Finding good food in India

india

#1

Later this year I’ll be taking a trip around some the sites of North India. It’ll be our first trip so we won’t be venturing off the beaten track, visiting Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar and Udaipur.

I’m looking for some general tips on finding good food in India. It might be the case that good food is easy to find and we can just use our eyes when we get there. But I’m nomally at least semi prepared before a trip with a hit list of places I’d like to go.

Forums aren’t bringing much up. Cursory Google searches, at least for Delhi, are tending to mainly focus on the higher end of the restaurant scene (we might have one fancier meal but it’s not really what we’re looking for).

Are there any social networks that are popular for food in India? What do people suggest?


(Chris) #2

I spent 10 months in India in 2016. I was mainly on a very strict budget and there was good food but it was easy to find mediocre food. If we found a place we liked we tended to go all the time. When we upped the budget I tended to use Google to see what was close by and then go through the Google reviews, that worked quite well. I’m not at home at the moment but I can certainly provide some good places in Northern India. I’ll get back to you.


(Chris) #3

The best food I ate in India was in small family run guesthouses , so if it’s the family doing the cooking where your staying it’s worth eating there. Though having said that this was in southern India rather than northern India. All over India it was the small, snack places doing aloo tiki, samosas etc that rarely disappointed while the restaurants often did.

I’ve forgotten most of the places that I ate in India as most were cheap and picked at random and also I was there for a long time. However for the area you are visiting these are the ones I remember.

Delhi

My favourite place in Delhi was a fairly casual place called Potbelly Rooftop Café. Quite a small place. Their chips with keema and cheese are delicious (perfect drinking food , which is ironic as they don’t have a licence),their pakoras are really good as well.

Potbelly Rooftop cafe

116 C, Behind UCO Bank, Shahpur Jat, Siri Fort, New Delhi, Delhi 110049, India

If you are looking for cheap quick eats then the kathi rolls at Zaika’s (which is a chain) is are pretty good bet.

Jaipur

Handi on Mi road is a safe bet, a little bit expensive but they do have cheap combo meals their lal maas or handi chicken with roti were good. It’s on a roof top so it’s a good place just to stop for a beer and the beer is cold ,a rare thing in India.
Handi

Opposite GPO, MI Road, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302001, India

On the other side of the road not far from Handi is Old Takeaway-The Kebab Shop. Very different to Handi though a rough and ready place but the kebabs are really good and they serve some of the lightest rotis I’ve ever had.

Old Takeaway-The Kebab Shop

H P Petrol Pump 146 & 149, MI Road, Panch Batti, C Scheme, Ashok Nagar, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302001, India

Jodphur

I really liked the laal maas at Indique and the dal makhani was very tasty. The gatta curry a speciality of Rajasthan was pretty bad though (tough gram flour dumplings in a yogurt sauce) the missus wanted to order it and I agreed against my better judgement.

Indique

Pal Haveli, Gulab Sagar, Near Clock Tower, Jodhpur, Rajasthan 342001, India

You’ve probably come across the omelette shop whilst researching Jodphur. There are two right near the clock tower. We went to the one on the left,with the clock tower behind you the cheese masala omelette made for a cheap and tasty breakfast.

Udaipur

Hari Garh is a lovely place especially if you get the low seating overlooking the water. For once the food was equal to the setting. My mutton keema mutter was one of the best things I ate in Rajsathan and the aubergine tomato dish was pretty good as well.

Hari Garh

Hanuman Ghat , Outside Chandpol. Udaipur- 313001 (Raj.) INDIA

Agra

We ate at the Oberoi Hotel in Agra. The food was pretty good but overpriced. However they do have a lovely terrace with views of the Taj Mahal. It is supposed to be for hotel guests only but we were allowed to drink our very expensive G&T’s as the sun set (this was the evening prior to dining there). Worth it as treat.

Oberoi Hotel

Taj East Gate Rd, Paktola, Near, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001, India


#4

Great, thank you very much for sharing. We’ll be staying very close to Hari Garh in Udaipur so that’s a dead cert.


(saregama) #5

Zomato is the Yelp equivalent but better because it has menus.

There are many active food bloggers on insta & fb - look by city. They are pretty interactive in the comments section.

And yes, there’s good food everywhere. But be careful, no point being on Imodium the whole time. I avoid anything raw outside (salad, garnish, cut fruit), except chaat at “bisleri” (purified water) places.

People are friendly to tourists and opinionated about food - if you’re in a store or a coffee shop, feel free to ask for recommendations (what’s the best place to get samosas near here? a good thali place? ) - you’ll likely get some interesting answers.

Even better, ask fellow diners at one restaurant for the next recommendation. My dad used to ask the cabbies and drivers, but my tummy can’t always handle those places!


#6

Thanks very much for your tips Saregama. Is it common to find street venders that use purified water in their food or lassi?

@klyeoh I was intrigued by this mention of yours that I’ve dragged up from the old haunt, about Agra:

the old Nayi Basti neighborhood which pre-dates even the 16th-century Mughal dynasty. The must-not-miss item is Nali Nihari (super-tasty lamb-shank/beef marrow stew with spices and ginger) cooked in underground hearths overnight, and then served for breakfast with soft spongey breads to soak up the gravy. Go early as the nihari spots sell out by 9am.

