I have thought about this one long and hard: What exactly is authentic Indian? While most of the world may know us by one dish or two (and we’re reciprocally guilty of the same), in truth, most of us in Delhi have never eaten Chicken Tikka in Masala form. Indeed, Chicken Tikka is one thing; Butter Chicken, another. How the twain met, we’re not quite sure. And neither is curry a flavor here: “Curry” simply refers to a dish cooked with enough sauce that it can be mopped up with rice or roti (bread.) With 29 states in India, at last count, and even more brilliant kitchens per square mile, there are hundreds of types of curry. For this list, I’ve picked restaurants that stay true to flavors from the region they come from, and—much like the houses of states they represent on Malcha Marg—have found a home in Delhi. Here’s where to get a wonderfully authentic meal in the united states of India:
We’ll get this one out of the way first: Moti Mahal is the original home of Butter Chicken. This restaurant does the North Indian classics to perfection, and is credited with the original buttery recipe for this dish that we swear could resolve wars. For a more refined experience, try its Punjabi by Nature (oh those dahi kababs!) or Made in Punjab.
It’s so appropriate that the name of this restaurant from Bengal has nostalgia built into it. Even before true blue Calcutta boys and girls could bemoan the monopoly of other cuisines in Delhi, this restaurant was doing the basics oh-so-right: Steamed fish with full-bodied mustard and chili wrapped in banana leaf, as well as all other manners of fishy business and Classic Railway Mutton Curry. Amazing.
You know it’s authentic because the chili ain’t forgiving in the least. Raja Mircha translates as King of Chilies; its super hotness quotient is welcome in the hilly North East of India, which can get pretty cold. Choose dishes with or without it: all their flavors are honest, and the pork chops (even for someone who loves Charlotte’s Web) are simply out of the world.
I can’t actually commit to choosing one spot as the best place for rolls in the city, hence my generic heading here. Rolls in Delhi are all good for anytime hunger, and the formula is typically foolproof: beautifully cooked meat wrapped in a hot roti. So, who does it best? At the moment, I’m in love with Khan Chacha’s Mutton Tikka Roomali Roll. Other top contenders are Nizam’s, and the Spicy Andhra Mutton at Rollmaal.
Likewise, it’s really hard to pick a favorite South Indian restaurant in Delhi, of the dosa and cakey idli kind. Indeed, nothing says authentic Indian like the 4-foot long, crepe-like dosa to be shared family-style. But Sagar Ratna, at Defence Colony, has been an old Delhi favorite; you’ll need the very comforting South Indian Filter Coffee when you’re done.