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North Indian Dining

The Delicious <em>Thali</em>
North Indian Dining
Snack on the go from food lanes and chaat stalls, sample a variety of dishes in a traditional thali, or drool over rich curries and flaky flatbreads in luxurious palaces. The Golden Triangle's cuisine is as sumptuous as its sights.
By Neha Puntambekar , AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Christian Goupi/age fotostock
  • 1 / 10
    The Delicious <em>Thali</em>
    The Delicious Thali
    The word thali means plate. A thali meal is a selection of dishes, across food groups, served on one plate to make a complete, nutritious meal. In a thali, the curries and condiments are served in small katoris, bowls placed on the circular plate, while dry ingredients like roti breads are placed directly onto the plate. Try a vegetarian thali at Rajdhani in Delhi's Connaught Place, or a South Indian version at Dasaprakash (which has loctions all over India, including Agra); for a meat version, opt for a Kashmiri thali at Chor Bizarre, near Delhi Gate. Esphahan in Agra serves both types, as well as excellent kebab sampler platters. For a typical Rajasthani vegetarian thali, try Jaipur’s mock village of Chokhi Dhani; for a meaty one, try Saba Haveli.
    Photo by Christian Goupi/age fotostock
  • 2 / 10
    Delhi <em>Chaat</em>
    Delhi Chaat
    Savory snacks served off handcarts or from small chaat shops are a common sight in Delhi. This food is easy on the wallet and is packed with flavor, since there’s a bit of everything on the plate: spice, tangy sauces, sweet touches, and fresh garnishes. Popular chaat dishes include papri chaat—crispy wafers served with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, and tangy chutney topping; aloo tikki—potato patties served with curried chickpeas and garnished with onion rings, chutneys, and coriander; and gappas—small fried shells of dough, stuffed with potatoes, chickpeas or lentils, and spiced water. The best chaat stalls are in Old Delhi in Chandni Chowk--try a few snacks at the Bikanervala shop--or at Bengal Sweet House in Bengal Market.
    Photo by age fotostock
  • 3 / 10
    Dining with a View
    Dining with a View
    When the weather in Jaipur is pleasant and there is sweetness in the air, find a rooftop café or restaurant. As you look down from your vantage point, you’ll notice sights and angles of the city that you never knew existed. Terrace Grill offers views of the city as well as tandoori meat platters, while 1135 AD, in Jaipur’s Amber Fort, offers a more panoramic and historic setting: Watch the bright city lights flicker on through the sprawling settlements along the foothills as you order a platter of kebabs and enjoy a traditional Rajasthani meal. Delhi, too, has a number of establishments that offer terrace seating; try the multi-cuisine Q’ba in Connaught Place.
    Photo by Dmitry Rukhlenko/age fotostock
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    Cool Down with <em>Lassi</em>
    Cool Down with Lassi
    Once you’ve polished off those rich curries, you’ll need something to ease the system. That’s where lassi comes into play. The cool, frothy drink, prepared by blending yogurt and water, comes in two variants: salty and sweet. Sweet lassi uses sugar and fruits—try seasonal favorites like mango. For a different experience, opt for the lightly spiced salty lassi, with crushed cumin. For the best lassi in Delhi, head to Amritsari Lassiwalla—order a kesar badam, a saffron and almond version, or the thick, creamy malai—or Meghraj; both are in Chandni Chowk, across from the Fatehpuri Masjid. In Jaipur, stop by the iconic Lassiwalla on M.I. Road; when in Agra, try Deviram Sweet House on M.G. Road.
    Photo by Anna Huerta/age fotostock
  • 5 / 10
    Delhi's Food Lanes
    Delhi's Food Lanes
    Delhi's food lanes are packed with food carts and hole-in-the-wall joints that serve good-quality meals on a budget. These tiny chaotic lanes, serving everything from snacks to full meals, swell up during lunch hour and after sundown. Chandni Chowk, in Old Delhi, is famous for its Paranthe wali Gali, or Paratha Lane; rows of small shops serve hot flaky flatbreads that can be stuffed with vegetables or meats, served plain, or topped with melting butter, pickles, onions, and yogurt. Many city tours offer food walks where locals guide you towards Delhi’s best food neighborhoods and introduce you to a variety of street foods, such as kebabs, biryanis, chaat, and more—try Delhi Food Walk or Delhi Magic. To try a popular street food in a more controlled atmosphere, head to the ever-popular, fast-casual Nizam's in Connaught Places for some stuffed kathi rolls.
    Photo by Matt Brandon/age fotostock
  • 6 / 10
    Chai and Coffee
    Chai and Coffee
    The sharp yet soothing aroma of boiling chai (sweet, milky tea made with numerous spices) is a known remedy for all of life's problems. Go join the rest of the city at one of the many chai stalls around any street corner. (As a general rule, crowded stalls are the best bet.) If you want a touch more comfort, you can also visit a tea house, where you can lounge with a book while you enjoy your perfect cup of tea in modern surrounds. Try Anokhi Cafe or Tapri in Jaipur (both on Pritviraj Road.) Delhi's historic Imperial Hotel serves a legendary three-hour afternoon high tea laden with gold-laced pastries (it often also offers packages that include transport to and from the hotel, if you're staying elsewhere), while the Verandah Cafe at the elegant Taj Rambagh Palace hotel in Jaipur supplements their fresh scones and based treats with both tea and bubbly. Of course, if you’d rather just grab a coffee and have access to free Wi-Fi, try any of the chic cafés in one of Delhi’s urban villages.
