Made up of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, India’s Golden Triangle is a tourist circuit that’s packed with some unbelievably good cuisine. From melt-in-the-mouth meat curries and aromatic dumplings to curious sweet dishes, there’s something for everyone here, whether you’re a carnivore or a dedicated veggie. With local delicacies and beloved regional dishes to choose from, the food at every point of your tour is set to tempt and delight.
With the help of some mouth-watering pictures, we’ll showcase a selection of the Golden Triangle’s finest cuisine, a range of Indian stunners that you have to try when in this vibrant, wonderful part of the world.
Everyone loves a masala, but for a more authentic version of it, then give this dish a try. A vegetarian curry that uses paneer cheese, a mild curd made from whole milk that’s creamy and rich, this is not to be missed. Simmered in a fragrant tomato sauce that’s lightly spiced, the origins of the popular curry remain somewhat disputed, but Golden Triangle regions make it their own by adding peas to their version. Piquant and hearty, with a pleasing bite, it’s served with fluffy basmati rice and naan to soak up the delicious sauce.
Laal Maas Curry
For those who like things on the spicier side, the Rajasthan favourite laal maas is a fiery, smoky mutton curry with a superb depth of flavour. Nowadays, its extravagance bely what was once a rather humble dish. Traditionally made with game meats such as boar and deer, the spiciness of the chillies was meant to mask the meats’ powerful aroma, while its robust heftiness made it go-to grub for the marauding armies of Rajasthan.
Despite its somewhat meagre military origins, laal maas is now quite the refined dish. On-the-bone mutton replaces the game while deep red mathania chillies – and plenty of them – add a pleasing spice to every mouthful. Dried mango cuts through with sharp notes, while abundant charcoal-infused ghee does a fine job of replicating the open fires it was once cooked over. Served with baati bread rolls to mop up the remains, this is one dish you won’t want to miss while you’re here.
A curious sweet beloved by locals, Agra petha is a soft, translucent treat made from, unbelievably, vegetables. Made from ash gourd, a popular veg also known as winter melon, Agra petha is the Golden Triangle’s answer to overly processed, factory-made sweets. Soaked in lime and simmered with flavoured syrup, all manner of colours catch the eye, while the fragrant flavours have delighted taste buds since the reign of Shah Jahan, the man who commissioned the Taj Mahal all the way back in 1632.
More than 350 years ago, pethas were said to be created in the kitchen of the emperor. It’s been said that the sweet came about out of necessity; workers involved in the construction of the iconic temple were fed up of the usual fare they were eating. After some divine intervention, said to have put royal priest Pir Naqshbandi Sahib into a trance, the recipe was created, taking 500 cooks to realise this now legendary delicacy.
Similar to a savoury pancake, the many-splendored dosa holds all manner of joys inside its crispy confines. Rice, lentils, potato, paneer, and mungo beans can all shack up inside the dosa, a popular breakfast and lunch item that powers you into the day with plenty of plant-based goodness. Served with a variety of different chutneys and sambar, a warming lentil stew that’s the perfect match, it’s easy to see why this one’s a favourite dish.
Though its place on dining tables remains steadfast, the dosa’s origins are somewhat murky and a matter of debate across the country. Some point to its appearance in 1st century Sangam literature, while others link its beginnings to its popularity in the restaurants of Udupi, where the dosa as we know it today was formed.
A spiritual cousin to the dim sum of China, momos are a street food treat that can be found across the region. A steamed dumpling traditionally packed with meat and vegetables, it’s not uncommon to find variations with tofu, paneer and chhurpi, a local soft cheese that’s utterly delicious. Fried versions also exist, adding a nice crispiness that proves impossible to resist.
Originating in Tibet, the momo is quite the well-travelled foodstuff. That it is largely thought of as an Indian delicacy speaks volumes about its popularity in its adopted home. Improper provenance aside, it’s easy to see why they’re so beloved in this region. Well-seasoned, delicious when paired with a spicy sauce and very, very cheap, we’d happily blow our rupees on these endlessly edible dumplings.
Indulgent, creamy, and very difficult for rumbling stomachs to resist, butter chicken, or murgh makhani, is often considered the most popular dish in India. A deft balancing act of tangy spices and smooth textures, it’s a dish many say is easy to get wrong, so butter chicken done right is a thing of beauty.
Linked to the ever-popular tandoori chicken, the dish’s singular pedigree dates back to 1947. Chef Kundan Lal Gujral kept unsold tandoori tikkas in a lather of tomato gravy, butter and cream, softening up the crispy meat and serving it for lunch, an innovation that proved an instant hit, laying the foundations that dishes such as chicken tikka masala would employ years later.
We’ve all heard the adage “patience is a virtue”. For anyone who’s tried the slow-cooked succulence of nihari, they’ll know it’s a proverb worth abiding. Consisting of melting lamb shanks, fragrant garam masala spice, and plenty of coriander, it takes 5-6 hours, sometimes longer, for this delicious dish to reach peak tastiness, but it’s well worth the wait.
Said to have originated in 18th-century Old Delhi as the Mughal Empire was ending, nihari was traditionally served in the morning, with restaurants dishing it up between 5am and 8am. Back then, the curry was such a hearty, heavy meal that nobles napped after eating it, snoozing until it was time for afternoon prayers. Nowadays, it tends to be eaten in the winter since the hotter climes of the summer render it near indigestible. Put history on your plate with a helping of this unbelievable curry if you’re heading to the Golden Triangle.