I’m not having any luck tracking down another reference to this, do you have the name of a specific place?


(saregama) #7

Not common, but they exist - ask your hotel or do a bit of Zomato or google search. I would not have chaat on the street otherwise. Lassi is difffrent - it’s mostly yogurt, and also possible to give them a bottle of your water and ask them to use that.


(saregama) #8

Re nalli nihari and other such neighborhood specialties - I don’t know your gender, but if you are a woman I would be very careful about where you venture in the north, especially in Delhi and Agra.

There are excellent versions of these dishes available at restaurants - I would not sacrifice safety for going deep into a neighborhood for “authenticity.” It’s all authentic and delicious - you don’t need to be standing on a street for that to be true. Nalli nihari is also available widely in Delhi, FYI.

If you are hiring a car and driver, you could also request the driver to pick up something and have it parceled, then eat it at your hotel. But be culturally aware - a Hindu vegetarian (or not) driver may not want to go into a Muslim neighborhood to procure you some nalli nihari.

Street vendor versions are also much spicier and oilier, with higher tummy risk.


#9

A concern here, even if the liquid water at a place is bottled, is ice in lassi, etc. There’s no guarantee of where that came from. You have to, essentially, give up on iced drinks , if you want to be completely safe.

Also, not to be alarmist (but I speak from experience), the water that glasses, etc., are washed in needs to be watched. It’s easy to see at street stalls how they clean whatever they hand to customers.

As a result of these precautions, my only experience of dining “outside” in India in the last two decades has been at fancy places in the more touristy spots, or at safe places in obscure towns where I know people. So I have nothing useful to add on the score here, except to say that there are better and better fancy(ish) places in India these days, serving various regional cuisines. Delhi, in particular, offers a variety of places that offer various regional cuisines. I believe that the OP knows of someone who has generally reliable Delhi food recommendations on his blog.

I do have some specific food recommendations:

  1. A genuine Goan-style pork vindaloo (if one is available in North India) will be a revelation to anybody who has only eaten what Indian restaurants in the U.S. pass off as that dish.
  2. Even such recent additions to Indian cuisine, however simplistic, such as tandoori chicken and butter chicken (the origin of tikka masala), are shockingly good near where they originated.
  3. Seek out roomali roti (literally, handkerchief flatbread), especially where you can see the dough being stretched and spun into the air.
  4. Seek out kebabs being grilled on charcoal in Delhi.
  5. Seek out, even if just once, an all-vegetarian thali (although Gujerat and Maharshtra are better regions for this). The supreme glory of Indian vegetarian cuisine is, sadly, still under-appreciated in our “foodie” age.

Sorry I cannot suggest specific places: my recent experiences do not overlap with the OPs itinerary.


(saregama) #10

Great suggestions!

Agree completely - no ice other than at upscale places - ask if the ice is from “aquaguard” water - one of the purifier brands, but DON’T trust small restaurants or street vendors. You can get chilled drinks, though, it’s not all warm stuff!

Kebabs, Mughlai, and Lucknowi food in Delhi/Agra will be superb. Tandoori chicken and butter chicken (not tikka masala, which was a colonization of b.c.) will spoil you for all others. YES for roomali roti! And kulchas instead of naan - you can’t get those of similar quality elsewhere. And stuffed parathas esp in Delhi - they are eaten for breakfast and are wonderful.

You can have this in Rajasthan - a traditional Marwari thali is delicious, and also very rich so time it carefully. Again, Zomato/google/hotel rec for reliable thali places - they are specialized.

Please don’t eat vindaloo in the north… it’s like eating grits in Vermont. Save it for Mumbai or Goa on another trip. Also, nowhere you are going is known for seafood, so I’d steer clear.


#11

I agree that you need to be cautious about vindaloo in the North – hence my caveat "if one is available. I was vaguely wondering if there might be, among the newer places in Delhi that showcase regional food, a decent Goan restaurant. Possibly not.


(saregama) #12

True, but there is so much “closer” regional food only available in high quality in the north - Kashmiri, for example - that I would seek that out first.


(Chris) #13

In terms of getting southern foods in the north and vice versa. IME in the north there are many places that have southern breakfast staples like dosa and idlis but I never saw vindaloo in the north. I had it a few times in Goa and it is a fantastic dish so unlike the vindaloo in most curry houses in the UK. In Goa you can get a lot of north Indian dishes as a lot of chefs and waiters come down from the north for the tourist season. Where we stayed the first time in Goa the whole restaurant was run by people who’d come from Ledakh.

I had butter chicken a few times in the north and it is was always good. I’ve only had chicken tikka masala 3 times and all of these times were in India. A couple of times were places aimed at tourists/back packers but once was in a place we were taken to in south Delhi by a friend who lives there and was very much a local restaurant. Interesting to see a UK version of an Indian dish being served in India,

In terms of the water issue even if you ask if it’s purified they will most likely say yes. Personally I never asked and in 10 months I only had one serious stomach issue. However most of the places I had smoothies, milkshakes and lassis etc were backpacker places and as a rule they used purified water. Also I was in India a long time and so built up a degree of resistance.