This is the regional cuisine food moment. In fact, the ascendance of state and community cuisines in India makes sense, given the dizzying diversity the country boasts of in terms of culinary history, techniques and produce. Not only is the buzzing regional and community food scene inspiring our social media feeds, but it is also giving a leg-up to countless pop-ups across metropolises. Home cooks are wielding the spatula with more gusto than ever before and their pop-up menus are featuring dishes that play up both tradition and ancient culinary skills. Even as home cooks are dishing out Kothal Gahori where Assamese style crispy pork belly is teamed with raw jackfruit, mustard oil and green chillies, restaurants are offering a stiff competition with Bhatt ki Churkani, Aloo ke Gutke and Bhang ki chutney from Uttarakhand. So, if you want to give your taste buds a tour of the Indian states, make sure you drop by a regional cuisine restaurant in your city. Chances are that it is raising a glass to the nuanced flavours of a state or community cuisine you have never sampled before.
The restaurant, which has acquired cult status since opening its doors to discerning foodies in 1990 at Hotel Broadway, now has a second outlet in Delhi at Bikaner House. The interiors of the second Delhi outlet also echo the thieves’ market theme, which is a top draw at the Asaf Ali Road restaurant. Known to serve authentic regional Indian cuisine with a slant towards Kashmiri food, Chor Bizarre’s menu has infinite new flavours and possesses remarkable gutsiness. However, for an overview of Kashmiri cuisine, try the Tarami, that is available in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. While staples like Tabak Maaz, Chicken Roganjosh, Aloo Bukhara Korma, Nadru Yakhni And Haaq offer prayers at the altar of haute cuisine, the headlining act is the Goshtaba. It is only when the lamb is pounded with a mallet, dexterously and tirelessly for hours, does it acquire the smooth, spongy texture of a goshtaba meat ball. Bobbing in cardamom-scented yoghurt gravy, these meatballs reinstate one’s belief in tradition.
Olive group’s new kid on the block - Lady Baga, a Goan beach shack focussing on beach shack classics and other Goan fare astonishes a jaded palate. There is Whole Lotta Ros-ie, a dish that began its life on food carts across Goa as Ros Omelette. A local breakfast dish, Ros Omelette is a masala omelette topped with Goan-style chicken curry with pao. Other must-haves are Rafeal’s Cafreal (a traditional Goan green masala chicken dish that’s served with a tangy salad and sweet potato wafers) and Father Lorenzo’s Chorizos (Goan Chorizo sausages that are tossed in a traditional spice mix and served with fresh pao).
The Hauz Khas Village outfit, best known for serving a mash-up of Tibetan, Nepalese, Bhutanese and North Eastern cuisines, is continuously renewing the diner’s acquaintance with regional food. Traditional fare from North Eastern states are celebrated here and that includes dishes like Jadoh with Dohkhleh (a delicacy of the Khasi and Jaintia tribes of Meghalaya, Jadoh is rice cooked in meat stock while the dohkhleh here is boiled egg mash and raw onion) and Doh Nai (another staple of the Khasi and Jaintia tribes, doh nai is pork cooked in a black sesame gravy). Attention is also lavished on food from states in the Indian Himalayan region that are inspired by Tibetan and Nepalese cuisines. For instance, Shabalay, or minced meat tucked inside deep fried braided dough parcels, is a hot seller here.
The Masala Trail (TMT) by Osama Jalali
As the restaurant has been pegged as the convergence of street food and regional cuisines, the menu has generous representations from various states. There is Agra Ke Paranthe that are conjured up in a heavy convex pan, helping them soak up all the ghee, Kerala’s Idiyappam and Shappu style khorma (a fennel-infused khorma that is eaten with string hoppers) and Madua Ki Poori with Chokha and Chutni (ragi poori served with a variety of chokhas) from Uttarakhand, among others.
A modern cafe by day that morphs into a lounge by night, Too Indian in Rajouri Garden, showcases traditional Indian food from different states and communities with a modern spin. Sample the steamed Patrani Macchi, a Parsi fish treat that has been tweaked to appeal to the adventurous diner. Therefore, the updated version of the Patrani Macchi involves marinating the fish fillet with ginger-garlic paste, kasundi mustard, Thai green curry paste and lemon grass. Similarly, the Delhi dessert Daulat Ki Chaat finds a bold mention in the menu but comes with a twist. The whisked and sweetened milk cloud is saffron-flecked and then decorated with silver leaf. The final flourish is a sprinkling of crushed Besan Ladoo on the confection.
Clearly, these are exciting times for regional gastronomy. Even as chefs expand their culinary horizons, the Indian diner is hungry for a bigger chunk of the state and community cuisine pie.
Susmita Saha is a Delhi-based Features Writer. She has worked as an Assistant Editor at India Today and The Telegraph and writes on arts and culture, films, travel, food, architecture, design and various other lifestyle subjects. She has seriously itchy feet and plans to tick the world off her bucket list, one burger at a time.