TUO ZAAFI WITH AYOYO SOUP
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What: Back in the 16th century, the Mughals made Agra the capital of India and constructed all those world-famous monuments you might have heard of. So it’s no surprise that the Muslim empire left indelible imprints on Agra’s cuisine as well, much like it has in Delhi and other parts of North India. You may already know its trademarks: creamy, boldly flavored curries; lots of ground and whole spices, dried fruits and nuts; roasted meats. (Some of these qualities were adapted by Punjabi cooks, so the demarcation between the two is a bit blurry.) It’s a rich cuisine fit for a king.
Where: On the recommendation of a local jeweler, we headed to shopping district Sadar Bazaar for our Mughlai fix, to the Hotel Jai Hind & Restaurant (0562-2226541; Agra Cantonment, approx. map). It’s a local kind of place that’s also foreigner-friendly (enough English spoken, A/C available, Western toilet, etc.).
When: Daily, 8am-10:30pm
Order: Pictured is perhaps the richest of the rich Mughlai-derived Punjabi dishes: butter chicken (160/300 rupees for half/full order), in which butter, tomato, cream, and lots of spices form the plentiful gravy. No wonder it’s highly addictive! Subtly spicy and a bit sweet, this dish is a favorite in Delhi as well. Pair it with a freshly baked naan (30 rupees)—butter naan if you can handle it. Also consider the mutton korma and, on the veg side, kadhai paneer, malai kofta, or the delicious baingan ka bharta, a mashed eggplant, tomato, and onion dish. As always, a cool lassi (with no ice) brings a nice balance to this heavy food.
Alternatively: There are many options, some much more touristy and/or expensive than others. Guidebook-approved Park Restaurant (Taj Rd., approx. map), also in Sadar Bazaar, attracts a mix of locals and visitors; Only (91-562-222-6834; 45, Taj Rd, corner The Mall, map) is popular, but a bit more touristy. For a fancier experience, consider the award-winning Peshawri (ITC Mughal hotel, Taj Ganj, map), sister to Delhi’s renowned Bukhara restaurant, or, for distant (daytime) Taj views with your (pricey) chicken, the Mughal Room (54, Taj Rd., map), on the rooftop of the Hotel Clarks Shiraz.
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