A TASTE OF RAJASTHAN
The snowballing interest in epicurean travel certainly seems to have worked in Jaipur’s favour. Having come into its own as one of the few cities in Rajasthan that caters to all kinds of foodies, there are plenty of fancy dining options on offer, but this piece is an ode to local fare and street eats.
The no-frills Rawat Misthan Bhandar has you standing by tall tables, sampling the pyaaz kachori that is a welcome mat to any visit in these parts (see Where to Eat for ail details). The crisp, deep-fried pouches of flaky pastry, stuffed with caramelised onion, potato and masala, are captivating spell-casters. A good way to tackle the spice kick is the juicy, super-sweet, piping-hot jalebis, but, remember, if you’re planning a morning visit, drop in before 11am to be able to savour these treats. Foodies vote with their feet at the not-so-imaginatively named Lassiwala, on nearby Ml Road, where you’ll get a glass of lassi only as long as stocks last – it starts running dry around 4pm. Served in an earthen kulhad (glass) and topped with a dollop of malai, the lassi itself re-writes the rulebook on creamy freshness.
Which is why, although the city is sprinkled with other copycat sellers of this sweet-and-sour cooler, the Lassiwala at 312, Ml Road that’s been around since 1944 still sweeps the votes.
In a city that spoils you for choice when it comes to vegetarian fare, it comes as a surprise when locals visit Colcha Cinema for a fix of arguably the best samosas in town. Wash down these extravagant potato-and-pea snacks with tea from Sahu Chaiwalla, who slow-cooks his milk. The other great equaliser is to be found at Mahaveer Rabri Bhandar, whose single-minded focus on selling this thickened, sweetened milk with layers of cream and a sprinkling of nuts on top reveals itself in the smooth finesse of his rabri.
Putting meat back into the equation is a meal at the Islami Kallu Hotel, which has been around for years. Once you’ve had a bite of the mutton nihari, you forget the grungy ambience and the desire to wipe every greasy surface with a table napkin. The meat (cooked for six or 10 hours, depending on if you visit in the morning or at night) clings to the bone only long enough to be lifted into your mouth. The biryani, sprinkled liberally with chicken, bursts with flavour.
A meal at Saba Haveli reveals the complexity of traditional Rajasthani cuisine. Edible theatre unfolds around the central courtyard of this over-270-year-old haveli, as silver thalis dotted with katoris brimming over with assorted meats and vegetables arrive.
In the variety on the thali is a reminder of the elaborate meals of times past. In the kersangri – a mix of berries and dried beans cooked with yoghurt and spices – you taste food born in arid desert conditions. In the laal maas, with the spicy and tender meat, the tradition of the royals who feasted after their hunt. And in the crisp, sweet, fried aubergine lies Jaipur’s ability to be responsive, and create world-fare with a hybrid twist to suit just about every palate and preference.
An eating jaunt through the Pink City is truly a revelation for your tastebuds!
New Delhi, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Agra
Food, glorious food
While the weather’s conducive to gluttony.
Food Trail Through Jaipur, Rajasthan – FACT SHEET
Closest metro: New Delhi (270km)
Closest airport: Jaipur International Airport (11km). Jet Airways, Indigo, Air India and Spice jet fly to Jaipur from Indian metro cities.
Closest railhead: Jaipur Junction Railway Station (JP). Take the 12015 Ajmer Shatabdi and return by the 12016 Ajmer Shatabdi.
It helps to have a car at your disposal on this trip. We used and liked the services of Kaustubh Holidays
WHERE TO STAY:
Arya Niwas: For a no-frills, no-fuss option, Arya Niwas satisfies. Breakfast? Check. Good location? Check. Family- friendly? Check, check.
Dera Rawatsar: This family-managed boutique hotel ticks quite a few boxes. Not far from the city centre, it also has a swimming pool and garden. Each room has its own personality and reflects aspects of traditional Rajasthan. Yoga sessions and ayurvedic massages are also available at a few hours’ advance notice.
Saba Haveii: This hotel is a good pick for its large, spacious rooms in a traditional haveli setting, with a great rooftop terrace from which to take in views of the surrounding area. The Rajasthani thali here is what draws most travellers, but a stay here is just as sweet.
WHERE TO EAT:
Rawat Misthan Bhandar: Station Rd, near Polo Victory Cinema; 6.30am – 10.30pm;
Sahu Chaiwalla: 365, Chaura Rasta (next to Shah Building); 5am -11pm;
Mahaveer Rabri Bhandar: Mishra Rajaji ka Rasta; off Chandpole Bazar; 9am-11pm;
Islami Kallu Hotel: 135/136, Ramganj Bazaar; 6.30am-12am;
Saba Haveli: see Where to Stay; 11.30am-2.30pm; 7pm-11pm, reservations preferred.
WHAT TO PACK:
Antacids, hand sanitizer, toilet paper
Shankar Nam keen Bhandar’s reputation precedes it for crisp, fried savoury snacks. Although the namkeen, bhujia, laung sev, chivda and dalmoth are delicious on their own, try them together for an explosion of salty crunch. Not far from here is Ishwar ji Gajak Wale, which does a good gajak. This brittle sweet, created from a mix of sesame seed, jaggery and ghee, comes in variations on the main ingredients here.
CLEAN LOO GUIDE:
It’s best to use the loo at your hotel before you head out. Spend a leisurely afternoon at Saba Haveli, where loos are spotless.
Jaipur is a relatively safe city, but conservative, so dress modestly.
Fortis Escorts Hospital is proficient at dealing with any emergency.
GOOD TO KNOW:
It’s best to make a reservation at Saba Haveli at least a day in advance. The meals are fresh and home-cooked, and prior notice is needed to organise supplies, especially if you’re keen on sampling a more traditional Rajasthani thali (and not just hearty North Indian fare with a few Rajasthani dishes).
Be sure to ask for the excellent ker sangri and laal maas when you book.