Jaipur, Rajasthan’s most-visited city, is home to architectural and historical wonders like Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal, City Palace and Jal Mahal. Big on tourism and a much-visited shopping destination, it is a delight for food lovers too. From traditional Rajasthani cuisine with jewels such as dal baati churma, laal mass, keema baati, ker sangri to delicious meals in the form of Rajasthani thalis, and delectable desserts like ghewar and the always-irresistible kulfi, the food in Jaipur offers a multi-sensory, cultural experience. Friendly shop-owners, good service and a live-to-eat vibe mark most of the popular eateries. The food is usually spicy, tangy, ghee-dripping and difficult to resist. Here’s an insider list of the most frequented local favourites.
For many of the residents of this historical city, a typical day begins with delicious and crisp kachoris. Stuffed with a filling of cooked dal and spices (dal kachori) or a dry onion sabzi (pyaz kachori), kachoris are typically made of a wheat or flour dough which is then deep-fried. They are famous snacks across the state of Rajasthan and Jaipur obviously has some of the best outlets. Rawat Mishthan Bhandar (Station Road) is especially popular, drawing crowds since early morning. Their pyaz kachoris are the best, according to residents. A crisp, flaky crust and a flavourful stuffing of masala onions, it’s no wonder that many people who taste these are often craving them long after.
Though not typically Rajasthani, another popular breakfast destination is Sanjay’s omelettes. Perfect for times when you don’t wish to consume a heavy breakfast, this simple eatery attracts a huge crowd every day, which is why we decided to mention it in this list. The owner, Mr. Sharma, has been serving locals and students in this small eatery at the Janta Store circle market, Bapu Nagar, for over two decades. The Cheese omelette, Egg sandwich and Egg pizza at Sanjay’s are especially sought after.
A good way to end the breakfast trail is to wash it down with a glass of icy cool lassi, topped with a generous helping of malai at Lassiwala, on MI Road.
A classic lunch in Jaipur could be a heavy meal if you would like it that way. Visually delightful, interesting preparations unique to this part of India, with a blend of assorted flavors and masalas, and lots of ghee. And so delicious that while the stomach is full, the heart cries for more. Many a factor has played its part in contributing to the flavours and richness of Rajasthani food but the influence of the Mughal Empire is especially evident, especially when you head to two of the most famous non-veg paradises in Jaipur: Handi restaurant at M.I.Road or Sethi’s Barbeque Restaurant, at the Panchwati circle.
The juicy Hariyali tikka and Lahsoni chicken tikka are the most sought after dishes at Sethi’s Barbeque Restaurant. These aromatic and tangy tikkas are accompanied by crisp tandoori rotis and some special masala. The food at Handi is equally delectable. The ambiance here gives one a roadside dhaaba feeling. At Handi, the famous Keema baati, Galauti kebab, Chicken kali mirch, and Handi mirch are the top recommendations.
There are tonnes of options for vegetarians too. From sweet to savoury and a lustrous celebration of flavors, Jaipur offers the best of traditional Rajasthani preparations in the form of all-you-can-eat thalis. For the uninitiated, Rajasthani thalis (or any thalis for that matter) are set meals consisting of starters, mains, sides, breads, rice and desserts. There are anything from two to five starters, two mains, three sides, two types of breads, two types of rice and one or two desserts in a typical Rajasthani thali – so do ensure that you have the appetite to enjoy one.
A traditional thalis would usually include dishes such as Kher sanghri (a special bean preparation), Gatte ki sabzi (deep-fried gram flour dumplings made into a curry) and Dal baati choorma (baked or fried wheat balls, dunked in ghee and eaten with a flavourful dal and sweet preparation. Read more about it here). Among the most popular thali destination are Rawat Mishthan Bhandar and Choki Dhani.
Among other popular restaurants in Jaipur and suggested lunch destinations are Hotel Natraj and Hotel Niros. From Chinese to South Indian, Continental to Italian, both Hotel Natraj and Hotel Niros have a wide assortment of dishes to choose from. The food is fresh and tasty.
Sweets and desserts are a very important part of Rajasthani cuisine. Ghewar, which can perhaps be called an Indian version of a tart, is Jaipur’s specialty dessert. Another specialty sweet unique to Jaipur is the Parmal ki mithai. Made of a vegetable called parwal this delicacy is served stuffed with khoya and dry fruits. Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar is a good place to try it.
A heavy Rajasthani meal will leave you too full for an evening food sojourn but the chaat in Jaipur comes highly recommended too. Chawla’s is a good choice for some pani puri and chaat in the evening. The tangy fusion of sweet and savoury, with a crunch here and there, serves as a perfect meal to enjoy with a friends. The puris are crisp and fresh, the pani, refreshing with a burst of mint and often chilled during the summer months. Some of the preparations such as papri chaat come with cold, thick, mildly sweetened curd and a smattering of spices – perfect for bringing in cooler times as the sun sets.
Chokhi Dhani, though over-popular and often quite crowded, is a good stop for a full-fledged Rajasthani cultural experience. From waiters dressed in traditional dresses to live Rajasthani music and dance performances, puppet shows, magic shows, elephant and camel rides, it offers a unique experience. Meals are served under the sky on seating close to the floor. It’s a lot of Rajasthani culture served on a platter and good if you have only a few days in the state. The meal is a typical Rajasthani thali with starters, mains and desserts. Specialities such as dal baati churma, kair sangri, gatte ki subzi are part of the course.
Another popular stop, especially for non-vegetarians, is the Spice Court, located in Civil Lines. The Spice Court, set in a lovely courtyard, offers some of the most spicy Rajasthani non-vegetarian dishes, bursting with flavours. The laal maas or jungle maas is a traditional preparation in which mutton is cooked in a spicy red chilly base giving it the colour red, and hence the name – laal means red. Most of these are cooked in pure desi ghee, making it a rather rich dish to eat. It goes well with white rice or tandoori rotis.
Among other popular food stops in Jaipur is Shri Pandit Kulfi Bhandar at Gangori Bazar, which is perfect for a late evening or night dessert stop. Kulfis are a perfect end to a meal. Creamy, infused with special flavours, peppered with dry fruits, they make for much-desired desserts, just right for cooling off. Malai kulfi, kesar pista kulfi and rabdi kulfi are variants that are most popular.