Is regional cuisine missing from restaurants in Delhi?

Is regional cuisine missing from restaurants in Delhi?

By SWATI SINGH | | 27 February, 2016
Clockwise from left to right: Assamese thali, Dalbati choorma, Fried ilish, Khaman dhokla.

They say, India is a country where food habits change every 100 kilometres. The sunny side of plurality that lies within the roots of this nation is reflected not only in terms of language, festivities, performing arts but also cuisine. A typical Indian dish is different from the rest of the world in taste as much as in its cooking style. In fact, the culinary habits of the incredible Indian has been shaped over time and is centuries old, as old as the birth of any civilization, be it the Mughal era or the Chauhan dynasty, the rich legacy of which has attracted foodies globally.

Exotic as it may sound, India is the land of spices. So it goes without saying that spices is the key ingredient to any Indian dish, be it the Tamilian’s chettinad chicken or the Bengali’s shorshe ilish. Spices in India are homegrown and every state has spices typical to its region which then becomes a must in the dish prepared, for instance, the heavy use of dessicated coconut in almost every dish down South. This is what makes the dining experience of every regional cuisine worth a dime. These spices not only give a unique taste to the dishes but is, seriously speaking, irreplaceable. Imagine a dish from the South Indian states without its ‘spice hero’, the gunpowder!

Globalization has given immense leverage to the regional food market of India. However, it is really sad that the NCR, has failed to incorporate the cosmopolitan culture of neighbouring Delhi. As latest statistics from Zomato show, in Delhi around 11000 restaurants are there serving different cuisine and in Noida, there are roughly 1300 in which nearly 600 serve ‘North Indian’ food and 110 serve Mughlai.  Approximately 90 restaurants serve dishes from the South. There are only five restaurants serving Bengali cuisine, one serving Rajasthani, one serving Odisha and three serving Andhra food. Other state cuisine are nowhere to be found!

One may argue and justifiably so that neighbouring Delhi  has places like Dilli Haat is a window for every food enthusiast to dig into the plethora of options that he/she can get given the wide array of food stalls from all parts of the country. However not everyone from Noida may wish to travel all the way to Delhi or be in a position to afford food from Dilli Haat.

With these thoughts in mind, I spoke to a few people from other states living in Noida and most of them echoed my thoughts.

Diya Goswami, who claims to be a pakka baangali, said, “Well, it would be nice to have some authentic Bengali khaabar here. It becomes an issue when you have guests coming over and they want to taste authentic Bengali food, food that I find difficult to cook at home. Besides, people in Noida cannot be living in a ghettoised manner anymore. They need to be exposed to multicultural and multiregional cuisine.”

Praduman Singh, hailing from Rajasthan said, “I haven’t found any place so far which serves authentic dal bati. You see Rajasthani cuisine is very spicy. Since we grow chillis, we like spicy food. But the food in the few places served here are prepared according to the average appetite of a Delhiwaala.”

“I miss having chilla in Delhi. During my school days, I used to get chilla for lunch. I have heard that is is available only in Chattisgarh Bhawan  but I am yet to try that. I shall soon, though,” said Ankan Kar from Chhattisgarh, all smiles.

All said, the lack of availability of food items from most other states in Noida’s market has to be perhaps also understood from the perspective of how dominant forces function in the market. It was then that I spoke to a local restauranteur, who shared with me something that cannot be overlooked altogether, “We don’t find other cuisine to be more profitable in terms of sale, because maximum number of customers prefer North Indian or the Mughlai cuisine. Some others also prefer cuisine from the South. That is predominantly why we serve  mostly these cuisines.”

One cannot disagree more. It is to the common knowledge of everyone that most food outlets today are running solely on the basis of their pseudo ‘North Indian’ and ‘South Indian’ delights not just in Delhi and the NCR but across the length and border of India.

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