Online food journal Binge knows that India's pluralism is best served on a plate. From their recent Delhi issue, editor Vritti Bansal shares an 'antistereotypical' guide that eschews froufrou food in fancy pants establishments for fuss-free regional favourites. (For more delicious Binge guides, head over to their Itineraries page)
Ever since a plane ride to London or New York became a part of half-yearly itineraries, it’s been fashionable in Delhi to go out for penne, dimsum and pork belly. We can’t deny that Delhi has some remarkable world cuisine, but it’s become very stereotypical to go out to Yauatcha or La Piazza for a false sense of gastronomic worldliness. Restaurants that people in Delhi want to be “be seen at” are plush but not exactly top notch food, so we’ve got recommendations that are grounded, high-quality and regional—all at the same time. Perk: each dish costs less than ₹500.
You either remember SET’Z fondly for its chic food, or, well, you still go there often. However, we suggest you skip that near-iconic steamed basa (great as it is) to eat a full fish fry at The Categorical Eat-Pham instead. The small Manipuri restaurant in Humayunpur village calls it Nga Atouba and has many appropriate accompaniments on its detailed menu, including ooti (traditional daal), aloo kanghou (stir-fried potatoes) and river snails with Sichuan pepper leaves or smoked pork. TCEP also has a few dishes like steamed fish wrapped in turmeric leaves and entirely oil-free boiled rohu that require placing an order five hours in advance.
120-A Ground Floor, Humayunpur, Safdarjung. 4181-2089. Nga Atouba ₹140.
Pigs that fly
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—The Fatty Bao Delhi is overrated. So, stop associating it with the best pork in town and venture into Humayunpur for another Northeastern hidey-hole named Hornbill. Usually filled with Naga people, which is a great endorsement for the food, Hornbill has the most variety of pork you could possibly find in Delhi: frizzled pork, pork ribs, smoked pork in a variety of combinations (with bamboo shoot, potato, sesame, yam, vegetables, axon etc) and even a smoked pork thali. Hornbill now has an outlet in Majnu ka Tila, too.
104/A (Basement), SafdarjungBehind NCC Gate. 96547-81284.
158 Block-7, Majnu ka Tila. 2381-5282. Pork dishes from ₹220-490.
Be it at Diva or other Ritu Dalmia-dominated establishments, haven’t you had enough chicken breast, Delhi? And no, we’re not suggesting you step deeper into the stereotype zone with a butter chicken or tikka, but give the chicken fry at Andhra Bhavan a fair shot instead. Be it with the lunch/dinner thali or on its own with roti, it's comforting—albeit nose-wateringly spicy—and generously portioned. If you're unaccustomed to spice, roti, yogurt and papad are good for balancing its robust flavour. Otherwise, eat it paired with rice and dal, and later snuff out the fire on your tongue with the sheera that comes as part of the thali.
1 Ashoka Road, near Feroze Shah Road. 2338-2031. Chicken fry ₹140.
Lots of eggs benedict / florentine on Delhi menus (Eggspectation, Fig & Maple, etc), but it sometimes aches to realise that egg dishes in the city are often restricted to breakfast. Enter the Parsis and their eeda, which they enthusiastically enjoy over potato, tomato and even in cheese balls. Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu has akoori, eeda cheese balls (egg, cheese, mashed potato and spring onion), tamarind-spiced French beans in potato patties with an egg casing, and also a boiled egg, cheese and coriander chutney pattice. They’re all served for both lunch and dinner—treat them as special offerings for egg-e-tarians, or just pure eggy comfort in cold weather.
94-A/B, Adchini; soon moving to the Parsi Anjuman, Bahadur Shah Zafar Road. 3310-5262. Eeda cheese balls / pattice ₹250.
Onward and appam
While we like Coast Cafe for its curries and malabar parottas, it's also got great fried calamari and fried fish tacos. We say why not filter out all distractions at Mahabelly and get a vegetable, chicken or mutton stew with nice, fluffy appams. There's also the option to choose idiyappam or a kothu-porotta as a side. Lesser known regional favourites like kappa and puttu make an appearance on Mahabelly's menu, too. No aam panna cocktails here but load up on all the rasam you want—your throat will thank you later.
MA-A05 Ground Floor, Restaurant Block, DLF Place Mall, Saket. 3310-5537. ₹200-370 for a stew; ₹55 for a plain and ₹100 for an egg appam.
Vritti Bansal is an independent journalist and the founder-editor of Binge who divides her time between Dublin and Delhi. Her interests outside of work include animal welfare and human rights. Follow her on instagram.
Journalistic at heart, Binge is an online journal focused on progressive, global narratives and alternative interpretations of food culture. Look out for the next issue January 15th and follow them on Instagram.