City Food – Delhi-UP Border Cuisine, Anand Vihar
Food carts of diversity.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Borders tend to be formal, edgy places, which one is always a bit nervous to cross. So it’s a surprise to find such a cheery, festive place in the Delhi-UP interstate border that faces the Anand Vihar bus terminal. Crammed up on the UP side of the border, dozens of carts stand in line, offering an appeal that is both visual and olfactive, and comprising a stunning array of street food.
You have to see it yourself to believe how tempting it is. Until then, trust this afternoon description.
Start with the cart offering “Shri Radhe Shyam Rathore’s vegetable biryani.” The stall owner doesn’t look at all like the haughty pompous chef sketched on the cart. His eyes, shining out of the masked face, spark with kindness. He is preparing a plate of biryani, but the piece he is slicing looks like chicken — on a veg stall. “It is soya chop,” he corrects with quiet authority.
The next cart, a chicken’s hop away, is a chicken biryani cart, run by Muhammed Abid Ansari. The banner on this stall too shows that same pompous chef—in fact, this artwork seems to have been copy-pasted on every cart around here. There’s also the photo of a happy-looking chicken, and directly beneath it the visual description of the happy chicken’s fate, when cooked into biryani.
The adjacent cart is simply named “Famous Chicken”. But it is stacked with fried fish and, curiously, with face masks for sale!
The cart called “Calcutta’s mashoor (famous) egg roll” is crammed with stacks of egg trays. Its banners are arrayed with images of a smiling Lord Shiva.
Another cart specialises in something not associated with street food, for it is too elaborate for such informal dining settings—thali meals. But the men at Om Sai Baba stall are nevertheless expertly rustling out large platters, each filled with piping hot phulkas, two kinds of dry subzis, matar paneer dish, boondi raita, black dal, mango pickle, and chopped onions with green chillies.
In case your idea of gourmet dining is 2-minute noodles, well, there’s a dedicated cart for that too.
The only stall here with a seating facility, complete with long tables, is “Uttarakhand ka Purana Hotel.” An Uttarakhand native, the owner says that all the stalls here primarily cater to travelers going into or coming out of the bus terminal.
But now it is time to line up at Sri Ram Poori Wale. The man at this cart has just started to deep-fry his new batch of crisp airy balloon-like pooris.