Being the capital of the country, Delhi’s opportunities and progress invites and entices many immigrants. In fact, the diversity makes up for the Delhi culture as we know it. Along with the immigrants comes along the added culture, traditions, costumes and best of all, the food. Forget shelling thousands of rupees for authentic flavours and depend on those who have been mastering the recipes from their very home. These little pockets of authentic cuisines in India will take you on the gastronomic journey you’ve been seeking.
Tibetan: Majnu ka Tilla
Banked upon a mound, walking within the slim lanes of Majnu ka Tilla helps you escape the aura of the capital. Little webs created by the streets are lined with stores and stalls selling Tibetan items. Also tucked on these streets are restaurants serving authentic Tibetan food. Popular restaurants include Tee Dee, Dolma House and AMA Cafe. Tuck into the delicacies- Cheley, a sauteed buff tongue; Gyuma, blood sausage; or Tingmo, steamed bread. Also try churpee, a hard yak cheese. The silence in the crowded space may stun you. Tibetan refugees have settled at this location for years and introduced the authentic culture of their country.
Western Delhi’s Bodella pocket has been home to many Chin refugees since 1989. The spirit of the Chin people is now alive in these streets. Have a bite of dried meats or dimsums ourtside the Refugee Assistance Centre or indulge into authentic snacks in the tea shops dotting the area. Pae Palata, rolls stuffed with lentils; san pyoke, soup with chicken bits and akyaw, fritters are common Burmese delicacies to be found in these areas. Many restaurants in this area are actually residential spaces turned into culinary services. For an authentic understanding of Burmese cuisine, head on over to West Delhi.
Afghani: Lajpat Nagar
Trying times in their native countries have driven many Afghani refugees to Lajpat nagar in Delhi. And they have brought with them a slice of their culture and food to share. Delicious kabuli pilaf, mutton pulao; ghosht dopiaza, slow cooked mutton in onion gravy and cotton-soft naans are available aplenty on these streets. You could explore various items at Kabul Delhi, Mazaar and Afghan Darbar, well-known restaurants in the area. The cuisine is light on the spices and comfortable for those who avoid anything that might set their tongue on fire.
Momos are Delhi’s pride and honour but to find a well-rounded experience of North-Eastern cuisine, Humayanpur is the place to be. Find Manipur’s popular fish dishes, or noodles from Sikkim or delicacies from Assam. Something from every state in the North East is served in these interconnected streets of Humayunpur. Popular restaurants include Mizo Diner, Hornbill Cafe and Bamboo Hut. Step out of the limited experience that are provided by 30-rupees momos and explore a varied cuisine, with distinctive flavours.
Bengali: CR Park
Being a journalist, I see Bengalis everywhere. And while nothing can replicate the food that their hands create, CR Park does a fine job of second place. Large numbers of immigrants from West Bengal have set shop in this area and provide the capital with all the flavours of the state with which you might have been unfamiliar. While it is obvious that we suggest you to try macher jhol, a fish curry, there is a generous variety to indulge in- shukto, mixed vegetables; aloo bhaja, fried potato and pathudi, fish steamed in banana leaves are must-haves. Popular restaurants such as Dadu cutlet shop, Annapurna Hotel and Maa Tara are great joints to try.
Syrian: Sarita Vihar
Now, Middle Eastern food has been tried and tested by everyone at various culinary joints. However, we know as well as restaurants charging INR 400 for a single shawarma, that the taste is adapted for the Indian crowd, losing its authenticity on the way. Instead, hop on over to Sarita Vihar. The area is sprinkled with kitchens and restaurants that serve authentic, traditional Middle- Eastern cuisine, nothing adulterated by fusion flavours. Asharq al-Awsat is a popular restaurant. Try the Syrian bread; kibbeh labaniyeh, a yogurt based meat dish; kebabs or yalanji, stuffed grape leaves.