Riddhi Siddhi, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
Travelers looking for an authentic Rajasthani fare at honest prices face an uphill search in Jaisalmer, a desert city stuffed with countless restaurants but only a few worth your tourist money. Signs plastered across the golden brick buildings point your attention skyward, selling rooftop views before the quality or taste of food. Located outside of the more populous tourist haunts, Riddhi Siddhi attracts packed crowds with simple, great-tasting food at prices you have to pinch yourself to believe.
It’s not hard to miss this local favorite opposite Geeta Ashram, Hanuman Circle, within walking distance to the main bazaar of Jaisalmer. Come early to secure a seat inside the modestly sized dining hall. Don’t be fooled into thinking the power has been cut. Lights are turned off during the day to save electricity and keep the interior cool, a feat helped only by ceiling fans running full speed. Waiters dressed in casual streetwear move briskly from table to kitchen and back again never finding much time to pause. As soon as a table departs it’s already been claimed by hungry patrons waiting impatiently by the front door.
Spillover seating comes via temporary tables and chairs set up under a makeshift tent covering extending off the front door. It is here that eaters who wish not to wait or gave up waiting for an inside seat come to satisfy their hunger. Amidst dust from passing traffic on the busy road mere feet away, and hoards of flies that come to feast on any morsel left behind, I actually enjoyed eating in this frazzled manner. There is more space to spread out and the people watching is terrific.
I came eager for rib-sticking good Jaisalmer food which is what came in abundance on the Rajasthani Special Thali. The usual stainless steel thali (plate) was loaded with only 4 dishes, a nice change from over assorted and palate confusing 8 or 9 dish thalis of South India. Rice, papad, roti, and 1 sweet rounded out the meal. What looks like plenty of food is just the start. Waiters circle empty thali bowls with refills of the 4 main dishes ladling portions twice the initial size. Endless roti and rice continues to flow until they hear “bad”, or stop/enough in Hindi. And it’s hard to say no to the delicious yet simple food served at Riddhi Siddhi. The spices are just right for the traveling foreigner. And the combination pleases the taste buds nearly to perfection. Add a lime soda sweet to the mix and for just Rs 160 ($4), you’ll be thankful for the long walk back to the fort.
Traffic inside the dining hall is tight, competitive, and stops for no-one. Be prepared to be pushed around as you jockey for a seat. There is a washbasin right by the register for clean hands. Beyond that, don’t look for a neat and clean environment. Food turn is extremely high which allows me to call this establishment “safe” for tourists. Most likely you’ll be the only foreigner. Don’t be intimidated as the staff is friendly as well as English speaking.