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Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Monday, January 24, 2011

What, No Grits? Southern Food in India

We've arrived at the final India post. Sadly for us, this is the last of the Indian food that we consumed. But, we had a great time eating our way through India. Tara managed to get a small stomach bug at the end of the trip, but we were otherwise illness-free after much carefree eating. Let's see the pictures.

Just before we left Mumbai, we started eating Southern Indian food. Mumbai is the cross-over town. In India, all restaurants say Northern Indian, Southern Indian, or Northern and Southern Indian food. You'd think the Indian part would be implied, but it isn't. Same about the geography: a place that just says restaurant in northern India should be Northern Indian food. But it doesn't work that way. It will always say "Northern Indian" on the sign. The best known Southern Indian food is the dosa, sort of like a giant pancake made of rice of chickpea flour, sometimes a bit sweet, and often stuffed with fillings. However, we made the mistake of ordering rava dosas, which are apparently just empty dosas with some dal on the side. Not terrible, but not at all satisfying.
So, outside on the street, we found this dessert. Sort of like an almond/fruit/sugar/crispy noodle concoction. Yes, it was weird, but good enough that we got a second serving. Right, it had been sitting in the sun all day and it was about 90 degrees out, but I didn't get sick, so we'll rule it out as what made Tara sick.
These are some curries. Don't know what kind, though the green one looks vegetarian. Very informative, right?
India also has cherimoyas, which are a very popular fruit in South America. However, they are called custard apples in India, so we didn't know what they were until we saw one. They are a bit like thick pudding surrounding little seeds. Much better than the outside looks (you don't eat the outside).
Nice restaurants in India almost always bring you a dish of hot water to wash your hands at the end of the meal, but it always has a lemon. It took three times before we were completely certain that the water wasn't meant for us to drink. The first time, we debated for a couple of minutes whether to wash with it or drink it.
While in Auragabad, we decided that it was not a great city, but then found a cheap milkshake place that Tara especially loved, so now she wants to go back. They are famous for their mango shakes, which were quite good. In India, a milkshake is a fruit juice mixed with milk (full fat, surely). You can then pay extra to have a scoop of ice cream added. You cannot find American-style shakes, but the Indian way is good, too.
A Southern Indian thali normally looks like the right. Lots of little dishes, but the key difference is that most thalis in southern India are all-you-can-eat. That's right: for as little as 75 cents, they will feed you as much as you want. We ate a lot. The left side is a masala dosa, which has a spicy potato filling, but we only got it because this was before we realized that most thalis are all-you-can-eat in the south.
For Christmas in Hyderabad, we went to one of the nicer places in town, and the place that is famous for biriyani. Biriyani has very long grains of rice that are cooked in oil before boiling. Apparently, it is a failure if the grains stick together. Ours did not. It was very good and had some crazy spices, but the best is the bread in the picture. Kashmiri fruit bread, which has dried fruits cooked into the bread and then fresh fruit on top. This was the second restaurant we had visited that stopped us from ordering as much bread as we wanted to because they didn't think we could eat it.
The other dish we got at the restaurant was a chicken saag, which is bits of chicken in a pureed spinach and spice mixture. It was amazing. One of the best dishes that we had in India. It is technically a northern Indian dish, but it was terrific. And Northern Indian food is better, anyways.
These are our anise seeds for dessert at that restaurant, but they are cleverly covered in a vanilla mint sugar, which makes them far superior to others in India. I ate about half this bowl, which probably appalled the waiter who is used to people taking a teaspoon full. He is lucky that I didn't empty the rest of them into my pocket.
While visiting a touristy town, we received tourist food. This porridge had some local coconut and cashew mixed in, though, which made it pretty good. Or maybe it was the sugar bowl of sugar that I added that made it so tasty.
The bike of a portable coconut vendor. Seems like he could have got some more on the back, though the number on the front are impressive.
Sugar cane juice is popular in India, and they are smart enough to put lime juice and ginger in it, which makes it far superior to plain cane juice. We thought this was a Tanzanian innovation when we were on Zanzibar, but it turns out that the Indians brought it to Zanzibar. Even so, we will refer to sugar cane juice with lime and ginger as "Zanzibar sugar juice" for the remainder of the life of this blog.
