Marryam H. Reshii is a New Delhi-based food writer, who has her pulse on all things related to food in her city. She is the author of Celebrated Chefs of India, Eating out in India and 101 Popular restaurants. She is a Consulting Editor with the Times of India for their Times Food Guide.
In this interview, which we recorded at Moti Mahal restaurant, one of the oldest restaurants in Delhi. Reshii shares her food memories of Delhi. We were curious to find out about the changing palate and food landscape in Delhi over the last few decades. Reshii moved to Delhi as a 4 year old and has witnessed the city change. ”Just about everything has changed,” in Delhi says Reshii. Perhaps the only thing that has not changed is Moti Mahal, “the prototype for Indian restaurants in Delhi,” she points out.
LISTEN: MARRYAM RESHII ON FOOD IN DELHI
During the 1960s and 1970s there were not many fancy restaurants in the city. Delhi was a town of refugees in the 1960s and this is a point that Madhur Jaffrey makes in her interview on food memories in Delhi. Jaffrey was referring to the late 1940 and 1950s. So, it was intresting to hear Reshii talk about dhabas and places like Moti Mahal that her father’s friends took them for a meal in the 1960s. The standard fare in Moti Mahal was dal makhani, butter chicken and tandoori chicken. And today that is the what you will find in many Indian restaurants in Delhi she explains.
What are the changes when it comes to food palate and restaurants? A lot Reshii says. For instance, there is the meatless phenomenon that has started to cater to the palate of first generation non-vegetarians, who can’t handle bones in their meat. So there is “boneless chicken, boneless fish, and boneless meat,’ she says. “Chicken, for example, is another vegetable with wings.”
Today Delhi is home to all sorts of cafes that serve Global cuisine like Diva. And then there is a new trend of “Chaynese menu,” in Indian restaurants. “I refuse to call it Chinese,” says Reshii. These restaurants serve their own version of Chinese food that is nothing like what is served in China she explains.
What about Indian food? Where do you go for a taste of Delhi? There are two kinds of Indian food: traditional and modern Indian she says. Chef Manish Mehrortra’s award winning restaurant Indian Accent is the place to try modern Indian food says Reshii. For a typical Delhi food experience Moti Mahal and Karim’s are two places she recommends. Then there is the Curzon Room at Oberoi Maidens Hotel and 1911 at Imperial Hotel, two old (heritage) hotels that serve continental food.
What about mithai and chaat? The sweet and savory dishes that Delhi is famous for and is one of small culinary joys of the city. Old Delhi is where you will find good chaat and mithai points out Reshii.
Finally, I had to ask her about Kashmiri food since her family is from there. Tune in to find out what Reshii has to say about eating Kashmiri food in Delhi.
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Photo courtesy: Marryam Reshii