February 5, 2016
In Delhi, the locals have a deep-rooted love affair with their food. From fine dining restaurants to vendors in inconspicuous gullies, the flourishing culinary scene has locals and visitors lining up at all hours to sample the lip-smacking variety. However, the food of India is much more than chicken tikka masala, jalfrezi and vindaloo. Every state of India has its own gastronomic secrets, distinct flavours, traditional recipes and cooking styles. When in Delhi, here’s your guide to eating your way around India without leaving the capital.
It’s easier to familiarise yourself with the distinct cuisines if you think in terms of north, west, east and south Indian cooking. Punjabi and Mughlai food is omnipresent in Delhi and can be found at every street corner in its rich, spicy glory. From the Parathewali Gali in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, to the kebabs at Khan Chacha’s in Khan market, the street food here is legendary.
On the high-end side, ITC Maurya’s Dum Pukht dishes up Lucknow’s fabled Awadhi cuisine, and Bukhara, known for its Sikandari raan (spiced, slow-roasted leg of lamb), works magic with a traditional clay oven to serve northwest frontier cuisine.
If you’re looking for something a little more unusual, Tibetan food is your best bet. You’ll find steaming momos (dumplings) and thukpa (noodle soup) in little stalls in the bylanes of Delhi. We would also recommend that you take the shiny new metro to Vidhan Sabha to reach the Tibetan refugee colony, Majnu Ka Tila. Known for the Tibetan market and its food, try Tee Dee, the Tibetan restaurant on the North Campus of Delhi University. The pork chilly is highly recommended.
Expect an artfully blended spice explosion with Rajasthani food, where recipes were passed down through the generations by the chefs of the maharajahs. The famous, fiery Lal Maas is a succulent meat preparation melded with hot chillies and aromatic herbs. Kathputli in Defence Colony only serves vegetarian food, but it’s worth trying the traditional Marwari thali (platter with starters, curries, lentils, rice, rotis and dessert) from the land of royalty.
While Rajasthani food is rich and oily, Gujarati food tends to be lighter and sugar is a commonly used ingredient in their preparations to balance out the flavours. Rajdhani in Connaught Place offers authentic Rajasthani and Gujarati thalis – the restaurant only serves vegetarian food, but you’ll never miss meat with the incredible vegetarian options in India.
The Parsis are sadly a dwindling people in India, but their food legacy endures. While Mumbai and Gujarat are the hubs for Parsi food, Delhi has some great eateries as well. Try SodaBottleOpenerWala for Irani specialties located in Khan Market and DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon. A good mutton dhansak (mixed vegetables, dhansak masala and lentils) is worth going through a lot of trouble for.
Bengal is famous for its seafood, but you don’t need a ticket to Kolkata to sample it. City of Joy in Chittaranjan Park and Alaknanda dishes up a mean mustard fish and Kosha Mangsho (Bengali mutton curry). Chittaranjan Park is also home to Maa Tara, and you can try the smoked bekti fish at Oh! Calcutta at Nehru Place.
The food of South India is the polar opposite when compared to North Indian food. Idli, dosa, sambar with chutneys (made of coconut, peanuts, etc) are all eaten on a daily basis in the southern states of India. In Andhra Pradesh, the legendary Hyderabadi biryani from the kitchens of the Nizams is prepared by cooking the rice and meat together in an earthen pot (handi). The slow cooking process releases the full flavours of the exotic spices.
In Gurgaon, head to Biryani Blues for a delicious authentic meal, while in the trendy Hauz Khas village, The Golconda Bowl offers a great biryani and haleem.
For the best dosas in Delhi, try Carnatic Café at India Mall in New Friends Colony. The dosa (a pancake made of rice flour and pulses) is made in a range of sweet and savoury varieties and are typically served with sambar and coconut chutney. Saravana Bhavan is a famous chain with branches in various countries and their food is authentic and hygienic.
Kerala has its own distinct cuisine and their seafood will inspire lifelong devotion. The Toddy Shop and Coast Café in Hauz Khas village offer an excellent reason to pause from people watching. For a fine dining experience, head to Dakshin at the Sheraton in Saket. Dakshin offers food from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, it’s easy to eat your way around the food of India in Delhi. Wash your meals down with a good old Kingfisher and dig into fabulous Indian desserts – gulab jamuns and rasgullas from Bengal or the Rajasthani ghewar – and you will realise that one trip simply isn’t enough to taste the full flavour of the subcontinent.
Book your trip to Delhi with Virgin Atlantic and discover the food of India.
Have you sampled any of these dishes? What is your favourite regional cuisine in India? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Namrata Bhawnani