“That smells so weird….”
“Eww, why are the paper towels yellow?!”
“Ria’s eating Oprah!!”
“What is that smell??!?”
In fourth grade, my mom packed me one of my favorite dishes for lunch: bhindi (a.k.a. okra, hence the Oprah joke) roti rolls. I never realized that my lunch could draw so much unwanted attention, or that to a lot of people, apparently, bhindi roti rolls smell really bad. The scrunched up noses, the pointing, and the laughs were enough to convince me that I could not eat bhindi roti rolls at lunch again. Or any Indian food for that matter–anything else is probably also “smelly” and yellow-ish. When I got home that day, I made it clear to my parents: for school, Indian food was completely off limits. And until my last day of senior year, actually, it was.
So sitting in the LEAP office eating rajma chawal (kidney beans and rice) during our first week was a big deal for me. I couldn’t help but smile that I didn’t have to hide it. Instead, I offered some of my food back to the generous LEAP employees who always offer their own to Tashweena and me. And since then, I’ve been on a Zomato (a popular food delivery app in India) spree–binging on both familiar and new Indian dishes right from my office seat. It might not be the same as going to the restaurants/stalls themselves, but it’s definitely an effective way to make the most out of my 63 lunches here. Who knew ordering in could be so exciting?
Accordingly, I’ve listed my top 3 Zomato orders from the past 2 weeks. And if it wasn’t clear by the title, I can confirm that they all smell amazing.
1-Kali Mirch Chicken Roll, 34 Chowringhee Lane (Amar Colony, New Delhi), Rs. 104
Soft, juicy chicken, caramelized onions, smooth mayo-like sauce, and kali mirch, or black pepper (a #PepperBae moment, perhaps), stuffed in a thick, crispy roll of dough. I’ll be honest, it took a lot of water for me to handle the mirch–but it was totally worth it.
2-Chicken Kheema Naan, Indian Smith (Sector 15, Noida), Rs. 144
I have always been a huge fan of naan (it’s truly second to naan!), but before I came to Delhi, I had no idea just how many types of naan are out there. One of them–my new favorite–is this chicken kheema naan, or naan stuffed with minced chicken. The tiny, flavorful bites of chicken inside made this naan a meal by itself. #Get #THIS #Bread; you won’t regret it. Although you might struggle to eat this neatly.
3-Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani-Single Portion, Biryani By Kilo (New Friends Colony, New Delhi), Rs. 197
I saved the best for last. This Chicken Biryani was off the charts. Cooked in and served in a miniature handi (clay pot) sealed with atta (dough), the piping hot combination of basmati rice, hot, succulent, tender chicken, a variety of aromatic spices, and fried onions was a bite I can not forget (no exaggerations here). Though I did spend several minutes struggling to open the handi and ended up having to search Google for the proper technique, the struggle was worth it. Finally opening the handi with a metal spoon and feeling the steam from the pot on my face was almost as exciting as eating it. A LEAP employee confirmed that this was the “best biryani in Delhi,” and the Rs. 30 crore funding the Biryani start-up recently received says the rest. Like all biryani, however, be sure to beware of the laung (clove)!
Oh, and the comments I get on my lunches now?
“Oh, that smells so good!”
“How long did that take to come?”
“What did you order?”
Everyday here I’m not only learning more about my roots, but am also learning to feel comfortable with them, to love them, and to openly embrace them.
P.S.: I promise I eat more than just chicken!!!!