A Vegetarian’s Guide To Varanasi - Plush Ink A Vegetarian’s Guide To Varanasi - Plush Ink

A vegetarian’s guide to Varanasi

A vegetarian’s guide to Varanasi

Banaras, or Varanasi, is known for many things — ghats, temples, rivers, palaces, and now with the recently concluded Kashi Balloon & Boat Festival (that is now going to be an annual event) even hot air balloons. But it is food that Banarasis love the most. So much so, that here, even places are named after it. There’s a khichri baba temple, a kachori gali, a khoya lane. While food is everywhere in Varanasi, deciding where and what to eat can be tricky if you do not know the city with longest name well. So, if a trip to Varanasi is on your mind this season—and if vegetarian food is what you’re looking for—we’ve got you covered.

Varanasi wakes up at the crack of dawn to hot tea in small kulhads. Start your day with tea at the 50-year-old Lakshmi Tea Stall in Chowk. A regular jaunt of locals, the shop is known more for toast and butter than tea. And for good reason. The butter is homemade and the bread is grilled on an open coal-fired angithi even today. While everyone orders toast-butter here, one must try the toast-malai. The thick layer of fresh malai over a smoky toast evokes nostalgia and takes you to a happy place; the milky and gingery tea pairs beautifully with the sweet bread. Be warned though: the place gets packed rather quickly and even a plate f toast can take more than 15 minutes to reach you. Order an extra set in advance; we know you’d want seconds! 

Malai toast

Photo: Anubhuti Krishna

The heady scent of ghee will guide you to nearby The Ram Bhandar in Thateri Bazaar. The tiny shop has stood at the same spot since 1887 and has churned out the same five items on the menu: two types of kachoris, samosa, jalebi and laung latika, a syrupy mithai popular in the city with longest name. It is however the breakfast of kachoris, aloo sabzi, and jalebi that you must have here. The kachoris—despite being fried in ghee and stuffed with urad dal—are light and airy and showcase the deftness of the kaarigar’s hands. The sabzi is well-balanced and the syrupy jalebi comes with a sourness of natural yeast. While you may also try the smaller aloo-kachori there, we recommend Gauri Shankar Kachori Wale near the police station for the same. The kachoris here are thicker, crunchier and served with a watery black-gram curry. The unique contrast in texture and flavours is what sets it apart from the others: the curry softens the crust, the sweetness of chutney emerges in the odd bite, and strong flavours of asafoetida, ginger, green chilli and cumin, pack a punch. These kachoris must be followed by khoya jalebi at the same shop. The fried ball of mawa and maida soaked in sugar syrup will be the most indulgent thing you will eat on the trip, but it is worth every calorie. 

We recommend a walk at this point—you need to digest the breakfast, after all! If you do not fear death, or stories of it, we suggest you to walk through the kachori gali to the ancient Manikarnika Ghat and stop by the popular Blue Lassi Shop. According to most locals, there is better lassi available in the city with longest name but if you want one for the gram, the fruit lassis make for great pictures and are a huge hit with international tourists and Instagrammers. The fruit and yoghurt in the lassi may help digest all the food you’ve just eaten but will also prepare you for a slow afternoon ahead. 

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