    Photo by age fotostock
  • 7 / 10
    Flavors of India
    Flavors of India
    There’s more to Indian food than curry and flatbread. Each region of the country boasts of a unique culinary culture, and you can study the difference between them during your stay. For a South Indian breakfast, try Sarvana Bhavan at Connaught Place in Delhi, or an outpost of the legendary Dasaprakash, which has loctions in Agra's Sadar Bazaar and on M.I. Road in Jaipur.; they both serve a great variety of the crepe-like dosas along with traditional milk-based filter coffee. If you’re in the mood for dumplings and pho-style soups, you’ll want a bite out of the Northeast Indian states. In Delhi, try Dzükou Tribal Kitchen in Hauz Khas Village or Rosang Café in the Green Park Extension. For Goan fare—think seafood and spicy vindaloo—stop by Viva o’Viva in Chanakyapuri. Indo-Chinese fusion is another popular culinary style on the subcontinent, and for a taste of those flavors, head to the iconic Niros in Jaipur, which was the first restaurant in the city to serve Chinese cuisine some 50-plus years ago. For a taste of what contempoary India's eating, visit The Kitchen at Jaipur Modern (a style-savvy boutique), which uses products from regional organic and sustainable farms to craft globally-influenced dishes--and offers a dedicated menu showcasing the versatility of superfood quinoa.
    Photo by Dave Stamboulis/age fotostock
  • 8 / 10
    Fine Dining
    Fine Dining
    Fine dining has blossomed in India over recent years. In Delhi, few places can compete with the well-established Bukhara at the ITC Maurya, with a menu highlighting India’s Northwest frontier region. The food here is prepared in clay ovens, or tandoors, resulting in meats that are succulent, and flatbreads that are flaky and soft; try the raan leg of lamb or the dal bukhara (black lentils). Other exceptional restaurants in Delhi include Dum Pukht (also in ITC Maurya), where the food is slow-cooked in a heavy, sealed pot; the global award-winning Indian Accent (at the Manor), which creates innovative modern Indian cuisine; and Oh! Calcutta, which delights in serving fare from Bengal and beyond. In the upscale Gurgaon district, Amaranta at The Oberoi hotel highlights fresh products from around the subcontinet (including lots of fish and seafood), and offers multi-course PowerPlay chef's tasting menus that are structured like a chess game (and paired with fine wines.) Outside the capital, Suvarna Mahal at the Taj Rambagh Palace hotel in Jaipur serves dishes inspired by four of India's former princely state (Rajasthan, Awadh, Punjab and Hyderabad), in a room adorned with antiques and original frescos. In Agra, Esphahan at The Oberoi Amarvilas hotel (where every room has a view of the Taj Mahal) makes you feel like royalty with cuisine inspired by the kitchens of the Mughal kings.
    Photo courtesy of Oberoi Hotels & Resorts
  • 9 / 10
    <em>Mithai</em> Sweet Desserts
    Mithai Sweet Desserts
    Indian desserts are an explosion of sugar, milk, and dried fruits, and often involve flour along with fresh fruits or select vegetables such as carrot, pumpkin, or sweet potato. These desserts are collectively known as mithai. Depending on the mithai in question, it could be piping hot, like jalebi—a deep-fried treat shaped like a mini pretzel and soaked in sugar syrup before serving—or cool, like kulfi—the subcontinent’s creamier version of ice cream. In Delhi, go to Bengali Sweet House in Bengali Market, hit the food carts serving hot jalebis and ice-cold kulfis in Chandni Chowk, or samples a variety of sweet and savory snacks at the original outpost of the legendary Bikanervala confectioners.  in Jaipur, try Lakshmi Misthan Bhandar; and in Agra, don't miss the petha (a sweet pumpkin confectionary) at Panchhi Petha.
    Photo by Peter Cassidy/age fotostock
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    End with <em>Paan</em>
    End with Paan
    Paan is a popular chew and a traditional digestive, usually enjoyed after a heavy meal. The paan—a green betel leaf—is piled with a mixture of spices, areca nut shavings, rose petal preserves, sweet coconut shreds, fruit preserves, and slaked lime paste. Once the filling is in place, the leaf is folded and sealed with a clove. There are a variety of paans available: sweet, flavored, and with chewing tobacco. Sadar Bazaar in Old Delhi is full of paan stalls. For paans with a modern twist, try the walnut brownie paan or the raspberry sweet paan at Pandey’s Paan on North Avenue in New Delhi. In Jaipur, Raghukul Paan Bhandar and Annu Mobile Paan Bhandar in Raja Park are good options.
    Photo by Neha Puntambekar
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