This one was long due. Kanpur has earned many worthy as well as notorious monikers. However, what many people don’t know is that this Industrial city on the banks of the river Ganges, is also known to be a foodie’s paradise.
While growing up, a hard core non-vegetarian Bengali like me also used to look forward even to the vegetarian offerings because of the sheer taste of the food, be it the street food or fine dining. Not to say that the non-vegetarian food is not good. In fact, it is mind blowing. Kanpur has innumerable places, big and small, serving delicious food and is a gastronomer’s delight.
I will be listing down the food Kanpur is famous for along with some of the places that serve the best version of them.
Banarasi ke ladoo
It took me a long long time to get over this heartbreak. You might be thinking as to where do ‘ladoos’ figure in a heartbreak. Well, nothing like the Banarasi motichoor ladoos made of boondi, ghee and pistachios by Banarasi Misthan Bhandar at Birhana Road.
When I shifted to Bombay, for the longest time I never tried the ladoos there. I always got this feeling that nothing could match up to the taste of these melt-in-the mouth yummies. And I was ever grateful whenever a friend from Kanpur used to get these for me.
It has been 16 years now that I have moved out of Kanpur, and at least for me, no ladoo has even come close to the taste of Banarasi ke ladoo. Banarasi offers many different varieties of sweets but nothing like the Motichoor ladoos. And believe me when I say, you really won’t be able to stop at one.
Biryani is typically associated with Lucknow, Hyderabad and Calcutta. But do you know that Kanpur is quite a haven for Biryani Lovers. The smell of biryani wafts through the air if you take a walk in Parade, it being cooked in large pots of aluminium.
There are many places where you will find very good Biryani but one place which has stood the test of time is ‘Baba Biryani’. They have now many outlets but the oldest one is as Baconganj. Other branches are at Kakadeo, Swaroop Nagar and Bada Chauraha.
The chicken biryani is delectable, very light and full of flavours and the aroma of saffron and ghee. The chicken is cooked to perfection and every bite is a delight. The basmati rice in the Biryani carries the flavour of the whole spices but not in an overwhelming way. Served with raita and onions, this is a dish close to my heart.
Thaggu Ke Ladoo
Many of you might remember the Bollywood movie ‘Bunty aur Babli’ (2005) starring Rani Mukherjee and Abhishek Bachchan. Kanpurias also remember it because their beloved ‘Thaggu Ke Ladoo’ made a brief appearance in the movie and gained a lot of attention. The shop also featured in the recently released Bollywood movie ‘Pati, Patni aur Who’.
However, the movies are not its only claim to fame. But first let’s know a bit about the history and the unique name of this shop located at Bada Chauraha. Thaggu in Hindi is derived from the word ‘Thug’. You may wonder why the shop is named so.
Well, the story goes that the founder of the shop, Ram Avatar Pandey, was a huge follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Once Gandhiji in a speech, referred to sugar as ‘white poison’ which can lead to several diseases.
He was in a predicament since there was no way to make ladoos without sugar. Thus he decided to name the ladoos as ‘Thaggu ke Ladoo’ indirectly implying that the customers were being tricked and to warn them about the side-effects of consuming refined sugar.
The tag line of the shop says – ‘Aisa Koi Saga Nahi, Jisko Hamne Thaga Nahi‘ which basically means ‘there is no person whom we have not cheated’. My guess is that this intriguing tagline has been instrumental is building the brand of ‘Thaggu’.
Also, a must try is the hand churned ‘Badnam kulfi‘ or ‘infamous kulfi’, a hand churned ice cream flavoured with saffron and cardamon, with a thick Rabri like texture and even taste.
Chinese at Chung Fa
Chung Fa has been there since as long as I can remember. It was established way back in 1955 and serves Chinese Food second to none. I have now travelled to many places in India and outside but I still relish the taste of the Chinese food of Chung Fa.
For me, there is no better comfort food than a plate of chicken fried rice and chilli chicken. And the story started when I first visited Chung Fa with my parents. The place has a very different smell. It will remind you of pepper and soya sauce and ajino moto (is considered to be harmful, but we kind of grew up on it).
They don’t do fancy food here, but rather serve delicious Chinese food, which will satiate your senses and believe me when I say this, warm the cockles of your heart. The chilli chicken, the golden fried prawns, chowmein and soup, fried wontons are all to die for.
Ice cream at Temptations
So many memories of having soft serve cone of a ‘softy’ at Pinnay’s Softy at Phoolbagh. I still remember the Uncle who used to fill the cones with softest and creamiest of ice cream and the way the layers would come one above the other and I would wonder with bated breath, secretly praying for the machine to go on layering the ice cream.
Of course now it is a full fledged place serving varieties of ice cream and pizzas and other fast food. But what makes this place a favourite of mine is the softy 🙂
Kanpurias really love their chaat or chat and it is actually available almost in all major areas. You are sure to sight a Chat Wala (Chaat Vendor) in a nook here and a corner there. Chat is typically made of potatoes, powdered spices, chutneys (sweet and tangy) and curd (yoghurt). Chat is something which is full of flavours which burst the moment you put a spoonful in your mouth.
