"Travelling is easier now as I can eat whatever I like instead of the watery dal and bland subzis served by the pantry," Kapoor, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University said.

Continental, Chinese, Italian, Mughlai and even fast food, varied cuisines are on offer by portals like comesum.com, travelkhana.com and merafoodchoice.com. These portals, who have partnered with restaurants across the country, give their customers the freedom to order food from any famous eatery along the route.

The meals can be booked online or through phone by submitting train details or the passenger name record (PNR) number. The customer can then choose any restaurant en route the destination and the meal is delivered at a pre-decided station. Payment can be made online as well as on delivery.

"Today's customers are quality conscious and know better than just to pick up food from an average hawker, they look more at multi cuisine delicacies," Abhishek Agrawal, managing director at Comesum, said.

While Comesum offers food prepared at its own outlets, travelkhana.com and merafoodchoice.com have partnered with restaurants and eateries.

Travelkhana.com, which started operations in August 2012, has tied up with over 200 restaurants and caterers at over 80 stations and has delivered food to about 60,000 passengers.

"Indian Railways is the lifeline of passengers but the quality of food leaves a lot to be desired. We provide fresh food across all major trains and you won't have to depend on the pantry food anymore," Travelkhana CEO Pushpinder Singh said.

The Indian Railway ferries 23 million travelers and 2.65 million tons of goods daily on 12,000 passenger and 7,000 freight trains. The network is spread over 64,000 route km and has 7,083 stations. At present, only 302 trains have pantry cars.

Describing Travelkhana's functioning, Pushpinder Singh said that GPS-enabled mobile applications keep them updated about train delays and diversions. In case an order does not reach the passenger at a particular station, it is delivered at the next one.

With several complaints against the food served in trains, the portals have definitely come to the rescue of the people. Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge recently told the Lok Sabha that 1,279 complaints about sub-standard food were received in 2012, of which 115 were for lack of hygienic conditions in superfast premier trains like the Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express.

So, the next time you travel on a train, remember that your favourite butter chicken or masala dosa or chicken manchurian is just a call or a click away.

(Agencies)

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