About three weeks into our India stay, we realized that we had never photographed tea (chai). Chai in India is just tea, with masala chai being the spiced tea that most Americans know as chai. More interesting is that tea in India always comes with milk rather than water. Since it is full fat milk, it makes the tea much better. It also makes it surprisingly expensive since milk is costly. Cheap for tourists, but I don't know how locals can afford a tea habit like so many of them have.
We found a breakfast buffet that we went to twice. Note the cornflakes on the right, which most excited Tara. The white thing on the plate is called an idly, which is a slightly fermented rice hunk popular in southern Indian breakfasts. The fried thing looks like a donut and is called a wade, but it is savory and gets dipped in sauce. The noodles are very good, but I don't know what they are called. Oh, and the drink is fresh grape juice, which is really popular in southern India, though we never saw grapes growing.
This was another iteration of dum aloo, I think, but this one had a whole, giant potato rather than pieces.
We got a dessert at our hotel that was all they had left. I don't remember the name of it, but it turned out to be delicious. A creamy, cardamom-laced, pudding-like substance.
Some places give you a banana leaf instead of a plate. We suggest trying it for your next dinner party. And most people eat with their hands, so you'll have no dishes afterward if you throw a Southern Indian banana leaf dinner party.
I bought these "peanut balls" mostly because they contain peanuts and jaggery, and I had never heard of jaggery. Jaggery, as I have learned from Wikipedia, is sort of like molasses, but without the terrible bitterness and it can also be made from date sugar. These things were so good that I bought more the next day. They look made in a factory, but since it is India, I'm certain that they were made in some old woman's shack.
Here are three types of barfi. Have we mentioned before that the most popular type of fresh sweet in India is called barfi? Not an appetizing name, but it is good stuff. One of these is covered in silver foil, which meant that our poop was a little more valuable for the days following our eating of these.
What is that, you ask? That's what we thought, so we bought one. It's called chikoo, and we had tried chikoo ice cream, so we wanted to try the actual fruit. Maybe a bit like a more fibrous fig, we can't claim that it was one of our favorite fruits, though it was fun to try.
Our first beef dish! In Kerala State, Hindus are rarer. That means people openly eat the sacred cow. Not many, though, so beef is really, really cheap. Almost free. Which is strange to us Americans, who are used to paying more for it. This picture is also improved by the radioactive potato dish on the right.
We went to what we thought was a nice restaurant for Tara to try some seafood. Tara liked this squid dish, but the Styrofoam dishes left something to be desired.
Fried banana! That's right, fried banana was back on our menu in Kerala. Not since Madagascar had we seen it. A bit more expensive and not quite as good, but still excellent. I continue to hope that America will have jumped on the fried banana train by the time we return.
Tara likes this shot of me relaxing on our houseboat drinking a coconut. I don't actually like coconut juice, but it was free, so I drank it.
This is a Kashmiri chicken dish, immediately recognizable as Kashmiri because of all the fruit on it. Not the best we have ever had, but fruit makes everything better.
On the houseboat in Kerala and at another restaurant, we got this mixture of cabbage, coconut, mustard seed, and who knows what else. It became one of Tara's favorite things. I let her have most of it while I ate the rest of her meal. A good trade for me.
In some Tibetan restaurants, we would see momos advertised. Turns out that momos are basically the same as dumplings. Maybe not a new food experience, but I'm never one to turn down a dumpling or ten.
Snack mixes are popular in India and many people mix their own from different bins of ingredients (or lazy people just buy pre-mixed ones). Here is the one we tried on the houseboat.
Tara informs me that this was an badam shake, which is almond with some other spices added.
These cookies were called masala and our train was boarding, so I quickly bought them. I was thinking masala tea, which has cinnamon and sugar and other nice things. Then I read the ingredients and discovered that the spices in this case are hot pepper and black pepper. As it turns out, sweet and pepper are actually good together in cookies. I ate them all for dinner.
And with a bit of sweet, a bit of spice, and a lot of hot, we conclude the foods of India. Feel free to invite us over if you decide to make anything from any of our Indian food posts!


  1. Looks delicious! I think the white pudding-like stuff is Kheer, but I could be wrong. Did it taste rice-y?

  2. North Indian food is better?! Bah! Tourists!

  3. North Indian food is better........... yes

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. North or South ...Indian food is good.
    May be they have try the right combinations:)

    A creamy, cardamom-laced, pudding-like desert is called - PAYASAM.

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