Marryam Reshii

Marryam Reshii

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 IndiaEating 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.


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.

You can follow Marryam Reshii on Twitter.

Photo courtesy: Marryam Reshii


Madhur Jaffrey

Madhur Jaffrey

Meet Madhur Jaffrey –  an award-winning actress, cookbook author and the host of TV cooking shows that helped demystify Indian cooking. Born in British India, Jaffrey went to London to study acting and relocated to the USA in the late 1950s. She currently lives in New York with her family.

When Jaffrey moved to England she had no inkling on how to cook. A craving for Indian food prompted her tentative culinary journey in her English kitchen. She started off by making a simple dish of potatoes with asafoetida and cumin   with the help of her mother’s cooking instructions sent via Air Mail. Soon, Jaffrey improved her culinary skills and became fluent in the kitchen. She cooks every day and her favorite meal is dal, chawal or rice and lentil soup.


A few years ago I got an opportunity to talk to Jaffrey about her memoir “Climbing the Mango Trees.” During the course of our conversation we spoke about her taste memories from India, her extended family and Dehi. Taste memories is something she discussed while working with James Beard, a well-known food writer and chef. Beard like Jaffrey was an actor, who branched off into cooking.

What were Jaffrey’s taste memories growing up in Kanpur and Delhi? She remembers her mother’s large kitchen garden in Kanpur and the abundance of tomatoes that grew there. She fondly recollect her mother serving them fresh tomato juice with salt and cumin. The smell of basmati rice wafting from the kitchen signaled lunch was getting ready. Andt he smell of simple moong dal. “This was soul food for us” Jaffrey says. In winters the family kitchen served various kinds of meat that were redolent with various spices. Besides Indian dishes, there was toast with Rumble Tumble omelete with green chillies and cilantro.

Jaffrey’s family is from old Delhi and she spent many summers with her extended family in the city. She has fond taste memories of going to Chandni Chowk’s Paranthewali gali famous for its paranthe or paratha, a type of Indian stuffed bread. This was one of her mother’s favorite place. Although her maternal grandfather frowned on eating at Paranthewali gali, their mother would take them to the place for a treat. The only instruction their mother gave was “Don’t drink the water.”

One of the biggest changss came to Delhi after 1947, when Indian became an independent country. When India was partitioned there was an infusion of people from Western Punjab and Northwest frontier says Jaffrey. The Punjabis came with bright ideas of opening restaurants. They came like a breath of fresh air and introduced their cuisine of nan, tandoori, paneer and kali (black) dal she adds.  Moti Mahal opened in Chandini Chowk during this time and it became synonymous with Indian food says Jaffrey. Within a span of 60 years Delhi and its culinary landscape has changed quite a lot when compared to her childhood days says Jaffrey.

I wondered on what were some of the surprising and unexpected things she remembers when she looks back at her life. The partition was an unexpected turn, her own travels and studying in England and coming to America.