My personal favourite for satiating my chaat needs is ‘The Chat’. It had humble beginnings. Mr. Shyam Sundar Gupta, the owner, lost his father at a young age. All of 15, he started selling chat on a small cart. His business grew along with his fan following. And now instead of that small cart, there is a restaurant and many other branches in Kanpur.
The Papdi chaat and the aloo tikki are a personal favourite. The Golgappas (also known as phuchka or panipuri) are like a spice bomb. I also love the dosa and the pao bhaji here.
Over a period of time, The Chaat has maintained its quality and authenticity and certainly warrants a visit.
Chai (Tea) at Banarasi Tea Stall
Okay. This is strictly for tea lovers like me. But, in case you are one, you really need to have their milky tea laced with cardamom and served in Kulhads (earthen pots). Team it up with a hot singhara (samosa) and well, you are set for the day.
The memory of Makhan malai takes me straight back to my childhood when my father used to get this frothy dessert, packed in earthen pots. Makhan Malai is what I would call a gastronomic delight! This delicacy is a very special one as only a few people know how to make it and put in painstaking effort to prepare it.
The frothy delicacy is said to be made with milk and dew drops on a moonlit night :-). This melt in your mouth beauty is garnished with saffron, pistachios and almonds and is served in earthen pots (kulhads) and available only during winters.
You will find vendors selling Makhan Malai in Birhana Road and Swaroop Nagar. If you want to visit a proper shop, then Shukla Makhan in Birhana Road serves a good one. Kallu Photo Malai Makhan and Dosa Corner is also good.
This is however a must try. I had this in Varanasi too where it is known as Malaiyo. For dessert lovers, this is absolutely not to be missed
Read my post on Varanasi here.
Paan at Monkey Chaurasia
Okay. So Paan is a favourite with Kanpurias. Who can resist a Meetha Paan after a great dinner or lunch? And Paan shops are everywhere, most of them serving varieties of Paan. One that stands out is the Monkey Chaurasia Paan Shop, located between Gol Chauraha and Swaroop Nagar (in the line of the medical shops).
Again, it might leave you wondering as to the logic behind such a name. Well, there is one more Chaurasia Shop in the same road. In order to distinguish itself from the other Chaurasia, this one has Monkey in its name. Logic of name aside, this one sells many types of Paan but the sweet or the Meetha Paan is too good and it is definitely difficult to stop at one.
Also not to be missed!
Breakfast of Kachori-Sabzi and jalebis at Buddhsen Sweet House, Birhana Road or at Mithas, Swaroop Nagar, is an elaborate affair. And very tasty too. Buddhsen also serves delicious khasta, methi matthi and dhokla.
If you want to have Khasta and bread pakodas, have them at Mohan ke Khaste at Mall Road.
For your fix of samosas, you can try Munna Samosa at Govind Nagar, Pappu Samosa at Birhana Road or Labhedi Sweets & Namkeen, at Krishna Nagar Gate.
Makhan Singh at Swaroop Nagar dishes out a mean mutton Biryani and kababs.
Have the delicious and hearty mutton keema gravy at the unpretentious shop of Anil Meat Wala, at Govind Nagar.
Want to have burgers and fries or the ubiquitous pizza? Worry not and pay a visit to Aromas at Swaroop Nagar.
Hanuman Chat Bhandar, Kakadeo and Brijwasi Chat Darbaar, Ram Krishna Nagar, serve tasty chat.
Visit Little Chef at Civil Lines, for some mouth watering chilli chicken, noodles, some hearty butter chicken and naan.
Talk of the Town at Gumti No. 5 is a small eatery with no place to sit, but serves Into-Chinese food at very reasonable prices and is a hit with the College Crowd. A lot of my time has been spent waiting for that one plate of chicken chowmein 🙂
Have fresh and top notch South Indian food at Kerala Cafe, outside IIT Gate. They are an old establishment but have continuously maintained quality. Though their dosas and menu vadas are very famous, what takes the cake is the awesome Dahi Vadas. In all my life, I have never had such Dahi Vadas.
In the mood for an awesome vegetarian thali? Head to Bhikharam Sweet House, at Mall Road.
They don’t make it better than Pahalwan Dugh Bhandar at Birhana Road. Yes, I am talking about the lassi there, thick and fresh topped with a layer of malai and laced with Kewra water.
Dugdh Bhandar at Ram Narain Bazar also serves great lassi!
And to end it with a dessert, do try the rashogullas at Ghosh Sweet House, Arya Nagar. They are sinful and spongy and to die for!
I have ‘delicious’ memories of my time spent trying out the different foods of Kanpur. Having being to many places now, I can appreciate the food of Kanpur much better. Are you from Kanpur or have you ever been to Kanpur? If yes, then please let me know if there are any other places which should be on the list. Also, do share your comments in the comments section below.
Read my post on the ultimate Banaras food guide here.
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