Try an affordable thali at Odisha Niwas in Delhi

This week we launch our guide to the state bhavans in Delhi, and the food they serve. To start with, we eat a flavourful thali at Odisha Niwas, Kautilya Marg

February 23, 2024 12:16 am | Updated 11:39 am IST

Veg Thali at Odisha Niwas canteen in Kautilya Marg, Delhi

Veg Thali at Odisha Niwas canteen in Kautilya Marg, Delhi | Photo Credit: SHASHI SHEKHAR KASHYAP

My Bengali friends and family will scoff at this, but I have to say — fearlessly, and with my head held high that Odisha food is better than Bengali cuisine. I like Bengali food, of course, and think that kosha mangsho and dhokar dalna are divine. But Bengali food can be heavy, whereas Odisha food is supremely subtle.

I make the comparison because there is a lot in common between the two cuisines, including the use of mustard oil and spices such as onion seeds. Fish plays a prominent role. But it is the simplicity of Odisha food that captures my heart.

I recently had a great meal at Odisha Niwas at Kautilya Marg. In this series, I shall guide you through some of the state bhavans in Delhi, and the food they serve. I had earlier eaten at Odisha Bhawan, when the state was still known as Orissa. I remember in particular a great meal of juicy prawns that had come from Chilka.

The canteen at Odisha Niwas (not to be confused with Odisha Bhavan, which is also in the neighbourhood) is open to all. It has various kinds of thalis on offer, as well as special dishes. It is value for money, too. We were a group of four, and had four thalis, two plates of rahu (two pieces in each plate), two plates of fried pomfret, one plate of sautéed India carplet; and one plate of prawns. The bill came to ₹2,300. The vegetarian thali had rice, two kinds of vegetable dishes, a light dal, raita and kheer.

Despite the profusion of fish (and even meat) dishes, Odisha cuisine focuses on vegetarian fare. Potol – or parwal — is cooked in various ways. You will find dishes prepared with red or white pumpkin, bottle gourd, plantain and jackfruit. I love the dolma, or lentils cooked with vegetables. The pakhala bhata — fermented rice, served with side dishes — is healthy and delectable. And I can say with conviction that Odisha’s chenna poda — baked chhaina — is the best sweet in the world.

What sets Odisha food apart from other cuisines is the lightness of touch. It is also special because the food does have touches of other influences, as the state has a common border with not just Bengal, but Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Its simple coastal food, which celebrates fish (big and small) and prawns and crab, is delicious.

Another somewhat unknown aspect of Odiya food is the range of snacks it has. I have been ordering snacks from two Odiya outlets — Dish of Odisha in Lodhi Colony and Odisha Food Service in East Delhi. From the former I had ordered dahi bada aloo dum, a delightful concoction of dum aloo and dahi vadas. Odisha Food Service’s aloo chops (₹ 99 for six) were potato balls with a besan casing; what they called begun chops (₹79 for six) were eggplant fritters. I loved the ghugni (₹99), a dish of boiled and lightly spiced white peas topped with onions.

The Odisha food outlets do not believe in high prices. At the Odisha Niwas canteen (called Arna), a vegetable thali with five dishes is for ₹116; a special veg thali with added aloo bharta, begun bharta, saag bhaji and badi chuda is for ₹250. A thali with mutton or prawn is for ₹400, with fish ₹200, chicken ₹210, and with small fish ₹220.

The food is light, tasty and affordable. What else can one ask for? Not even Digene.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.