Culinary invasion — that’s what Delhi has been witnessing from time to time. And this time, it’s from the southern part of India. Till now, Dakshin at Sheraton New Delhi and Swagath were the only restaurants offering specialties from various Southern and coastal states. But the capital has witnessed a slew of specialty South Indian and coastal cuisine restaurants setting shop in recent months—the popular Gunpowder in Hauz Khas Village, Kaustubh in Saket, Poppadom in Mehrauli, and Zambar in Gurgaon.
“Delhiites are experiencing a new flavour, hitherto unexplored,” says Payal Juhar of Poppadom, which specialises in Andhra cuisines. “And they are lapping it up.” The light and non-oily nature of southern cuisines have always been a plus point. But that isn’t all what the Capital is chomping on. People are discovering that south Indian food is about much more than coconut flavoured dishes, light snacks and bland curd rice. In fact, it is as much, if not more, about spices as it is in north India.
“The Chettinad cuisine, especially the vegetarian preparations, are most in demand,” says Kunal Guha of Kaustubh. Coastal specialties from Andhra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are also hot favourites, with fish, crab, prawn and pork items much in demand. “The squid thoron is also finding takers. This means that people are now ready to experiment,” says Chef Bakshish Dean of Zambar in Ambience Mall, who “hasn’t altered southern tastes to suit the north Indian palate”.
But others feel Delhi has a long way to go before it gets its south Indian right. “For the middle class consumer, authentic coastal cuisine is still hard to find,” says writer Jigeesh AM.
Vindaloo is a Konkani dish originally from Goa. It’s made with meat (mostly) pork, wine and garlic
Avial, made with vegetables, curd and coconut, is an important dish in Kerala and Tamil Nadu
Bisi Bele bhaath (hot lentil rice) has its origins in Karnataka. It can be eaten by itself or with pickle