In most of the long distance trains in India, food is provided on-board. Pantry Cars are attached to these trains. Trains with pantry cars are listed as P in Trains at a Glance.
Meals are included in the fare on Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto trains, while Indian Railways catering staff come around to collect orders an hour or two before mealtimes.
Meals available for lunch and dinner are generally vegetarian and non-vegetarian thalis rice, dal, a vegetable (chicken or fish curries for non-veg thalis), curd/yogurt, chapattis/rotis and occasionally, a sweet dish or veg/egg/chicken biryani.
Pantry car service always includes the sale of tea, coffee, cold drinks, Indian snacks (samosa) and “namkeen” (chips and other salty snacks). Pantry cars mostly re-distribute food from base kitchens that are based at important stations; As per the catering policies only heating is encouraged on board, for which electric heating equipment is provided. Any cooking at stations or in pantry cars is discouraged.
The quality of food varies, with the fare being better in the South and West. Also, the parameters like hygiene, taste, cuisine changes from region to region.
Most pantry cars and restaurants at stations are used to be earlier managed by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). However Indian Railways has now phased out IRCTC from most catering in Railways except at Food Courts, Fast Food Units etc. Most catering is now managed by Zonal Railways. Kiosks are ubiquitous where one can find snacks/breakfast/packed foods/ biscuits/ cookies/ mineral water etc. At major stations, one can find higher end IRCTC food courts and food plazas and even fine-dine restaurants that have been given to reputed private players to manage. Recently young initiatives such YatraChef have started creating online marketplaces for the passengers of the Indian Railway. These market place consist of restaurants near railway stations which delivers fresh food in train to the passengers who order online or through their call centers.