Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Friday, December 31, 2010

Northern Indian Food for Dum-mies

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?
Jaipur has a row of shops called Lassiwallah (lassi vendor) which specialize in the tasty yogurt drinks known as lassis. We were going to go to the original one, until I found out that they only serve two flavors, sweet and salty. I like some fruit in my lassis, so we shamefully snuck off to one of the imposters a couple of doors down, where I had probably the tastiest mango lassi of my life, complete with a bonus sliver of shaved yogurt-skin on top. It came in a fun, traditional clay cup which kept it nice and cool...but is only made for one-time use! You see clay cups like this in the trash (or, more commonly, smashed by the roadside) all over the place in India, and there's a whole industry for handmaking new ones at a feverish pace. Seems wasteful, but it's more biodegradable than plastic, I guess...

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...
...or Andy's "pineapple pizza"? Don't ask me why this is called a pizza, but it has pineapple cake, ice cream, chunks, and syrup in it, plus a cherry on top and mini umbrella for extra masculinity.
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, was either very crispy, or very stale. We'll stick with the Indian breakfast items from now on.
Here you have a typical vegetarian thali (or meal), in a fun compartmentalized metal plate. Contents vary from place to place, but usually include rice and bread, dal (a pulse-based soup), and a couple of vegetable dishes (chef's choice). Usually the best whole-meal-deal around, costing around $1-$3 depending on how nice the restaurant is. Pricier thalis may include meat, dessert, or just more vegetable dishes.
Jaipur had a sweets shop called Rawat that was constantly packed and had a huge array of stuff we'd never seen before. We picked three items just by looks and did pretty well. The one on the left was coconutty and the one on the right was mangoey, I think. The best was the middle one, which was like a kiwi gummy fruit on the outside filled with creamy sweet stuff with crunchy sweet bits in it. If anyone can identify any of these by sight, please label better!
Udaipur was a pretty touristy city, and we were somewhat disappointed in the Indian food there, which seems to be kind of dumbed-down for Western palates. But we still managed to have yet another new samosa experience--this time the samosa came mashed up in a sweet sauce. Not bad, but would've been better if the samosa was hot...
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!)
Happy birthday to 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.


  1. as an indian, i myself am surprised at the amount of food you guys managed to taste and evaluate!

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