the best way to reach Khari Baoli. Rickshaws are quintessentially Indian and with its slow pace, help you absorb the surrounding. Rickshaw drivers here also makes up for a local guide giving you true insider tips.

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Things to do in and around Khari Baoli –

Visit Fatehpuri Mosque

Located at the end of Chandni Chowk, Fatehpur Masjid is the landmark to reach Khari Baoli. This mosque was built in 1650 by one of the wives of Shah Jahan, Fatehpuri Begum or “The Lady from Fatehpur” as she was from Fatehpur Sikri near Agra. Unlike Jama Masjid or Congregational Mosque, it is a peaceful where actually you can feel spiritual.

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PC – By Varun Shiv Kapur – Flickr: Fatehpuri Masjid, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25905573

The British government confiscated this mosque after the uprising of 1857 and auctioned off to a very rich moneylender and businessman Lala Chunna Mal for Rs 19000. After many years, Lal Chunna Mal returned the Mosque to Muslims of the city with a condition that no cow slaughter should ever happen inside the mosque.

If Chandni Chowk is the heart of the Delhi then this red stone mosque is the heartbeat of the Chandni Chowk. It has seen a lot in last four centuries years of History from the glory days of Mughal India to loots to sorrowful partition of India.

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Things to do in and around Khari Baoli –

Eat Rice with Indian Gravy at Gole Hatti

No matter where I go, foodie in me always finds a way to locate a unique food joints. Gole Hatti is one of its kind, when it comes to serving flavored rice with blend of Indian curries. The real uniqueness is the earthen pot they use in serving the dish. In an earthen pot they put perfectly cooked flavored rice, then add gravy of your choice from menu topped with onion and special pickled carrot. the texture, freshness and crunch quickly take your senses in its control and take your close to self actualization.

After reaching Delhi from Lahore in 1947, founder of the shop Nathu Ram Khamboj started this shop from scratch in 1954. The joint had a distinctive round facade and hence the name Gole Hatti where Gole means round.

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It is a spartan food joint right on the T-junction of Khari Baoli and Fatehpuri Masjid serving pocket friendly superlative food to thousands of people who throng to Khari Baoli from all across India. They started to serve in Earthen Pot called Kulhad in hindi as an take away option for rushing traders and this also ensured faster delivery for them.  Their delicious and authentic innovation – Kulhad Ke Chawal gained popularity among food lovers from all walks of life. A real culinary gems in Old Delhi.

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Things to do in and around Khari Baoli –

Must try Bedami Poori at Ram Prasad Makhan lal

In Delhi’s culinary echelon, Bedami Poori with spicy Aaloo Sabji (Potato gravy) always finds its place at the top as it has its root in Old Delhi. Its Delhi’s most famous traditional street food can be nominated as the very first lady of Indian Street Food. The quintessential Indian lunch, breakfast or brunch, Bedami Aloo never cease to satiate a foodie’s soul.

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This combination symbolizes the perfection of Indian Food where things are blended to create a new thing. Bedami Poori is a fried delicacy prepared by blending grounded black gram and whole wheat flour mixed with spices. Potato gravy cooked for hours in low flames is aromatic preparation which compliments Bedami Poori very well.

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Once in Khari Baoli, head towards Sadar Bazaar and on your left you will find a famous shop Ram Prasad Makhan Lal which serves one of the most authentic Bedami Poori fried in Desi Ghee (Clarified Butter). This modest food joint has been in business since 1942 and  have mastered the art of making Bedami Poori and Aloo Subzi which is often a much sought-after dish by foodies of Delhi.

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Things to do in and around Khari Baoli –

Have mouthful of Indian sweets at Chaina Ram 

It is again a legendary shop which is located at a prime location adjacent to Fatehpuri Mosque where Chandni Chowl ends and Khari Baoli starts. You just cannot afford to miss this while entering Khari Baoli.

This sweet shop was started at Lahore’s Anarkali Market in 1901 and shhifted to Delhi after partition.  serves all kinds of sweets, all cooked in pure ghee. With over a hundred years of experience, this award-winning sweet shop has been serving sweets of all kinds, using only the purest of desi ghee (Clarified Butter) to ensure rich flavour and aroma.

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Its main and most famous offering is Karachi halwa — a saffron-coloured, chewy dessert studded with dry fruits and served in a tin pack. The ever present long queue at the counter of this shop testifies the quality of the sweet they prepare and the popularity they have.

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Things to do in and around Khari Baoli –

Bottoms up a glass full of Lassi at Amritsari Lassi Wala

Lassi is north India’s is one among most preferred drink which refreshes the senses and ward of the heat in usually hot weather of Delhi.  The drink is believed to have originated in the Punjab region and is a heavenly mix of frothy and creamy Dahi (Curd)  water and sugar topped with dry fruits.

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Photo Credit : By Patrick Barry from san francisco, ca, usa (Varanasi – lassiUploaded by Ekabhishek) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

After taking a rough, dusty and noisy tour of Khari Baoli, Amritsari lassi Wala has to be your must stop shop to indulge in devouring a glass full of Lassi. Established in 1974, they’ve successfully managed to keep the thirst of their customers with plethora of flavours to choose from.

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Things to do in and around Khari Baoli –

Give life to street photographer in you

For street photographers, Khari Baoli offers immense opportunity to experiment and feel good. It has a busy street life where laborers load and unload stuff; hawkers sale kitchen wares, vegetables, flowers and many more staple items; people are always in rush: expression on face changes every hour of the day and there is an order in chaos.

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Photo Credit – By Christian Haugen from Trondheim, Norway – Chandni ChowkUploaded by Ekabhishek, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16391336

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PC – By Varun Shiv Kapur – originally posted to Flickr as 02 khari road 01 02, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8004094

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When planning a trip to Delhi, make sure Khari Baoli is in your to do list. Few hours spent here will give a new perspective and enrich your experience as traveler and explorer.

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Would love to know your story from Old Delhi. Comment with your favorite things to do in walled city of Old Delhi.

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