Eating in India
Thinking about eating in India was something that made me really nervous before our trip. Stories of Delhi belly are infamous. It doesn’t help that when you live in the heartland of America, there aren’t a lot of Indian restaurants to frequent. Let’s just say that my exposure to Indian food was limited. I like spicy food a lot more than Gabi (my traveling companion this trip), so at least I had that going for me. Here are some of my top tips for eating in India…
1) If you’ve never eaten Indian food before, give it a try at home before you go. If you have one or two “go to” dishes that you know you like, it might make that menu not so intimidating. Chicken Tikka is an easy place to start. Other dishes we found later in India that would be appealing to a lot of people are Bryani (flavored rice with meat) and Butter Chicken (enough said).
2) Forget avoiding carbs on your trip. If all else fails, you can eat the ever present naan. It’s bread that is cooked directly on the interior of the tandoori oven. We dipped it in our other dishes or sauces all the time. Good stuff. If you are a veggie lover, you’ll be in heaven in India. There are lots of vegetarians in India, so you’ll find tons of veggies cooked ways you could never imagine. I was pleasantly surprised by quite a few vegetarian dishes I’d never seen before.
3) Book a hotel rate that includes breakfast. Being able to browse a large breakfast buffet with Indian and Continental food was fantastic. It was easy to have pancakes or eggs and save the Indian cuisine for lunch and dinner. In addition, all of the Indian breakfast food was nicely labeled and the staff was eager to explain the cuisine. One morning at breakfast, I loaded up my plate with Indian food and sampled a little bit of everything. With breakfast included in my room rate, I didn’t feel wasteful after one bite. Especially if it was something I didn’t like.
4) While street food may be inexpensive, try to avoid anything not cooked. While we ate a few street food items, all of them were cooked in front of us. Save your craving for fruit at the hotel, your gut will thank you. I successfully avoided Delhi belly on my trip, but I was cautious when out and about. If you are in Jaipur, don’t miss visiting Lassi Walla. It’s right across the street from a popular restaurant called Niro’s. It’s the best Lassi in the city…by far. Served in it’s traditional handmade earth clay cup, it’s an experience you can’t miss.
5) You don’t have to eat Indian cuisine every meal. The British influence is still alive and well in Indian restaurants. Fish and chips seemed to be on lots of menus. I even had some pizza on our last afternoon in India. And while the pizza wasn’t incredible, my taste buds were happy to have a rest from Indian food.
6) Indian spicy is a whole different thing. If a waiter asks you if you like spicy, don’t just immediately say yes. Indian people are used to more spice than most Americans, so really spicy to you, is probably mildly spicy to them. Over lunch with one of our guides, he asked for medium spicy in all of our dishes, and I think I had steam coming out of my ears and wiped my nose too many times to count.
7) Consider a food tour, or cooking class. One of my favorite things to do in foreign countries, is take a cooking class. India did not disappoint. Our cooking teacher, Jyoti, taught us all about the Aryuveda cooking style that the traditional Indian people have practiced for centuries. Cooking in her home was one of the highlights of our trip. During the day, Jyoti works as an assistant to the current Maharana of Udaipur. Her insights into the modern woman in India were a lot different than the perspectives of the male guides we had in each city. Oh! I’m getting off topic! Anyway, the food and company during her class was worth every penny. And we walked away with even more food we could look for on menus during our trip. Most hotel concierges can set up a cooking class as long as you arrange it ahead of time.
8) Eat at a hotel other than where you’re staying. While this is a more expensive option, the hotels offer some great cuisine. In Jaipur, we had lunch at the Rambaugh Palace hotel. The al fresco dining was incredible, we got to see a former palace turned hotel, and sat close to a big Bollywood director too. We had a great time having cocktails out on the lawn and being unaffected by his celebrity.
9) Just try it. You never know what you might find. I tried vegetarian dishes that I had no idea what they were. And some of them were great. Even the dessert were varied. Lots of people love Kulfi. But it tasted like ice cream with chicken sauce poured over the top to me. But Gulab Jamon is cooked milk solids, and I thought it was great. I’m not even sure what milk solids are? Can you buy them at the grocery store? Who knows, but it was worth trying, for sure!
The bottom line is that the food in India is varied, plentiful, and just plain good. Which is important to help fuel you for the sightseeing and shopping on your trip. Up next on the blog…shopping in India. I’m not a big shopper, but India is the exception.