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All classes: (left) A giant pot of chole (chickpea curry) is a tempting offering from this street vendor; (below) Burger Singh outclasses McDonalds with desi diversity for the middle-class


self-serve interior and provide savory, hy- gienic food at good prices. These and other small restaurants are everywhere, serving tasty, robust street food in a sanitized atmo- sphere, handled with gloves—and with chut- neys made with bottled water—no risk of “Delhi belly” here! Regional cuisine is offered in scores of res-


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was as if nothing had changed. We had Sin- dhi kokies for breakfast, flatbreads embed- ded with chopped onions and green chilies, and served with yogurt. It was hard to stop at one, and brought back memories of moth- ers, grandmothers, loved aunts—all who had served this must-have breakfast. As the families have grown and children


married into different households in differ- ent regions of India, new recipes have entered the repertoire, as well as West- ern dishes that have be- come popular in affluent India. On the menu might be a noodle dish one night and a Thai soup the next, while pizza and pastas are not unusual foods at home. A Sindhi sister-in-law, who is Sindhi but grew up in Indonesia, served us a din- ner of gado-gado (salad of ôõ Rô5ô


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all vegetarian, since she is a Sai follower. Perhaps the greatest treats on my visit


were those served at home by the family cook. Chillas delicious crepes made of mung daal, served with guar and achari aloos and chutney. My sister had different food for me on the table every day, including that made by a Brahmin cook who makes vegetarian food only and uses no garlic or ginger. Since everyone in my family circle has ac-


cess to great cooks, there was a lot of animat- ed food exchange going on. Dahi ki sabzi is a delicious treat I had never experienced, a dish made with thick, Greek-style yogurt, vegeta- bles and condiments. Another unusual dish was tawe wale chawal (a type of vegetarian ôõ


ôGK * ô 3 Rô5ô 3 ^ õ õ ôõ3 of shudh restaurants all over Delhi, places


that do not prepare meat of any kind on their premises. Many other fine restaurants are


“vegetarian friendly,” offering marvelous fare for those less concerned about what else goes on in the kitchen. Either way, vegetarians in India have an unimaginable array of choices. If money is no concern, just about anything 33


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hotel restaurants. I visited a fancy new place called Delhi Club House—a take on famous old clubs like Calcutta’s Tollygunge Club and the Royal Bombay Yacht Club and their signature dishes. The menu includes famous delicacies like cheese Bom- bay toastie (at the Presidency GL Rô5ô Æ


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Saffron Onion Rice (Railway GK


Delhi’s mall culture has


posh restaurants as well as fast food places. Brand names


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from America are all here, from Subway and Dominos to TGIF. McDonalds, for instance, offers varied vegetarian alternatives that you õ


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Lebanese McAloo Tikki, Crispy veggie pops and Paneer Salsa Wrap. While America has brought Burger King


to India, an enterprising desi trio have come up with Burger Singh, serving craft burg- ers with a sense of humor and a distinctly Indian touch. Vegetarian burger lovers also have many options, starting with Nani’s Raj- ñ


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States of Punjab Veg Burger, Chana Burger and Shorshe Paneer Burger. Even middle class India is on a big “eating


out” journey. Global Indian food giant Hal- dirams, established in 1937, with revenues higher than McDonalds and Dominos com- bined, has outlets throughout Delhi and all over India. Many offer a modern, food-court,


taurants, from Gujarati to South Indian. Swa- gath, in the Defence Colony Market, has the most marvelous dosas and a big screen TV where fans enjoy the games when cricket fe- ver hits. This seven-chain restaurant serves Mangalorean, Malvani, Goan, Chettinad, Go- mantak and Andhra cuisine. Elsewhere, you can get everything from Bengali to Tibetan food, and with many vegetarian variations. Vegetarians comprise 30 to 40 percent of


Indians, a large market that gets special at- tention. Even Chinese and Thai restaurants have strong vegetarian components. The menu for Berco’s, a Chinese and Thai eatery in Delhi, even states, “All dishes can be made without onions and garlic—just let us know!” During my 45-day stay in India, I enjoyed


virtually every possible kind of meal, from gourmet to street-fare to home-cooked com- fort food. What stays most in my memory is a grand Holi celebration at a friend’s house where all the food was created by traditional chefs from Mathura, home of Lord Krishna. Guests played with colors and danced to the music to celebrate the festival of colors. The hosts had created a colorful marketplace with a vegetarian feast of specialties from this pil- grimage spot, all served on metal plates and in clay pots. The menu included everything from malpuras Z3Sôô Z


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main courses, including paneer ki khurchan Z3


õ ragda pattis Z ôô3ôG


õ ô 3K + ô ô pakoras


ô3GL vada pav (lentil Rô 3G


ñ1, ice cream, of U


were mounds of jalebis and multicolored mithai. Fresh puris made of green peas were fried on the spot. The bhel puri was served in playful multicolored buckets, in keeping with the Holi spirit. It was a vegetarian paradise with unimaginable treats—and all cooked with pure ghee. Yes, in India, if you can dream it, there are skilled hands that can make it happen! ∏π


Lavina Melwani is a journalist who writes for several international publications. She blogs at Lassi with Lavina. lassiwithlavina.com Follow @lavinamelwani


april/may/june, 2017 hinduism today 63


lavina melwani


lavina melwani


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