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The season is on

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FOOD SPOT RAHUL VERMA samples cuisine from all over at IGNCA

C orrect me if I am wrong – on second thoughts, don't: I can't stand dissent – but this is the season that Delhi likes the most. The weather is mild, and the mornings and evenings are pleasant. The city comes alive culturally from this month, so there's a lot to look forward to – music concerts, plays, dance recitals, puppet shows and what have you.

The central park in Connaught Place is abuzz with activity. And so is the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, that beautiful and sprawling complex in central Delhi. What I like best about these fetes is that they usually come hand-in-hand with food stalls. I realised that when I went to IGNCA the other day. They had an exhibition on Delhi, and yours truly had written a chapter on street food for a book on the city that had been brought out by INTACH.

I had a look at the exhibition, flipped through the book, and then was drawn towards the food stalls that were sending out inviting aromas from across the field. The food counters were at the Dastkaar Mela which will be on at the IGNCA (at the crossing of Rajendra Prasad Road and Janpath) till Sunday, October 31.

My first stop was the Guntur counter. I bought some Andhra biryani for Rs.125 a plate. It was incredibly tasty, light and aromatic, with a juicy piece of chicken in it. I enjoyed it, even though it quite different from the hot and spicy Hyderabadi biryani that is an eternal favourite of mine. I bought some gongura pickle for Rs.150 and idli karam (chutney powder) for Rs.160. The price may be a bit high, but it's all for a good cause. Also, the bottles wielded an old-world charm. I haven't seen a martaban – stone jars in which our grandmothers stored their pickles – for ages. The condiments are sold in these jars with a nice kalamkari cloth covering the mouth.

My next stop was at the Rajasthani stall. I asked for some churmey ki ladoo (Rs.40 for two delicious pieces of ghee laden sweets prepared with powdered roti) and told the man at the counter that I had eaten their food at their stall at Baba Kharak Singh during the Commonwealth Games and written about it too. Is that so, the gentleman asked. In that case, have another laddoo, he said, putting an extra piece in my packet.

My last stop was at the Kerala counter, from where I packed dinner – chicken stew and appam (Rs.175 a plate). They have quite a nice menu with different kinds of dishes marked for each day of the week. Every day there is a thali as well (Rs.165 for a veg thali, Rs.175 for non-veg). Then, depending on the day, they'll give you chicken, mutton or fish curry, idlis (Rs.50) and chicken cutlets (Rs.60 for two). On Sunday, they have a special Moplah mutton biryani (Rs.175), chicken roast (Rs.175) and vegetable stew with appam (Rs. 165).

So let's get going. The weather smiles, the cultural events beckon and the food winks invitingly. This indeed is the season.

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