Not every food in India is fried, or drenched in tasty ghee. For instance, this guava! Weirdly, Indians seem to think that pink guavas are more desirable than these white ones, which are more common, so sometimes they will dye their fancy-cut display guavas pink. They taste the same, though.
At the tiger park, we met a fellow traveler named Karen who turned me on to dum aloo, a potato dish I was previously not familiar with. It was her favorite dish, and now it is mine. Karen also warned me that every time she's ordered it, it's come out totally different...and now I've had it four different times and must concur! But it's always tasty. The main ingredients are potatoes and cheese (the potatoes are usually stuffed with the cheese) and it comes in some kind of sauce. If you're lucky and get the Kashmiri version, the sauce is creamy and filled with fruits.
What do Indians eat for breakfast? In the north, a pretty good bet is aloo paratha--a fried, pancake-like bread stuffed with potatoes and onions and maybe some other veggies. You can dip it in some sauce or pickle or have it with a cup of "curd" (yogurt). One hungry morning, I may have ordered three of these in a row.
Every time we get samosas (potato-stuffed fried triangles) in India, they come with a different kind of sauce. We're not complaining. This time, it was green. We also tried two fried potato-stuffed disks (below samosas), which were denser and not as good, and finished this meal off with some tasty gajar halwa (right--the best carrot-based dessert since carrot cake).
Continuing with the potato theme, here's some aloo jeera, a "dry-fried"--i.e. not soaked in curry or another sauce--potato preparation. Still delicious, thanks to all that cumin.
Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, also turned out to be home to some surprisingly tasty Indian sweets. The white one was a coconut flavored, milk-based sweet, and the orange one had a crazy texture, like someone had pressed together 100 layers of cotton candy. All served on a biodegradable leaf-plate, with a dab of gajar halwa in the middle for cadeau--what's not to love?
Here is Jaipur's take on the jalebi, or deep-fried, syrupy squiggle that Andy so fell in love with in Delhi. Doubles as (a sticky) monocle.
On the same street, Andy found these shredded wheat bird's nest sweets. Maybe not as good as the shredded wheat baklavas of the Middle East, but not bad for a few cents.
There was a Muslim festival happening the day we were in Jaipur, and there were men in the streets with huge piles of these giant cracker things on their heads. (Or maybe there are always such men in Jaipur, and it had nothing to do with the festival.) Andy had to buy one. It tasted kind of like one of those shrimp crackers you get in Asian restaurants, but greasier.
OK, whose ice cream choice is girlier? My pistachio cone...
These cream-filled, cone-shaped pastries seem like to be a popular Western-style bakery item in many towns in India. One day Andy tried one, and...it was either very crispy, or very stale. We'll stick with the Indian breakfast items from now on.
The upside of the touristy-ness was that Udaipur had two coffee shops that made pretty decent Western-style treats. It had been a long time since we'd had apple pie or cinnamon rolls! At both places, the pie was better than the rolls.
Andy ordered "banana pakora" at one dinner out, since it was something we hadn't seen on a menu before, and if you know Andy, you know he loves his fried bananas!
I also got something I hadn't seen before, a dish of paneer (cheese) in coconut sauce. It sounded better than it tasted.
The food situation looked up considerably once we got to Mumbai. Since it was my birthday, and since we'd just spent eight extra hours on the bus in a traffic jam, we treated ourselves to super-rich feast at fancy Khyber. I got a mutton dish with boiled eggs in an almond cream sauce and Andy got chicken Kashmiri, which I must say came in an even better cream sauce. We also ordered so many types of fun-flavored breads that the waiter had to cut us off and tell us he thought that that would be too much food. Um, it wasn't. Guess he didn't know us very well! Anyway, we were so hungry we forgot to take pictures till we were halfway done--I promise the food was all very nicely presented when it arrived...
Oh, and in honor of my birthday, I went nuts and got a $3 mocktail. It was called the Orchid Queen, which contained something called khus juice. My Googling reveals that this comes from a grass root and is used in many perfumes. I thought it was delicious, though Andy thought it tasted like cleaning solution. (More for me!)
OK, back to the streets. Mumbai has these incredible veggie-burger-type street snacks called batata vada pav. Battered, deep-fried dumpling of potato and spices in a bun with a splash of sauce, costing around 12 cents a pop. So good!
Costing considerably more (almost 50 cents!) was this pineapple shave-ice treat Andy found at Chowpatty Beach. He just can't pass up the pineapple...
A far tastier (in my opinion) destination near Chowpatty was the New Kulfi Centre, home to India's best kulfi. Kulfi is India's answer to ice cream, and at this place the myriad flavors are sold by weight. It's firm, and comes cut up into little slices. On the left you have chikoo--a fruit found only in India, I think--and on the right is mixed dried fruit (you can figure that one out). We stopped taking pictures after round one (there were three rounds).
The other thing we had to try at Chowpatty beach was bhelpuri, the typical Mumbai street snack known for its many textures and flavors. I can't even begin to explain what all is in here, so you can Google it if you're curious. It worked, though.
My favorite flavor of sandwich cookie in India--and possibly in the world--is elaichi, or cardamom. There are so many brands to try...
And now I'll leave you with a shot of India's "other" standard breakfast--the puri bhaji. A few puffy fried poori breads with some tasty curried, saucy beans/potatoes/veggies to dip them in. At our overpriced hotel in Mumbai, this breakfast also came with a banana and a hard-boiled egg--oh, the elegance!
That's all for Indian Foods, Part Two. Don't worry, even more is coming.