For as long as history remembers, Bhopal has been an amalgamation of different cultures, religions and languages. The city--with its lush hills and glittering lakes--at the heart of the country, still exudes the same vibe, a smooth blend of old and new. Much of this is reflected in its food, as complex as it is. So, if you ever find yourself in Madhya’ Pradesh’s capital, we suggest you experience the city through its food, the way Bhopalis are wont to do.
Some like their tea with sugar, some don’t. In Bhopal, we go a step further and put in a pinch of salt too. The Sulemani chai is a concoction of sweet and salty served with a generous amount of cream, and one has to develop a taste for it. In the Old City (the one true food haven for non-vegetarians, especially), head to the famous Raju Tea Stall to sample a steaming cup.
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A staple breakfast in Bhopal, the combination may seem a bit odd to others but we suggest you give it a try. There is the basic light, tangy poha with sev which piled with fresh, piping hot jalebis. It is a burst of flavour; sour and sweet, crispy and soft. Pair it with a cup of Sulemani chai and you are set for the day.
For the best of street food in Bhopal, visit Chatori Gali and if the name is any indication (and it is), you will not be disappointed. One of the most popular dishes here is the bade ke kabab, which is essentially minced buff meat ground with spices and then fried. These juicy kababs are often stuffed in buttered buns and presented with chutney and garnish. The best bit? It is made-to-order, so you are guaranteed a fresh, melt-in-your-mouth treat.
Another treat in Chatori Gali is the wholesome paya soup. A meal in itself, it is a delight in the winters. The soup is cooked for a whole day with mutton and spices and unlike in other parts of the country, the paya in Bhopal is quite thick. The stew is served with garnish and shredded lamb.
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Head to the Hawkar’s Corner at 6 No. Market. This little square is full of delectable street food and chaat and attracts crowds in plenty. Try the Dal Bafla here. Similar to dal baati from Rajasthan, the bafla is a round cake made with different grains which is steamed, dried and sometimes even chopped. After frying, it served with thick, spicy dal, pickles and a whole lot of ghee.
It is pure indulgence in a single bite. Shahi Tukda is rich, flavourful and creamy. The fried bread is layered with a decadent custard with almonds and pistachios. We suggest trying this dessert at Filfora, one of the most popular Mughlai restaurants in the city.
Try the phirni at Filfora too. This rice pudding is the best way to end a meal. Cooked with cardamom, pistachios, almonds and rose water. What sets it apart is the flavour of saffron.