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Varanasi Foods

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.


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.

Morning Mazaa:
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.

Sweets :
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.

Multi-Cuisine Restaurants:
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.

Roof-Top Restaurants:
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.

Highways Dhabas:
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.

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