Indian food is one of the world’s most popular cuisines, but there’s so much more to it that the usual takeaway menu staples. Each part of the country has its own dishes, flavours and cooking style. So if you’re a foodie who loves a touch of spice, here are nine Indian cities which should be topping your travel wish list.
1) Mumbai – best for street food
India’s financial capital is also the country’s street food hotspot. It’s a melting pot of different cultures with dishes from around India. Head to Juhu Beach for a vada pav (potato fritter in a bread bun) or other favourites like panipuri (a crispy shell filled with chickpeas, potato and onion), washed down with a cup of sweet chai tea. Look for the busiest stalls and be careful of raw vegetables to avoid stomach problems later.
2) Lucknow – best for tradition
If you want to eat like royalty, head to Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. Their local Awadhi cuisine originated in the medieval Mughal courts, and you can still sample dishes that were created for kings. Many are cooked slowly over the fire to bring out the flavours. Try a Galouti kebab, a spicy fried mutton patty which melts in your mouth – designed for an ageing kebab-loving nawab who’d lost his teeth.
3) Chennai – best for breakfast
In the south of India, Chennai is the home to some of India’s favourite breakfast dishes. Start with a filter coffee, brewed from finely ground coffee mixed with frothy milk; it’s a serious caffeine hit that’ll get you going for the day. Then fill up on idli (rice and lentil cakes), dosa (rice and lentil crepes) and sambar (lentil and vegetable stew).
4) Kochi – best for seafood
The southern coastal city of Kochi in Kerala is where you’ll find some of India’s best seafood. Fish come straight from the port and are combined with local ingredients like coconut and bananas to make delicious dishes such as meen pollichathu (fish cooked in a banana leaf) and crab roast. You’ll also find a Portuguese influence in dishes like ambot-tik (sweet and sour shark curry).
5) Hyderabad – best for meat-lovers
The food from Hyderabad mixes in Turkish and Arabic influences along with traditional Indian flavours – and a lot of meat. The city’s is the home of biryani – a rice and meat dish you can now find all over the world; but there are other delights for carnivores like haleem (slow-cooked meat, lentil and ground wheat stew) and chaakna (spicy goat tripe stew).
6) Ahmedabad – best for vegetarians
As the home of big Jain and Hindu communities who don’t eat meat for religious reasons, Gujarati food is some of India’s best for vegetarians. You get amazing flavours from fresh vegetables, with sweet and sour and mild spice seasonings. Try a thali in Ahmedabad for a classic taste of the region – shaak (spiced vegetables), kadhi (buttermilk and chickpea flour gravy), rice and flatbreads.
7) Pondicherry – best for fusion food
Pondicherry in southern India was a French colony until the 1950s and you can still see the French influence in its food. You’ll see croissants and brioches alongside the dosas at breakfast time. Traditional Indian dishes have been given a French twist – with lighter sauces, more coconut milk and gentle spicing. And you can even get your curries served with a baguette.
8) Kolkata – best for sweets
Bengali desserts are legendary across India, so Kolkata is the place to go if you’ve got a sweet tooth. One of the most-loved desserts is rasgulla (cottage cheese balls in sugar syrup), which was invented here. But you can take your pick from other sweet treats like mishti doi (caramelised sugar yogurt), sandesh (cottage cheese fudge) and payesh (rice pudding with cardamom and nuts) too.
9) Delhi – best for everything
If you haven’t got time to eat your way around the sub-continent, then head to Delhi for a taster. Here you’ll find dishes available from all different parts of India as well as across the world. From the street-sellers in Chandni Chowk to high-end gourmet restaurants, from vegan dishes to meat feasts, from centuries old recipes to the latest modern techniques, the capital is home to all types of food experiences.
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