While Nagpur doesn’t usually feature among the country’s culinary hotspots, the truth is the city’s gastronomic offerings will bowl you over.
From the unique and explosive Saoji cuisine to delicious street food, daal that enjoys a cult status and smoking hot kebabs and giant handis of Biryani – Nagpur will leave you spoilt for choice.
Here are a few food stops you must make on your visit to the city.
This is the archetypal Nagpuri breakfast but you can savour a plate of delicious poha (a spicy pilaf of sorts made with soaked flattened rice) with spicy curried black gram or chickpeas, with the tarri on the side, anytime of the day.
The dish is best had by pouring the tarri on the poha, topping it up with finely chopped onions and finishing with a squeeze of lime. There are numerous roadside shacks across the city, (what locals refer to as ‘tapri’), which serve tarri poha. If you want to sample one the best renditions of the dish, head to Deo Nagar to sample the legendary Keshav poha tarri (they open for an hour and a half around six in the morning) or head to Rupam Sakhare’s stall in Kasturchand Park; his aloo poha topped with spicy tarri will blow your mind.
PARAM KI DAAL
No trip to Nagpur is complete without having tasted Param ki daal, where Param has been dishing out the legendary dal from the same spot in Itwari for decades now. It is difficult to spot this innocuous eatery with shabby interiors and throngs of hungry people but anyone and everyone will easily direct you to it.
The luscious daal cooked on a charcoal fire (hence, the delicious smoky flavour) is served with soft tandoori roti and makes for a simple but delicious meal. They also make this quirky fried rice in browned butter that’s worth a try.
When it comes to Nagpur’s favourite street snack the samosa is likely to feature right at the top. Samosas, of course, are ubiquitous in this country but try the Nagpuri samosa especially for the delicious assortment of condiments that typically accompany the humble potato-stuffed fried pastry. At Priti Corner in Shankar Nagar Square, the samosa is a veritable crowd-puller and has often been dubbed as the best in city.
The samosas at this four-decade-old eatery come crumbled and topped with dry curried chickpeas, tangy tamarind chutney and a sprinkle of finely chopped fresh coriander (you could opt for yogurt too). While here, also try their Ragda patties, their other bestseller. Or try the Chhola Samosa at Samosawala near Nagpur’s famous Bada Hanuman temple.
A food expedition to Nagpur is far from over without sampling typical Marathi dishes like jhunka bhakar, patodi and goda bhaat. At Vishnuji ki Rasoi in Bajaj Nagar, you could enjoy a lavish buffet with everything from kadhi and khichadi to thali peeth and puran poli. The food is prepared in an open kitchen and served piping hot. The chutneys and pickles that come with the spread are especially popular. Alternatively, Varadi That has a crisp menu with dishes like the spicy goda bhaat, jhunka and jowar bhakhri (flat bread made with jowar flour).
A culinary tradition that evolved in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region (where Nagpur is), the typically fiery Saoji food (of the Halba Koshti tribe) is a must try. Fiery curries made with trotters (paya), chicken and even offal cooked with special spice mixes (fiercely guarded recipes). A must try dish is the Keema Kaleji.
There are numerous Saoji bhojnalayas around Nagpur. You can choose from among the better known one, Saoji Jagdish Bhojnalaya in Gandhibagh or the lesser known Om Shakti Saoji bhojnalaya in Golibar Chowk.
BIRYANI AND KEBABS
The predominantly Muslim area of Mominpura is studded with eateries, some of them several decades old, dishing out everything from biryani, kebab and rich meaty curries to minced meat stuffed samosas and a range of bhajiyas. Among the most popular joints here is the 60-year-old Babbu Hotel. The Muslim Library Canteen is also known for their biryani and mutton sukka. While you are in the area, make a stop at the almost-century-old Hafeez Bakery to sample their sheer mal.
You cannot leave the Orange City without savouring the Santra Barfi (Orange fudge). Several sweet shops in the city including Haldiram’s dole out the special orange barfi but one place that stands out is Shree Heera Sweets in Itwari. Those in the know also pick up a box of their son rolls (son papdi).