good food in india
- jen kalb Sep 27, 2006 09:43 PM
Im planning a trip to the northern half of India in March to meet up with my daughter who will be in Kolkata all year on a Fulbright. It looks like we will be in Delhi, some spots in Rajasthan, Varanasi, MP maybe (a posh joint in Maheshwar and Mandu) and of course Kolkata.
Im finding getting good info on everything harder than expected but especially solid info on where to find great food. The regional homestyle stuff, not 5star restaurant chef stuff. Mostly veg, since my daughter doesnt eat meat or fish (but Im going to want it sometimes!) Im starting to believe that the smaller hotels and guesthouses with good local cooks might be the best bets but its hard to get reliable information on this. Any suggestions on how to proceed to find the good stuff? I mean, I know that I want to go to places where there are a lot of people and the food is freshly cooked, but beyond that? Are there areas in towns where decent restaurants are likely to be located? Im not going to have a lot of time to figure this out. Thanks for any help you can give.
I will ask more specific questions about destinations as the time for the trip comes closer.
one caveat - can you prepone your trip at all? march is ok, beginning to get hot but bearable. jan and feb are best - weathers great and all the non-resdient indians have gone home. really, late dec and early jan is now officially nri season.
it IS going to be hard to find the great regional stuff, but it does exist. let me consult with the folks back home for some thoughts.
eating veg isn't a problem unless you go to a muslim meat specialist - almost every restaurant i can think of has ample and satisfying vegetarian choices.
are you going agra - jaipur - udaipur? don't miss khajuraho, the temples are stunning and there was NOBODY around the last time i was there - thats a hard trick to pull off in desh. you can fly from agra to khajuraho to jaipur.
ok, i'll get back.
Smaller hotels usually have bad food - smaller restos are sometimes ok, sometimes not, esp in Delhi. In Calcutta, most food is good and cheap - but it is not easy to get real Bengali food except at a couple of new, posh places that have opened - Kewpie's on Elgin Road (quite hard to find, so ask someone for precise directions) - another one is Bhoja Hari Mano - has a few branches, one is in Salt Lake, another near Ballygunge.
In most parts of India, resto food is different from home cooking, and really, Calcutta is one of the few cities where a posh version of upper-class home cooking is now there for sale.
In Delhi, if you are willing to pay a lot, but only by Indian standards,do try the famous restuarants at the 5 star hotels which are usually very good - Dum Pukht etc - have fewer, but still good veggie options. Another good place is the Defence Colony Market and Khan Market areas in South Delhi where lots of eating options and very good ones - for instance you get excellent South Indian food at Sagar and its next place, forget the name, in Def Col as it is known. If travelling by road, definitely stop and eat a rice/dal and subzi meal at the highway dhabas, your driver will know which one is good, they usually have fantastic food, but some are cleaner than others.
Sorry, never been to MP.
Btw, keep some imodium handy, ORS salts, and use water purifier pills even in mineral water - my partner is American and hence lacks the relative immunity I have, and gets tummy upsets worse than I do (even Indians get them, but milder) - lots of bacteria around everywhere, but given these precautions, you should be ok.
thanks so much for your suggestions. Re Delhi, Do you mean Swagath?? There seems to be plenty of info about regional restaurants, from all over India, in Delhi - for the amount of time I will be there, Im hoping to have the time and capacity to get around to some, since I definitely will only be scratching the surface on India generally.
I think Kolkata will be ok - Emma has experience there, and as you say, there seem to be some places like Kewpie actually cooking the Bengali cuisine (and there are some great Bengali enthusiasts posting on the anothersubcontinent website about Kolkata which is really great and whets my appetite). I'm wondering whether there is anyone cooking the Lucknowi meat cuisine in north calcutta though...
By "small hotels" I mean some of the less ritzy heritage hotels and better guesthouses, not the backpacker places...who knows whether this is the right strategy? Im not sure that many westerners, who write recommendations of hotels online or in guidebooks, have much of a palate for indian food. Im also hoping to find places where I can actually watch the cooking and learn something, tho I understand that there may be religious issues with this in some places.Id love to hear any experiences about cooking lessons or chances to observe home cooks in India.
some of the places I am considering are listed below - if anyone has been there and can comment on the eating, or offer better eating alternatives (with or without lodging) in the locations noted, that would be great -
Birder's Inn or the Bagh - Bharatpur
Jasvilas - Jaipur
Devi Bhavan - Jodhpur
Rohetgarh - Rohet
RH Haveli Guesthouse or Haveli Braj Bhushanjee - Bundi
Shivika Lake Hotel - Ranakpur
Varanasi - ???
Ahilya Fort - Maheshwar MP
re: jen kalb
Yes, Swagath is the place next to Sagar. The trouble is that Delhi is
really spread out.
If you do a search in Outlook India (have to register - free) they ran
some good pieces on the revolution in Indian eating-out - mentioned
some good caterers for Kashmiri food, which might be worth trying if you
can get together a few friends, about 8-10 people.
Chor Bizaare has a wazwan dinner much touted in the guidebooks, but we did not care for it, and I would not advise going there.
In Rajasthan, most of the simple Jain places have very nice veg food -
I ate at a lot of them when I was in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, can't
remember any names. Locals might also tell you where to go for a good
Rajasthani thali with dal bati etc- you can also get a good version of that
at Sundar Nagar Market in Delhi.
Oh by the way, a nice eating experience in Delhi is Dilli Haat and the
regional food stalls there, most are excellent and you can mix and
match items from different stalls.
Also, in most North Indian towns, you can get a nice meal of lassi,
sweets and savouries from sweetshops typically run by Agarwals etc - look
out for the kachoris in Rajasthan.
Go to Jaipur in Rajastan, it is beautiful and it has some great local specialities - like lassi. It has lassi bars with 20 different flavors. I had lassi three times a day while I was there.
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I strongly second Howler's recommendation of Khajuraho. I was there for 3 days last February. The temples are quite extraordinary -- indeed, beyond catagory as Duke Ellington would say. And to boot, there is some extraordinary food in Khajuraho. At the Taj Chandela hotel, a short walk from town and the temples, they prepare the BEST BBQ grilled chicken I've ever had. I presume it was marinated in tandoori spices, but then grilled, not cooked in a tandoor. So if you are not totally vegetarian, go to Khajuraho for both the soul and the stomach.