As someone who has been using Zomato since 2014 (six years after it initially launched in 2008), I have often concluded that the best thing about the food aggregator is perhaps its highly engaging social media. But their latest undertaking, Intercity Legends, might actually be better.
Yesterday, the company’s founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal, announced via a blog post that Zomato was venturing into a food delivery system that will allow Mumbaikars to order baked roshogolla from Kolkata and Kolkatttans to order Mysore Pak from Karnataka. Ready to pilot in Gurugram and South Delhi, the service will allow individuals to access iconic dishes and treats, borders no bar; and is likely a move designed to ride on the regional food train. Over the last half-decade, restaurateurs and chefs have championed a bludgeoning movement to bring India’s diverse cuisine to the forefront by shining the light on regional and lesser-known recipes. And Zomato’s new move is a step in that direction.
“It’s not a new concept, in the sense that Make My Roots was already doing it. I know that there is demand for a service like this and among people who have used Make My Roots. Though I think that Zomato — with its bigger reach — will be able to tap into a larger audience. There are so many migrants in metros and Tier-2 cities and I think, food is what people miss most about their home,” food chronicler Kalyan Karmakar rightly points out.
Now, whether you’re aching for a childhood treat from your home state or simply, a gourmand looking to sink into different and undiscovered delicacies from the country, this service, once it kicks off in full, will hopefully come in handy. Which brings us to the next question — which dishes should be available on the Intercity Legends service? The way I see it, something from every goddamn corner of India! Here are our top picks from all 28 states, and a bonus round.
Made with sorrel leaves aka gongura or ambadi, this pickle is Andhra Pradhesh’s gift to India. Incidentally, the state is known to have some of the best gongura and has it growing abundantly.
Who doesn’t like a good drink, especially when made locally? Arunachal Pradesh’s most cherished staple, Apong, is a beer made with fermented rice. Prod anyone who has ever been to the monumental Ziro Music Festival, and they should be able to confirm its cache.
A tangy and resplendent fish curry, the masoor tenga is characteristic of Assam and integral to the state’s traditional thali. Typically made with rohu or catla, it also makes use of mustard oil, spices, and occasionally ridge gourd.
Unassuming as it may seem, a good litti chokha can truly wake up those tastebuds, since it employs a medley of mashes aka chokha, made with eggplant, potatoes, and more, along with desi doughnut-hole-style chokhas that somewhat mimic the Rajasthani baati.
Blessed with a ton of provenance, Chhattisgarh is not a state we look towards for food, even though we absolutely should, especially if you’re looking to explore tribal food, which has been ignored for far too long. Of them, the most popular, muthia, is a steamed rice dumpling flavoured with spices and herbs, and a breakfast staple in the state.
Picking a favourite food from the summer state of India is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but if forced, I would say Choriz Pao takes home the prize. Spicy, tangy, and unctuous as hell, this dish draws from Goa’s Portuguese heritage, employing sausage (choriz) and pillowy bread (pao or more specifically, poiee).
Gujarat reigns supreme when it comes to snacks (or, should we say snakes?) but it has a lot to offer when it comes to mains, as well. Of them, the winter staple undhiyu is a must-try that combines a panoply of winter veggies, making it a truly seasonal treat.
Fresh produce and tons of green rule the roost in this agricultural state that has multiple veggie preparations to its name, fashioned by its farmer communities. The lesser-know bathua raita, though, could do well on Zomato’s Intercity Legends’ list, as a refreshing raita, made much like the regular one (with curd, spices, et al), but with the addition of bathua leaves, which is a wilder version of the spinach.
Commonly eaten with ghee, Siddu is a traditional Himachali steamed bun that can be stuffed with a varied range of ingredients like walnut, poppy seed, urad dal, spices, and herbs. Some also enjoy it with pudina chutney, and occasionally with gravies, too.
Step aside, oyster and portobello, because India has its own homegrown mushrooms, of which rugra is native to Jharkand. Found during the monsoons in deep and dense forests, this rare mushroom cultivar is fashioned into a rich and piquant curry, and we can’t wait to get our hands on it.
I apologise in advance for disagreeing with Zomato, because Mysore Pak, according to me, is not the delicacy that should be on the Intercity Legends. Instead, I propose we go after the delicious Coorgi pork preparation — pandi curry, only one of the many amazing dishes crafted in the hill station, which by the way, is a Mecca for foodies.
From pure vegetarian to meaty feasts, sweet surprises to spicy nosh — Kerala is undeniably God’s own county and it is so, culinarily, too. While it has multiple things to choose from, perhaps it would be a good idea to have the state’s quintessential roasted beef fry or beef ularthiyathu on this list. Not only is it a riot of flavours, but may also provide respite to those residing in places with a blanket beef ban.
