It’s hot, I’m exhausted from the crazy week I’ve had, my flight was traumatic being stuck between a continuous burper and a inconsiderate twit who kicked my seat throughout the flight but nothing can stop me from being excited. I’m on holiday and we’ve just touchdown in Jaipur!
Aah the pink city. I’m expecting to see camels and elephants at every corner, colourful turbaned men walking up and down the street and forts all over the place. While I did see all this and so much more I shall share my Rajasthani experience in another post. This one is exclusively dedicated to my culinary adventures.
I had no idea what to expect food wise in Jaipur. I had never been and my sister and cousin who had been years ago hardly paid attention to the food. Apart from my father and myself most of my family, close or extended are pretty much what you call food inhalers. No one really tastes what they’re eating and it’s really hard to ask them what they think because I get these ridiculous answers like “it was nice” “the chicken is ok”. What on earth does that mean? It baffles me so anyway my travel companions were of no help. In times of need I turn to my cyber foodie family, Twitter to the rescue! A simple tweet about suggestions on where to dine in Jaipur and I’m flooded with names. So grateful I make a list and off we go!
The first place I head to is a restaurant called Niros on MI road. MI road I’m told is an expensive street with all the branded shops are and its city centre or so I believe. My hotel is around the corner and since my cousin hadn’t landed yet it was just my sister and me.
Niros I gather is a very popular restaurant specially for tourists as I can see more foreigners than Indians. The place reminds me of old school Gaylord at Churchgate. Sadly the food did not live up to its reputation and I was disappointed. The two lassi’s ordered to cool us down were very ok. The fish and chips were average, the fish was a local river fish and very tasty but the potatoes were fat chunks and for almost Rs. 500 for the dish just really not worth it. The so called chinese fried rice looked mildly unappetising and the chicken (can’t remember the name) looked even worse. Both very average in taste. I know you’re thinking only crack pot Parsi folk will go to Jaipur and eat fish and chips and Chinese food but come on!! It was one meal and we just felt like it, we had another 5 days of eating local stuff and exploring. Also since this place has food award certificates framed and plastered all over its walls and its full catering to a more international clientele I was expecting a wee bit better. It was a waste. Did I say waste no I meant RIP Off. My bill for two people was Rs 1650 and in my TINY opinion, so NOT worth it.
Post the Niros meal I just wanted to eat some yummy Rajasthani food and thankfully my next meal out was at this adorable place called Chokhi Daani. Its got this entire village set up where you can go on an elephant ride or buy things from different stalls. Get some mehendi done on your hands or watch a tight rope walker. The idea is to give you a glimpse into what a typical village feels like. Along with it they serve you a traditional thali with some mouth watering grub. Personally I got a wee bit bored scouting about its nothing out of the ordinary for me but I can understand the fascination for foreigners and even locals who are thrilled at the idea of shopping.
The food was fun, though I dislike their insistence on drowning your plate in ghee. Also the force feeding is a bit much. I understand the eagerness to feed but really there is only so much one can digest. I had to literally fight off one waiter who kept shoving roti’s and rice into my plate and I didn’t want to be rude but it got to the point where I just picked up my plate so he couldn’t serve any more. I was scared I might have offended him but he just laughed and got me more chaas ! The thali was enjoyable but the most memorable thing was that hot dripping calorie laden ‘Holi special’ malpua. Now I was seriously tempted to have another but decided I’d like to be able to get up and move post my dinner do avoided it. But well worth every calorie that came with it- it was delicious.
The next day we had an eventful journey to nearby Ajmer and Pushkar. We stopped for lunch in Pushkar but by the time we got in everything seemed shut or too far and we really didn’t know where to go. The one place that came highly recommended ‘ Pink Floyd Cafe’ was a task to find and eventually turned out to be deserted without anyone there to attend to us so we just hopped back into the car and drove on. So we ended up at this random little joint in the middle of nowhere because our bladders couldn’t take it anymore and tummy was rumbling.
