It's a tight squeeze, them lanes of Humayunpur!
An urban village in South Delhi, Humayunpur, right next to Safdarjung Enclave, is a hub alright. Many like to call it a migrant's paradise but let's not. A big sign will tell you that you have reached Humayunpur, but have you really? But why are we talking about this particular urban village?
A very short walk from the main road will bring you to NCC Gate (a name as popular as Humayunpur itself). Get past those ambitious autorickshaw drivers and you will come face to face with lanes cramped with shops and restaurants on both sides. You have a choice of walking straight ahead or go left or right...the point is, no matter which way or lane you take, you will find two things common—young faces and heavenly aroma coming from all those restaurants. When in Humayunpur, it's important not to feel intimidated by the confusing mesh of cables overhead. Shops next to you will try to look like any other but if you look closely, you will find a whole new world—vegetables you may or may not have seen ever in your city's vegetable markets, packets of ready-to-eat food items you may recognise by its form but are clueless about how they taste like, you find a restaurant in any direction you look...if at any point, any of these have made you stop in your tracks, you have reached Humayunpur.
Here most of the restaurants serve our version of "Chinese food", perfect for Indian palate. And when not dappling with chowmein and momos, these restaurants are wonderful places to experience northeast Indian food culture. Here food is inspired by all eight northeastern states of India. As mentioned before, there are no dearth of eateries here, be it Assamese, Naga, Manipuri or Nepali, this is probably the best one-stop solution for all things related to a northeastern kitchen. Take a closer look at one of the many shops run by northeastern communities. From great-looking clothes to fiery raja mircha to delicious pork/buff/chicken/offal curries, you will find them all here. Humayunpur is a powerhouse of culture and communities, and not just the northeastern communities as most would like to say. Find a motley mix of Tibetans, Jats, northeastern Indians, South Indians, Punjabis...you see where this is going? Some come as students, like the place and continue to live, some are shop owners, some bring delicious regional food to the rest of us.
The way the northeastern community has grown here to be a self sufficient unit, it's commendable and look what it created! A delicious (read addictive) relationship with food. We all know about Naga/Manipuri/Assamese/Nepali food. Here, here is where you need to be. Go ahead, treat your taste buds to some of those fiery hot curries that Asha Shop has to offer. Asha is one of the most popular shops you'll come across in Humayunpur. Look for their fiery curries and singju, a Manipuri snack. Small but tastefully done Hornbill Restaurant & Cafe run by Khevito from Nagaland is a big hit any day. I swear by their pork ribs and Naga thali. Freedom Corner, KPG Express and The Chef rule when it comes to traditional Nepali cuisine. And to all those hopelessly diehard fans of momos, yes, their momos are great too! Categorical Eat Pham will make you a fan of Manipuri food...what I am only trying to say here is that, Humayunpur is not just a place where you get good "Naga food" or "great momos". Stereotypes are lame any day; what one needs to experience and understand is that Humayunpur, the little pocket that it is, is a powerhouse of culture and traditions that many communities brought together in one place for all to enjoy. If you can't find time to visit the beautiful northeast, find time for a great Naga meal and maybe ask those serving you your plate of beautiful food about their culture and more about their food! Okay, I may have gone too far by comparing the experience of an interaction to actually visiting the beautiful northeast, but we have to start somewhere, now don't we?
There are so many fun aspects to this lovely neighbourhood that it will be an injustice to try and put them all in one narrative. And as we always say, it's best when experienced first-hand.