This one’s a no-brainer. Of all the rich, decadent and beauteous dishes that Madhya Pradesh has to its name, bhutte ki kees is a top choice, plus pretty iconic to the state. Made with mashed corn and flavoured with an intelligent blend of spices, this regional Indian staple is interestingly similar to the Mexican elote.
Maharashtra’s coastal cuisine has options for all, whether you’re vegetarian, pescatarian or a relentless meat eater. But what makes the kombdi vade stand out is perhaps the fact that it is the only meaty alternative to poori-sabzi. The Malvani speciality combines a spicy chicken curry, with spongy, fried bread, best washed down with a glass of cooling sol kadi.
Made with a fermented fish called ngari, Eromba is a Manipuri speciality that combines the pungent-but-delicious seafood with vegetables, herbs and a generous addition of chillies. The ethnic delicacy is known to be indigenous to the Meitei and the Pangal communities of this northeastern state.
Meghalaya is breathtaking with verdant topography that transcends into its cuisine, which is marked by the unfettered use of fresh, local produce. Within it, the Khasi community has managed to put a staple on the map — Jadoh, a pulao-like population made with rice, meat and spices.
A Mizo classic, bai is a gruel featuring rice and vegetables, along with meat, for those who prefer it. The comforting stew is a signature of the state and typically brimming with tons of local spices and greens.
Nagaland’s very own miso — axone is made with fermented soybean and frequently used in Naga cuisine alongside, fish, meat and vegetables. The awoshi kipiki axone is a traditional smoked pork curry, which comes along with axone, dried red chillies, Naga ginger and tomatoes.
It’s not uncommon for Odisha and West Bengal to have near identical dishes; just look at the tussle they had between the GI tag for the roshogolla. Similar to the Bengali chingdi malai curry, Odisha’s chungdi mala is a coconut-y prawn preparation, best enjoyed with rice and simply unputdownable.
The tales around Amritsar’s other shining landmark (alongside the Golden Temple) is the chole kulche you find right outside the shrine. Without getting into the nitty-gritties of the well-known favourite, let’s just say we’d like to see it on Intercity Legends, pronto.
More and enough has been said about the Rajasthani laal maas curry, which is characterised by a delicious spiciness, afforded by the use of Mathania chillies, native to the state. And if Zomato is managing to figure out packaging and delivery for dishes from across states, this one’s just got to be on it.
No questions asked. From Delhi’s mayo-bastardised version to Mumbai’s modak-like imitation, the humble momo has been played around with (and fucked up) too much. Let’s end this bigotry and use Zomato’s services to stick to the OG one.
Tamilian food deserves a spot on everyone’s culinary bucket list and also, an award for the sambhar — now ubiquitous across India and the king of feel-good foods. But a special order calls for a special dish so we’re going with the southern state’s classic crab fry aka pollachi nandu.
Food from this state is earmarked by the use of tamarind, sesame seeds, red chillies and lots of asafoetida (it’s not really bad for you), which find their way into breakfast, lunch and dinner staples. Of them, sarva pindi is a rice pancake, flavoured with green chillies, ginger and garlic.
Not much else is known about Tripura’s mui borok — a fish curry featuring their staple fermented fish, berma. And that makes it self-explanatory why this little-known needs to be on the Intercity Legends’ list.
Wheat flour, semolina, ajwain, kasuri methi, urad dal, and a range of spices come together to give you UP’s popular bedmi poori, a crispy breakfast staple that’s addictive when paired with the state’s signature aloo/potato gravy.
Whether you like to blaze up at 420 or not, Uttarakhand’s now popular condiment is certainly something many will want on this Zomato service. Made with bhaang, cumin and hemp seeds, lemon, red chillies and tamarind, it promises to be a flavourful chutney.
As a Bengali, you can imagine how difficult it is for me to pick a favourite from the state, and as much as my heart wants to teeter towards jhal muri, rolls, paturi, and roshogulla (the baked version of which is already on the Intercity Legends’ list), I have to concede to the cliche and say, I love Kolkata-style biryani. And if it’s possible to get it in Mumbai without much hassle, I am 100% putting my vote on it.
Little is said about India’s own pasta, and while there are many, hiding in the nooks and crannies of this country, let’s begin by acknowledging the Ladakhi skyu. The broth-based dish is made with dough shaped using the thumb, seeped in a flavourful soup with veggies.
Indigenous to Ramnagar in J&K, kalari is a ripened local cheese with a stretchy-soft texture. In the kaladi kulcha, this cheese is tawa-pressed with hot kulchas and served with chutneys. Though available at some modern Indian restaurants in Mumbai and Delhi, I would give anything to try the real deal.
(Lead Image: Getty Images)