For the love of good food….
Every major city in the world has a single location which becomes the melting point of a variety of food from the country. The more the variety, the more exciting such places tend to be.
Indian food is fascinating and one can spend a lifetime trying to explore the finer details of various dishes found across the country. India’s diversity coupled with its’ vast geographical spread ensure that the people here have delicacies for every season. Each state has a different cuisine to call its own. In fact, every few hundred kilometers that you traverse across India, you are bound to find differences in the food. We definitely love this amazing variety that Indian cuisine has to offer. But imagine if you could experience this diversity in one place, how awesome would that be? Welcome then to Dilli (Delhi) Haat.
Haat is the word used for weekly village markets. Probably one of the best cultural initiatives taken by the Delhi government was the setting up of Dilli Haat. A permanent 6-acre complex in the heart of Delhi, this space shows the beautiful, colourful and delicious facets of India in all its glory. You can walk through various stalls browsing and picking up different handloom and clothing items, curios to enhance your house, beautiful jewellery ranging from low cost imitation to expensive pieces made of silver or pearls. You could also find quirky gifts like key chains with your name written on a rice grain floating in a hollow plastic casing.
Though the shopping aspect about Dilli Haat is definitely intriguing and often ends up burning a hole in my pocket, what really excites me are the food stalls. The food stalls in Dilli Haat represent most of the 29 states in India and are run by the respective state’s tourism boards. Set in two sections, there is a very realistic fear that you could end up checking out all the stalls and end up totally confused as to what to eat considering the awesome variety.
While I have been a frequent visitor, recently we ended up trying food from the Assam, Bihar and the Orissa stalls. We ordered the Vegetable Chow Mein (Spicy noodles mixed with vegetables) from the Assam stall and a fresh lime soda. The chowmein was thick and oily and a lot like the street version that you can see at various places. Trying out an authentic Assamese dish might be a better bet. The fresh lime was good as it helped us wash down the food.
We ordered the Litti Chokha from the Bihar food stall. This is a popular Bihari snack consisting of Litti – a ball made of wheat and sattu (powdered gram or lentil) doused in ghee (clarified butter). It is generally coal roasted for a hard blackened crust and a smoky flavor. This is served with Chokha – a side dish of mashed potatoes herbed and with a dash of lemon. Our Litti Chokha was served with an additional spicy green chutney and a small serving of tamarind chutney. The first few bites of Litti, which was scooped with some Chokha and dipped in both the chutneys, turned out to be an explosion of flavours – spicy, fresh herbs, smoky, floury. Mid-way I realized that maybe it requires a little more ghee to be palatable in higher quantities as otherwise it gets a little too dry.
At the Orissa stall, we ordered a full meal – Maacha Besara, Katki Biryani and 3 fruit beers (shared between us) all ending up in a bill of merely Rs. 500. The food was extra spicy but full of flavor which was obvious from the way my husband enjoyed it all. The Machha Besara was a gravy dish made with fresh fish cooked in mustard paste, Oriya spices and curd. Served in a small steel vessel, the dish was made with the sweet water fish, Rohu. The fresh fish was fried and then cooked in the gravy. There were underlying tones of mustard and other unidentifiable flavours making it an interesting mix. The Chicken Katki Biryani is an Oriya biryani typical to the city of Cuttack. The rice used was a thicker non-Basmati variety unlike the traditional Mughlai Biryani. The dish was much more spicy than a typical biryani and the peppery flavor came through predominantly.
From the multiple previous experiences, I can definitely recommend that you make a visit to Dilli Haat and sample the dumplings at the Sikkim stall, Chilly pork at the Naga stall, Dal Baati Choorma and Chaat at the Rajasthan stall and the Kahwa at the Kashmir stall. The food options definitely do not end there. So, go out there and explore the place to discover more hidden gems of Indian cuisine.
Name: Dilli Haat
Specialty: Authentic Regional Indian Food
Address: Sri Aurobindo Marg, Laxmi Bai Nagar, Delhi. Landmark: AIIMS
Veg/Non Veg: Both
Value for money: 5/5
Food quality: 4/5
Overall rating: 4.5/5