I took a train to Chandigarh recently to meet a Punjabi friend and go on a road trip across lush Punjab to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. While I was there we stuffed ourselves with the best food Chandigarh and Mohali (an adjoining city) had to offer. I purposefully avoided TripAdvisor recommendations and told him we would only eat where he and his friends eat.
A Little on Chandigarh
Chandigarh is not a typical Indian city. It’s strangely the capital of 2 states, Haryana and Punjab. But it’s technically not part of either state, it’s its own state or what India calls a union territory. It’s also one of the first planned cities in India, so it’s not an average India city, rather its one of the cleanest and most livable cities in India.
It’s also known as the tri-city because the cities of Chandigarh, Panchkula, and Mohali all neighbour each other and you can barely tell when you leave one and enter the next.
$$ – Zirakpur – Authentic Punjabi Dhaba (roadside restaurant) experience
Chole Masala at Sethi Dhaba, Chandigarh. Photo © Karl Rock.
Sethi Dhaba is a busy place frequented by celebrities and politicians as you’ll see on their photo wall. It’s one of the most famous dhabas in Chandigarh where you can experience traditional Punjabi food. They even have the traditional seats that you’ll see villagers sitting on and eating from, it’s not really a seat though, it’s a large bed that four people can sit on and eat from a table in the centre of it.
They only serve vegetarian, but even for a big meat eater like me, it doesn’t matter because Indian vegetarian food is the tastiest in the world. Make sure you order the Chole Masala, Egg Bhurji, and Dal Makhani along with either Naan or the healthier Missi Roti (made with whole wheat flour, gram flour, and spices).
Dal Makhani at Sethi Dhaba, Chandigarh. Photo © Karl Rock.
Naan at Sethi Dhaba, Chandigarh. Photo © Karl Rock.
Egg Bhurji at Sethi Dhaba, Chandigarh. Photo © Karl Rock.
Yadav Tea Stall
$ – Advocates Area, 1st Foor, District Court Complex, Sector 43) – Special bread rolls
Bread Roll from Yadav Tea Stall, Chandigarh. Photo © Karl Rock.
This is a truly hidden delicacy. It’s not at all healthy, but it’s damn tasty. Yadav serves a unique deep fried bread roll that’s filled with savoury and slightly spiced potato filling. Accompanying it is a spicy sauce made from green chillis. It’s out of this world and only found here at the court. It’s a standard lunch for the lawyers.
$$ – Sector 28 – Authentic Punjabi food
This is the most famous Dhaba in Chandigarh. While it’s not the traditional motorway roadside eatery, rather it’s part of an outdoor mall, the food is pure Punjabi. Punjabi food is known as rich and creamy, and Pal Dhaba delivers this.
The Butter Chicken is the best you’ll ever have. Punjabi Butter Chicken is very different to the Western version. It’s more flavorful and less sweet. Lap it up with their buttery naan bread. One other dish to try is the Punjabi favourite, Dal Malakani.
Dining outside at Pal Dhaba, Chandigarh.Yes, that’s an entire bowl of boneless Butter Chicken! Photo © Karl Rock.
$$ – Phase 10, Mohali – A Different Butter Chicken
For a slightly different take on Butter Chicken, Baba is a good place to go. It’s yellow and has a slightly different less spice filled flavour. Some people prefer this lighter version.
Acme India Taste Point
$ – Sector 14, Chandigarh – Bhel Puri
The Punjab University campus foodcourt is where you’ll find all the students eating each day. The standout here is the chaat/juice stall that serves great Bhel Puri (a kind of puffed rice salad with spicy sauces).
Bhel Puri from Punnjab University Foodcourt. Photo © Karl Rock.
$$$ – Sector 9, Chandigarh
If you want something a bit more upmarket, head to the highly rated Backpackers Cafe. You’ll find all sorts of international fare there. Including one of the biggest Lamb Burgers I’ve ever eaten.
Lamb Burger from Backpackers Cafe. Photo © Karl Rock.
Sector 8 Market
The Sector 8 inner market has something for everyone. It’s a pricey market, but the quality and taste of the food in this market is great. Do a loop of the market then decide what you want to try!
Preet Eating Zone
$ – Phase 7, Mohali – Chole (Standing area only)
Preet Eating Zone’s Chole on Rice. Photo © Karl Rock.
Preet is known for their Chole (Chickpeas) on rice topped with coriander and cabbage. It’s a slightly spicy tomato flavoured dish on saffron rice. Perfect for a quick lunch or breakfast. Wash it down with their lassi (yoghurt drink) which surprisingly not very sweet – such a relief as India has a tendency to over sweeten everything.
Dishes available at Preet’s Eating Zone, Mohali. Photo © Karl Rock.
$ – Phase 5, Mohali – Indian sweets and bakery
Butter Paneer roll from Amrit Confectionary, Mohali. Photo © Karl Rock.
Amrit is an Indian sweets (mithai) store with a bakery outside. The Bakery is what you come here for. They do a spicy Indian take on buns, rolls and sandwiches. The most popular item here are their deep fried rolls filled with different flavours including butter paneer or manchurian. It’s going to be hard for you to choose what to try from their beautiful cabinet.
$ – Phase 7, Mohali – Kathi Rolls (Standing area only)
Originating from Kolkata, West Bengal, Kathi Rolls are available all over India. Haandi is a local favourite. Try the soft and buttery double egg or paneer rolls.
$ – Sector 17 – Indian Sweets
Sindhi Sweets is regarded as the best in Chandigarh. Their speciality is Kaju (Cashew Nut) Barfi. It’s a non-spicy Indian sweet made of creamy cashews and sugar. It’s soft and lightly flavoured. Kaju Barfi is one of the most popular sweets in India making it a must try wherever you go.