There are numerous food outlets and a very dynamic range in quality. The restaurants closer to the ghats cater more to foreign tourists, with variable success. To get really authentic Banarasi Khana you're going to have to get to the main market area or, better, to have a banarasi friend inviting you at home. Benares Dum Aloo is a local specialty, and the city is also known for its desserts. You can't go away from Benares without eating local specialities as aloo chat and pani puri and, in general, the street food. Paan, a betel nut mixture usually containing tobacco, is not really food, but is something Benares is famous for all over India.
DELICACIES OF VARANASI :
Varanasi is considered to be the cuisine capital of India because of the exotic fare of mouth-watering delicacies it offers. The traditional Senaras/'food is satvik — vegetarian — with the emphasis always on flavours, and very rarely on fancy presentation. What the city can truly call its own are milk and curd-based drinks: the thandai, Lassi and Benarsi paan. The city has a blend of the cuisine of the region with a superlative menu of vegetarian fare. There is a string of special dishes connected to various rituals and festivals. In routine, there is the typical menu of breakfast and snacks. Kachaurl jalebi is the perfect morning meal, and evenings and the afternoon are spiced up by samosa and launglata. Hot milk, malai and rabri shops mushroom on roads and streets in the evenings.
Subah-e-Benaras in cludes a morning dip in the Ganges and a darshan in the mandlr, and is generally followed by the in- take of the truly Benarsi naashta— Kachaurl- Jalebl, Every quintessential Benarsi relishes the hot kachaurls (stuffed purls) and spicy tarkari (vegetable curry). The sight of kachauris simmering golden in the kadhais and jalebis swimming in a vessel of shira is syn- onymous with the sights and sounds of Varanasi. Though the entire city boasts of corner side shops preparing this staple Benarsi breakfast, a few names like Vishwanath Bhandaar at Vishweshwar- ganj, and Shivnath Halwai in Chetganj stand tall among this list.
Doodh hi Doodh:
Milk is still a passion in the abode of Shiva and the popularity of lactal delicacies remain unchallenged in the city. The summer season offers frothing Lassi as the ul- timate cooler to soothe the senses. There are many Lassi shops in the city, the leaders of the pack be- ing Chunna Sardar of Chetganj, Dwarikapuri at Chowk, Punna Sardar at Thatheri Bazaar, Pahalvan at Lanka and the Lassi stall at Ramnagar. Another desi drink of the city is the thandai. The real Benar- si thandhai is spiced with kesar, malai, curd and al- monds, all mixed with shira. Thandhai has been the prime cold drink of the Bahari Alang, which is pic- nicking Varanasi style, along with another culinary delight called the bati chokha. It is still commonly found in Gujarati families of the city, and is a must at all their functions, be it a birthday or a marriage. The bitter heat of summers is staved by a refresh- ing saunf and nimboo thandhai, sometimes spiked with bhang. In the monsoons, mango and of jamun are in demand. Thandhai is also an inseparable part of the nightlife of the city, as visitors generally walk in to savour these delights after sundown.The main thandhai shops of the city are located at Godulai crossing and Bansphatak. Milmade delicacies in winters take the shape of malai and ruton that are made by thickening milk. The shops selling Lassi and curd in summer, switch to rabri and malai in winter. But one of the most unique preparations of milk in the winters is the mallaiyo. Yellow in colour, it is pre- pared by first thickening milk over fire and then leav- ing it to be foamed in contact with dew during the night. In the morning the same foam is taken in a kadhai and then sold as mallaiyo.
Samosas, Kachauris and Sohals:
The ideal evenings in Varanasi are accompanied by the munching of crispy samosas, chatpata chaat and sohals and sweet lavanglatas. In winters lavanglatas and imartis are complemented with hot milk. Though samosas and sohal are available every- where at sweet shops in the city, some shops like Jalyog and Madhur Milan, at Godaulia and Sigra re- spectively, are famous in this quarter. Chaat stalls too abound in the city serving some spicy tikkis and tangy golgappas. Shops like the Deena Chat Bhan- daar and Kashi Chat Bhandar are the leaders of the pack.
There is hardly any by-lane in Varanasi that does not boast of a popular sweet shop. Made of khoa and chhena, Benarsi mithais like malai malpuas, gu-jhias, lalpedas, kalakand, khirmohan, and khirkadan, besides hundreds of other sweets, tickle your taste buds long after you've had them. The area spanning Thatheri Bazaar, Nandan Sahu Lane and Chaukhambha, to the areas of Pukka Mahal and Bramhanal, is the best place to have these delicacies. Ram Bhandaar, is perhaps the most renowned sweet shop of the city that has catered to locals as well as tourists for about a century. A unique blend of premium sweets made of khoa, mewa and pista, makes up the menu of the shop that is located in Chaukhambha and has also another branch at Rathyatra. Most popular among the sweetmeats available here are butter burfi, karanshahi burfi and mango burfi. Besides, radhaphya, malai sandwich, malai gilauri, Daas Ka laddu, and coconut, almond and pista chooda are also popular.
The shop is famous for its miniature pedas and khirmohans. The yellow peda, nick- named chandrakala is yet another stellar offering of this shop, whose khoa sweets are the most popular. Kuber Bhandaar, is perhaps the lone sweet shop in India that exclusively sells sweet-meats for those on vrat (religious fasts). Rasra/and rasmadhuri, are just two of the specialties of this 50-year-old shop. Madhur Jalpan, another old sweet shop located A near tne Bansphatak, specialises in maal Pua and JaletJas (tne big brother gal Sweet House, Basant Bahar, Brindavan, Vaishali Sweets, Vishwanath Bhandaar and Kamdhenu Sweets.
South Indian Cuisine:
The heady aroma of South Indian food wafts from almost all restaurants including the starred hotels. But only a few genuine South-Indian restaurants, like Aiyar's Cafe and Kerala Cafe, exist in the city. Annapurna at Ramkatora and Naivedyam at Mehmoorganj SPrunS UP in Mysore Masala, Malabar Masala, Coorgi Masala, besides uttappam, upma and a special South Indian meal. Its welcome drink, Butter Milk, adds an- other distinct facet to its menu. Like Annapurna, Naivedyam too is full of the delectable fragrance of Malyali cuisine. The larger than life Family Dosa, Cheese and Dhania Dosas are just some of the va rieties on offer here. Special idlis, like the Kanjivuram Idli, Stuffed Idli, Chilly Idli and Idli Burger add to its distinctive flavour.
Many restaurants in the city are multi-cuisine ones, offering an assortment of Indian, Continental and Chinese food. The popular ones in this category are Poonam at Pradeep Hotel (Jagatganj), Shahi and Rahil at Rathyatra, Chahat at Sigra and Aman (Veg and Non-veg) at New Colony.
Chinese and Thai Food:
Like elsewhere in the country, there is a growing demand for oriental cuisine, especially Chinese and Thai. In this category is the Golden Dragon restau rant at Hotel India (Nadesar) which serves the choicest Chinese and Thai food.
The city has two rooftop restaurants at Hotel Vaibhav (Nadesar) and Hotel Pradeep (Jagatganj). Eden, at Pradeep Hotel has become a very popular joint, especially during the summer evenings and sunny winter days.
Situated on the highways connecting the city with Allahabad and Jaunpur, these new age dhabas serve as perfect culi nary haunts and brief stopovers on a week- end retreat. A drive to Sanjha-Chulha, Sahara and Savera on the Varanasi-Jaunpur route, and Khana- Khazana and Thikana on other routes are worth the trouble, especially as a family outing.