Not sure what to opt for I played it safe with a nice paratha , aloo puri and lassi. Surprisingly good lassi and paratha though not great. The aloo puri looked a wee bit oilier than I’d have liked so I just nibbled on that. It was so hot that honestly half the time you just don’t feel like eating.
One day was dedicated entirely to the city tour and forts and palaces and the usual sightseeing. Thats the day we had to break for lunch closer to Amer Fort and once again our annoying driver ‘ highly’ recommended this place. Parampara was a restaurant with a wonderful old man playing popular hindi songs on the the tansir and had the sweetest smile. He even stood still when he realised I was trying to get a photograph and I thought that was very sweet. Thats about all that was sweet at Parampara. The Banana lassi though an odd combination worked for me. I’m obsessed with bananas so I’ll enjoy this fruit in anything. The chicken tikka malai was a bit tough to eat and the chicken lasooni tikka was ridiculously spicy. I could almost burn my lip with that kind of spice. Again the chicken I found strangely tough and not enjoyable at all if I can’t chew it properly. Up till now we hadn’t tried the famous rajasthani ‘ laal maas’ so we ordered it thinking what better place than a local restaurant but sadly it was just so spicy you couldn’t taste anything and the meat was so tough you couldn’t even cut through it so it was wasted. Such a pity.
Thankfully the same night for dinner at our hotel we were served some laal maas and having very grudgingly tried it I thought it was miles away from what I sampled in the afternoon but in all honesty not my kind of dish.
So far my culinary journey has been a letdown. Despite not having any expectations i’m disappointed. Very few meals have been enjoyable so I decide to try a place that was suggested to me by the twitter folk. Rawat’s Mishtan Bhandar near the station. It’s one of those non discript places that ins’t fancy but just good food at a good price. I was thrilled! I asked for some khandvi because let’s face it if it’s on the menu there is no way I’m not ordering khandvi. The famed daal bhaati churma though it’s so heavy I was wondering if it was the right choice in this blistering heat and one onion kachori’s. The baati is basically a hard wheat ball stuffed with ghee andd dunked into the daal usually tuvar daal and eaten with the churma sprinkled over. The churma was a bit sweet for me and I prefered to it just the daal and baati. The kachori’s were served without any chutney and I felt it needed some accompaniment so the only thing they could give was tomato ketchup or dahi ! I opted for dahi. Strangely my dad loves the churma and we got him a kilo of just that! One banana milkshake and one mango lassi later I was very pleased with my meal.
I suppose Jaipur really did save the best for the last because my last meal, that is lunch on the way to the airport which was at a restaurant called Handi, turned out to be my best meal there! Desperate for some good meat we decided to try another recommendation and our driver claimed it had the best non vegetarian in the city. Then again he insisted that Parampara also had the best meat and I couldn’t even chew that meat let alone swallow it. A wee bit sceptical but we decided why not try it anyway. We were so glad we did and wished we could have dined here more often because from the kebabs to tikkas and even lassi everything was delicious. Soft succulent and flavoured meat is such a joy to eat I didn’t even bother with a roti or paratha. Just enjoyed it as it was.
Apart from my meals there were a few other foodie treats I discovered along my trip. First being you cannot come to Jaipur and NOT visit the famous Lassiwalla ! Now I spotted three in a row on the popular MI rd and in fact another two on another road nearby so couldn’t really figure out which was the one to try. We were guided to the original fellow but sadly when I got there in the evening he told us he starts at 7 and shuts at 4pm. I returned on a Sunday bright and early at about 9am thinking no one will turn up and I can enjoy my lassi in peace but little did I know ! the place was crowded with most of Jaipur coming in early to get their morning fix of the city’s best Lassiwalla! I have to agree after sampling the lassi almost everywhere I ate to stopped for a bit I can happily vouch this really was the best lassi.