How to Dine in Delhi, Part 3

In Monday's post, I set up the game: my father versus Google in a culinary battle to decide which could better plan a food tour of Delhi. On Tuesday, I wrote about my dad's picks. Today, it's Google's turn.

"Dad, it's a red light!" I screamed as we headed to Connaught Place to dine at Kwality restaurant and experience their typical Delhi fare of channa bhaturas (chickpea curry with deep-fried bread). "If I stop, the guy behind me will slam into us," he responsded.

Our next stop was the colorful Dilli Haat, an exhibition center known its food stalls representing almost every Indian cooking style. We stopped at my favorite stall serving momos (stuffed steamed dumplings) from Arunachal Pradesh in the northern part of India. Momos are now everywhere in Delhi with street vendors selling them for next to nothing.

Momos at Dilli Haat.

Next up was a big dinner at Bukhara, at the ITC Maurya Sheraton. A classic in itself, they have been serving the exact same menu for close to 30 years. "It is overrated," "It will bore you," "It is only for tourists," was was my father's initial reaction. He couldn't have been more wrong-the food, totally unpretentious and very expensive, was some of the best I've ever tasted. Their signature lentils dal makhani and silky reshmi kebabs were outstanding. And there was nary a tourist in the whole place.

The next day we headed to Haldiram's for a bottled-water version of Indian street foods. Their Raj kachori (a large fried hollow ball filled with vegetables and chutneys and doused with yogurt) stood out. Of course, Dad was not convinced and insisted the Bengali market versions were more authentic.

For dinner, we ordered take-out from a place called Not Just Paranthas, which offers over 100 traditional (often healthier) and contemporary versions of the flatbread. Their papad paranthas (breads stuffed with lentil wafers) held up against the traditional ones at the famous Chandni Chowk.

For the final meal of the tour I selected a Delhi institution serving not North Indian but South Indian food, Saravan Bhavan. Their South Indian thali filled with vegetable curries, lentils, and sweets has been on the do-not-miss list of food writers and bloggers. It didn't disappoint.

Appams at Saravana Bhavan are like eating a cloud.

I ended the tour by inviting Dad for a coffee at Café Coffee Day, a chain of coffee shops that has refined the "chai-ki dukan" (tea shop) concept. "This is pretty good for Google," said Dad, almost impressed.

At home, as my mother laid out our favorite Punjabi-Delhi dishes on the dinner table it hit me-the only way to really learn about the foods of Delhi was to eat in someone's home. As we ate the Punjabi kadhi (lentil dumplings in yogurt sauce) with basmati rice, and a perfectly cooked butter chicken with home-made rotis, I knew I had to find a Delhi-ite who offered cooking classes and could talk knowledgeably about the history of Delhi's delights. Check back on Friday to read about who I found.

Monica Bhide writes about food and culture. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and several other national publications. She is currently at work on her third book of essays and recipes due out in 2009 from Simon & & Schuster. Visit her website here.

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