Well, much like I do every other time I travel, I’ve been meaning to write a little about the food I ate in India. But like my earlier posts since my return, this one got slightly affected by jetlag… and then I reshuffled my priorities and decided to knock a recipe and the monthly Rad Reads post out of the way. But before I go onto doing the same this month, I’d like to devote a post to Indian food.
Well, to start — I’ll admit that I’m not going to be talking about street food, incredible as some of it is. My mother (who I was traveling with) is super skittish about eating the wrong thing and I’ll admit that I’ve at least internalized some of her rules about eating street food in the motherland. Luckily, thanks to the generosity of family and friends — and thanks to restaurants — there are plenty of opportunities for me to stuff my face when visiting India.
We stayed with my mother’s longtime friend while in Delhi and then a good bulk of the trip was spent in Dehradun where my grandmother lives. There were plenty of delicious homemade meals in both houses, where I found myself eating more than I’m used to eating. Breakfast for me on an average day is usually a light meal — often just a glass of milk or cup of coffee/tea, with maybe a light pastry or some cereal. In India, I was eating proper breakfasts every day, plus there’s tea time… and in my grandmother’s house, there’s also a homemade vegetable soup that gets served shortly before dinner. I did hit a point where I started firmly drawing a line — occasionally skipping one of these meals/snacks or just having less than I did the first time. But I still enjoyed a ton.
While it wasn’t quite the season for good mangoes yet, I indulged in one fruit I never get to eat here in the U.S.: chikoo, which I also had plenty of access to during my childhood in the UAE. I have an unhealthy obsession with eating it whenever I go to India now, which isn’t all that often, because otherwise all I can buy is chikoo ice cream at the Indian stores here. And I also drank a decent amount of Limca, a lemon-lime, Sprite-like Indian soft drink for nostalgic purposes.
I also learned how to cook some Indian dishes. My grandmother isn’t able to do things in the kitchen these days, but she has a part-time helper who knows her way of making certain meals. So I got instructed in the art of making pooris — a deep-fried type of bread. I’m not sure I’ve really perfected how to do it yet; I expect there will be a good amount of trial and error the first few times I try to make them on my own. But I was inspired to buy some poori-making supplies, so that’s a start.
But in addition to learning the art of Indian cooking and stuffing my face with the food people offered me, I did have a chance to check out some pretty neat restaurants while I was in Delhi. I went out for my beloved Indian-Chinese food and actually even went out for Korean food on my second-to-last night in the country. (Some people I know thought this was very strange — but that’s the spoiled American/New Yorker in me — I love getting to eat a variety of food and by the end of two weeks, I was ready to eat some different flavors from the norm in India). Here’s a little more about the restaurants/cafes for those of you who are curious:
Mainland China – We went to this spot for Indian-Chinese food (gotta love the name) at lunchtime so that we could indulge in the buffet. Of course, the buffet was preceded by a period in which waiters kept popping by to drop dumplings and other snacks on our plates, thereby getting us full before we actually hit the buffet. This did not stop me from filling my plate, of course. It was a delicious, wonderful meal and the decor was also quite lovely.
Gung the Palace – This spot in the Green Park area of Delhi was the aforementioned Korean place we went to. It was weirdly more “traditional” than some of the Korean places that I went to when I visited South Korea a few years ago, with sunken seating and waitresses in hanbok. I guess the owners found it necessary to emphasize the Korean-ness of everything in India. We just sat down for a meal (of dak bulgogi — chicken — and charcoal spicy pork barbecue), which I really enjoyed, but the restaurant has a karaoke area too.
Natural Ice Cream – This place, a chain, serves exactly what its name suggests — ice creams full of natural ingredients. And while you see some of the “usual” ice cream flavors, there are plenty of atypical ones. I myself had the jackfruit ice cream — though apparently the custard apple (which was not available when I went) is a big hit.
Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters – When my flight got delayed from a nighttime flight to a next-day noon flight, my family friend and I took advantage and went out for some coffee at this shop, which serves coffees from farms across India. I had a Chili Cinnamon Mocha that was absolutely delicious and wound up buying a sampler of beans to bring back as a gift. It was so nice to try coffee actually grown in India and also something of a trip to see a hipstery little coffee shop that plays Radiohead amid some warehouses like I was in Brooklyn or something.
Overall, considering one of the main goals of my trip was to eat, I’d say I got what I wanted. While there are horror stories out there about “Delhi Belly” and whatnot, if you’re smart about where you eat and don’t overdo the amount you eat, you can probably get by just fine in India… because honestly, the food is one of the best things about going there.