Discover the Franco-Tamil culinary scene in Puducherry
Out of Chennai (148 km)
Puducherry is a fascinating mélange of French and Tamil culture, and the city’s foodscape is testament to that. Make Tanto, located near the airport, your first stop. It grows its own vegetables, makes its own pasta and all the recipes come from the Italian proprietor’s mother – call for the delish, thin-crust wood-fired pizzas. Once in the city, head to New Banana Café and dive right into the galette, a savoury buckwheat crêpe stuffed with tomatoes, cheese and olives. If all the savoury goodness has your sweet tooth tingling, stop by Zuka and call for the hot chocolate – it arrives with a spoon made of chocolate and two cubes of grated chocolate to be mixed into the already-luscious beverage. For breakfast the next day, head to the whimsical Café Des Arts, located in a converted Franco-Tamil house, and order the croque monsieur, a ham-and-cheese grilled sandwich. If all the French delicacies have brought on a slight homesickness, stave it all off with a fabulous Tamil meal at Hotel Sri Kamatchi. As you mop up the vanjaram curry with fluffy kal dosai, ponder over where you’ll eat next – there’s plenty left.
Dig into kachoris and more in Bikaner, Rajasthan
Out of Delhi (460 km)
In Bikaner, Rajasthan, you’ll smell the food before you see (and eat) it – it’s the smell of freshly-roasted jeera and sugary chashni hanging in the air. Follow it and, soon enough, you’ll be well on your way to finding the best kachoris in town. It’s likely that you’ll end up at Pawan Kachoriwala. Dig into crispy, perfectly-golden kachoris topped off with yoghurt, green chutney, tamarind sauce: it’s the perfect (albeit highly fattening) breakfast choice. For kachoris of a different kind, head to Shri Bikaner Mishthan Bhandar and call for the decadent mawa kachori, but, if you deem it too early for a sugar overdose, pick the spicy mirchi boda instead. When your hunger returns (and it will), drop by Manka Maharaj Rabri Wale, located deep in the bylanes of Old Bikaner – the rabri is a must-try. While most of Bikaner’s food is about age-old classics done right, there’s an absolute wildcard that you must sample (and end your trail with) – the camel milk kulfi at the ICAR – National Research Centre on Camel. It tastes as weirdly wonderful as it sounds!
Score some street-side grub in Kolkata, West Bengal
Every visit to the City of Joy needn’t mandate only stopping by the Howrah Bridge, the Victoria Memorial, and its other quintessential sights. You can, instead, just pack your comfiest elasticated-waist pants and hit the city’s streets. Begin at Sharma Tea House – the kesar tea here is the perfect way to kickstart your street-food trail. Head next to Dacres Lane – whether you decide to treat yourself to some crispy rava dosa at one of the many South Indian stalls or scarf down some Indian-style chowmein at the almost rundown stall that goes by the name Classic Fast Food Lane, you’ll have no complaints – it’s all delicious. Since all that greasy goodness is best washed down with some lassi, head next to the famous Esplanade Lane. Standing at the same spot for the last 40 years, the fresh fruit juice and lassi stall here is the perfect follow-up to your greasy food indulgences from earlier. Make Russell Street your last stop and feast on that local favourite, without which no Kolkata street-food experience can be deemed complete: puchka. Be warned: you won’t be able to stop at a few.
To find Franco-Tamil cuisine in Puducherry, the best kachoris in Bikaner and street food of Kolkata, check out LPMI’s July 2019 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.