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On a thali trail: Meandering through Delhi's state bhavans

Last updated on: November 27, 2013 17:32 IST

Photographs: Harnoor Channi-Tiwary Harnoor Channi-Tiwary

Delhi’s hidden secrets for food lovers

Though Delhi has enough food options to deserve its unofficial title of being the Gastronomical Capital of India, there is a hidden secret that even many locals are not aware of. The beauty of Delhi’s diversity lies in the kitchens of people from all over the country who bring with them a vast variety of flavours and cuisines. Thus, what is termed as ‘Indian Food’ (which is usually just Mughlai/ Punjabi food) is just the tip of the iceberg of what the country has to offer one’s palate. So where does one go to best explore these cuisines?

State Bhawans are the answer to all your questions.

Guesthouses of sorts for politicians and state officials, these bhawans also each have a canteen that serves food local to that state. Most of the canteens are open for the public and are very reasonably priced. With cooks originally hailing from the respective states, the food is as authentic as it comes. Andhra Bhawan is the first thing that comes to mind when one mentions State Bhawans but there is so much more that you can explore. Located in and around Chanakyapuri, the central location makes it so much easier for one to visit them often. Do call them in advance to check timings. 

On a thali trail: Meandering through Delhi's state bhavans

Photographs: Harnoor Channi-Tiwary

Andhra Bhawan

The most popular of the lot and for good reason, you will usually find a long line of people waiting when you reach the Andhra Bhawan canteen. Do not be disheartened though, they have an extremely efficient service and the usher makes sure that you are seated in no time at all. One needs to go get a coupon first from the counter and then wait to be seated (you may need to share your table with others).

Get a coupon for a vegetarian thaali per person and do not forget to order their Mutton Fry; it is the best thing on the menu. Please do remember that this is a canteen and not a restaurant and though clean, the decor is nothing to go by.

The service is lightening-quick and this is not a place to linger.

The thaali comes with lemon rice, rasam, couple of vegetables, gunpowder, ghee, papad, puri and a sweet. One can get unlimited servings of each. The mutton fry is a fixed quantity though but it is delectably spicy.

They also serve Biryani on Sundays for lunch but it runs out by around 1.30 pm so make sure you get there on time.

Meal for 2: Rs 350

1 Ashoka Road, New Delhi.

Tel: +91 11 2338 7499

On a thali trail: Meandering through Delhi's state bhavans

Photographs: Harnoor Channi-Tiwary

Assam Bhawan

A state that many of us are largely unfamiliar with, Assam Bhawan’s restaurant Jakoi is a pleasant surprise. So much so that when you visit, you wonder why more people don’t know about it. Aesthetically set up, unlike most other state canteens, Jakoi is also priced slightly higher than the others. But for good reason.

The Parampara Thaali is the way to go here if you don’t know your way around their elaborate menu. Priced at Rs 450, it’s on the expensive side but ordered with a side dish, it can be shared as well.

Served in an antique looking bell metal dish and bowls, the thaali includes 2 vegetables, dal, a lip smacking duck or pigeon curry, steamed fish, fish curry, rice, sweet and a few more items. There are also some interesting pastes typical to this region that come with it.

Value for money, the food is authentic and tasty, even if the flavours are not something that you have tried before. A must do. 

Meal for 2: Rs 700

1 Sardar Patel Marg, Chanakyapuri

Tel: +91 11 2687 7111

On a thali trail: Meandering through Delhi's state bhavans

Photographs: Harnoor Channi-Tiwary

Goa Niwas

Goan food has always caught the fancy of diners. With varied tastes like the spicy Vindaloo and the layered Bebinca, the cuisine has something for everyone. Goa Niwas is tucked away in a corner of Chanakyapuri.

Walking into their restaurant ‘Viva o Viva’ is like stepping into a shack on a Goan beach with bright green tablecloths and a vibrant feel to the place. The menu is written on a white board with specials mentioned.

Goa Niwas promises a treat for seafood lovers with crab, prawn and fish dishes aplenty. Do try the Butter Garlic Prawns, Prawn Peri Peri, Whole Crab Masala and the Chicken Cafreal (in a green coriander based gravy).

Lap up the gravies with some soft pao. With lively Goan music playing in the background, who could imagine one is dining in the middle of Delhi.

Meal for 2: Rs 800

14, Goa Niwas, Behind Akbar Bhawan, Bir Tikendrajit Marg, Chanakyapuri

Tel: +91 11 2611 8370

On a thali trail: Meandering through Delhi's state bhavans

Photographs: Wyrnilla/Wikimedia Commons

Nagaland House

If you’re not from the state, the food from Nagaland can seem unfamiliar. Meats are usually boiled and the vegetables used are unfamiliar too. But that is why you should make your way across the lovely Nagaland House and try something new.

A formal dining area with lace place mats, this is not like the other no-frills canteens.

They offer thaalis here (Pork Rib Thaali, Pork Boil Thaali and Chicken Thaali) though it is important to note that there is nothing purely for vegetarians!

The food uses a lot of Bamboo shoot, ginger, dry fish and a variety of chillies. The chutney in the thaali is what gives the food an edge, a unique blend of tomato, dry fish and chillies, it is to die for.

The Pork Ribs are a speciality and are boiled first, then frozen and fried on order. This makes the exterior crispy and the meat inside melt in your mouth.

Meal for 2: Rs 420

29 Aurangzeb Road, near Delhi Race Course

Tel: +91 11 2301 5638 

Others worth a mention

Tamil Nadu Bhawan: Good for breakfast with soft idlis, dosas and vadas to wash down with a mean filter coffee. (Off Africa Avenue; Chanakyapuri; 91-11-2419-3100)

J&K House: Was popular for the delicious Goshtaba, Roghan Josh and Seekh Kebabs but has recently closed its doors for the general public. Call to reconfirm. (9 Kautilya Marg, Chanakyapuri; 91-11-2611-2021)

Sikkim House: A great place for a fix of momos and Chinese fare. (14 Panchsheel Marg; Chanakyapuri; 91-11-2611-5171)

Maharashtra Sadan: Fabulous for Chicken Kohlapuri, Puran Poli and Nariyal Beans. (Copernicus Marg, New Delhi. Tel# 23387285-89)