The capital city of Madhya Pradesh, India, Bhopal city has much to offer in terms of tourism. The city of lakes, as it is fondly called, has a very rich and vibrant history, and culture along with a strong culinary vibe for foodies keen to explore. A fantastic fusion of Muslim and Hindu culture, the food here can satisfy many cravings. The range is huge – from Indori poha-jalebi to Irani chai, Kanpuriya kachori to chaat, Bikaneri sev to idli-dosa, Punjabi chole bhature to pizzas and pasta. There are all sorts of eateries too, from high-end, 5 star restaurants to the narrow, crowded lanes of the Chatori Gali. With the wide variety of experiences it offers, the food from this city in the heart of India, will fill not only your stomach, but your heart too. Read on for a curated list of famous places to eat at in Bhopal, along with insights into the most popular food in Madhya Pradesh.
A culinary journey in Bhopal should start with the almost sacred Poha-Jalebi. In the morning hours, head to the famous Jama Masjid, just off Itwara Road, to the famous Kalyan Singh’s Swad Bhandar. It serves Bhopali Poha – fresh, light, hot poha that is both spicy and sweet, garnished generously with sev adding a crunch. Couple this with hot jalebis for a perfect breakfast, which is available across the city. It is only in Bhopal and Indore, that the deliciously soft poha is topped with sev and crispy jalebis. To settle the matter further, enjoy a cup of authentic Bhopali Sulemani chai at Jamal Bhai’s chai ki dukaan – the tea is unique blend of sweet and salty and comes loaded with a generous helping of cream.
For a fuller meal at lunch (or dinner) Hakeem’s, Bapu ki kutiya, Tapti and Rajhans are places one could head to. Mecca for the non vegetarians, Hakeem hotel serves delicious non vegetarian delicacies throughout its multiple outlets in Bhopal. The aromatic gravies, the tikkas and kababs here are among the best in the city. Order anything on the menu and be assured of delight in every bite. The staff is very friendly, service is fast and the food served is hot and tasty. Head to either T.T Nagar or M.P Nagar for a hearty meal at Hakeem. If you’re looking for a more upmarket, ambience-laden experience Jehan Numah Palace or Noor us Sabah are popular restaurants for authentic Mughal, Italian and continental dishes.
There is interesting food for vegetarians too – try the Punjabi thali at any outlet of Bapu ki kutiya (T.T Nagar or M.P Nagar) or eat a simple meal at Tapti (GTB Complex, New Market) and Rajhans hotel (M.P Nagar zone 2). They serve the best vegetarian food across Bhopal and are well known for their thalis.
Another vegetarian outlet worth a mention is Sagar Gaire or Cycle Soupwalla (multiple outlets but the one at 7 no. market is the best). If you are craving soup, sandwiches or pasta, this is a great option. Their cheese soup, triple decker cheese sandwich and veg. biryani are very well done.
As evening falls, Manohar Dairy and Restaurant (Hamidia Road, New Market or M.P. Nagar) is a good choice for its chaats, light snacks and sweet dishes.
With dusk an interesting part of Bhopal beckons. Among twinkling lights from street-side stalls and wafting aromas of sizzling kebabs, Bhopal’s nawabi cuisines come alive in Chatori Gali, an aptly named narrow lane in Old Bhopal. (Chatori refers to someone who loves eating, in hindi).
A good starting point is the bun kebab stall – tender bade ka kebab (spiced mince meat kebab cooked and grilled on coals) stuffed it into a little bun and served with chutney and onions. Next pay a visit to Hotel Gazala, where they’ll serve you a plateful with rotis and a spicy, peppery stew of tender meat. Or Hotel Jameel in Ibrahimpura, famous for its sheermal, a saffron-flavored flat bread, kebabs and fried chicken. At no cost should you miss the varki samosa, a layered samosa stuffed with spicy mutton keema. It is served only at a couple of stalls in the evening.
Any meal is considered complete only when followed by a sweet, and even on this front, Bhopal does not disappoint. Try a shahi tukda – thick, local bread is cut into squares and deep-fried, before being soaked in custard or cardamom-flavoured rabdi – at Filfora in Koh-e-fiza. Or the barfi rasmalai dona at Surendra Jain’s stall at a tiny chowk adjacent to the Jama Masjid. Perfect for a summer’s evening, this is a handful of crushed ice, loaded with thick rabri, flavoured syrup and a sprinkle of rose water and served in a bowl.
In Bhopal, however, the meal does not end with just the dessert. It is followed by a very special dish – the Bhopali Paan or beetle leaf. Known for its digestive properties, it comes packed with local mouth-freshners. The paan making process in Bhopal enjoys the privilege of being considered an art and is an integral part of the heritage and culture of the city.