Our Food Experiences in India. Yum!

Indian food is amazing. Most of you already know that, I’m sure :)

Yes, some will say that it is oily and yes, sometimes it is, but it is also quite healthy due to the fact that everything is made from scratch, often as you wait, and that so many things, curries especially, are chock-full of vegetables. Although I, Charlotte, am still developing my tolerance for spiciness and Earl has a Canadian, more than Indian, mouth, we really enjoyed ourselves. Let us share some of our newly acquired knowledge regarding Indian cuisine (which, admittedly, is still at a rather basic level). Then, after you’ve read this, you can add your comments, corrections, or knowledge about Indian food in the comment section of our blog!

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The beginning of a beautiful biryani



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The biryani is coming together

Indians love spicy, flavorful food, something neutral to go along with it (like rice or some kind of unleavened “bread” product, such as roti or naan, though there are many, many more kinds), and super sweet sweets. And masala chai. That almost goes without saying!

When you are ordering from a menu, the food is typically called by its ingredients. If you want a potato and pea curry, you order “batata mutter” (batata=potato, mutter=peas); if you want a spinach and cheese dish, you order “palak paneer” (palak=spinach, paneer=cheese). Easy, right? The only dish you might be in trouble with then, is butter chicken, which is is more tomato-based than butter-based, as far as I’m aware. Oh, and Bombay Duck, which you may be surprised to know is actually a fish.

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A tasty butter chicken with mixed vegetables & chapati




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Rehka's mutter paneer. So GOOD!

Indian food can be split into two categories: veg, and non-veg. In some (predominantly Hindu) states, like Gujarat and Rajasthan, it’s easier and cheaper to eat veg! Because so much Indian cuisine is based around lentils, rice, curd (yogurt), eggs, and cheese (paneer), it’s easy to have lots of complete proteins in your diet, even if you eat only vegetarian.

Let’s talk “breads”. There are so many kinds! Roti and chapati are basically the same, the name just depends on the region you’re in. They are both a dry, whole wheat-based flatbread, which is puffed open and cooked inside by steam over the heat of a fire. Naan is traditionally cooked in a clay oven, and made from white wheat flour. “Paratha” means “butter inside and out”. Not really, but that’s what Rekha, the instructor at our cooking class told us. Basically, butter is rolled inside the paratha dough before it is flattened and baked, and then the outside is buttered after it is cooked. And then of course you get Gujarati breads which are either big and fat, or rolled a bit bigger than golf balls and then crumbled before they are eaten. And this is just the baked breads I know — I’m sure there are many more. We didn’t even discuss the seasoned breads!

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Making chapatis - you place them directly on the flame!



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Restaurant worker preparing loads of naan in a clay oven



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Rehka preparing parathas



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The massive Gujarati chapati



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Gujurati style thali with Gujarati chapati broken into pieces

There are still “dosas”, which come from the south, and are big, like French crepes, but crispy; and “uppams”, which come out bowl-shaped, and are made from fermented rice flour, I think. In the south, it’s traditional to eat dosas for breakfast. They come with a spicy tomato sauce, and a coconut sambal sauce. We had them with Stephen and Auntie Mary one morning. Yum!

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Fresh uppams being prepared right by our table



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A traditional Indian breakfast with Auntie Mary

Another bread-like item is called the “sunna”, which is a smallish and puffed round bread, like a little steamed rice-flour bun, I think. I hear they are quite tedious to make. Earl’s mom, Yvette, makes good ones. The ones we had in India didn’t taste as good as hers.

Another typical breakfast is a couple of potato or meat patties, or something like a samosa. Basically it’s some kind of a seasoned (often spicy) filling, which is then surrounded by some kind of breaking or dough, and then deep-fried. Not the healthiest option, but they’re quick and filling (Earl’s criteria) and are usually served with chai (my criteria). Here’s Earl picking out our breakfast in Udaipur, and the next photo is our breakfast when we arrived in Jaipur.

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Earl buying some snacks for breakfast in Udaipur



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A light breakfast in Jaipur

Earl really liked the snack foods: “batura”, usually served with “chole” (chickpeas), which is huge and deep-fried; and “puris”, which are either medium-sized, and come with meals such as “thalis” (kind of a Gujarati all-you-can-eat), or small and are served as a snack at tea time, like “sev puri”, and filled with chickpeas and a couple of other sauces. You can also get them with curd (yogurt), and they’re called “papri chaat”. Or, if they’re small and crunched up with a bunch of other things, they’re called “bhel puri”. We tried bhel puri a few times, but I still prefer Earl’s mom, Yvette’s, over any I’ve had.

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Check out the size of this batura. Tasty, but oily.



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Thali in Mumbai with puris & papadum - the first one we had & the best one for value



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Pani Puri



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Papri Chaat



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Bhel Puri from a street vender - just be safe and avoid the chutney

Sweets. Well, Indians sure love their sweets, and they have a lot of them! Some of the ones we tried were “kulfi”, which is a frozen, condensed milk sweet, kind of like ice cream, but harder. (Peter, Earl’s dad makes great mango kulfi, but besides that, Stephen, Earl’s cousin, treated us to the Parsi Dairy kind, which is amazing). Another milk sweet is called “halwa”. We tried the carrot one, which is very nice — much nicer than you’d think that carrot and milk would taste!
There is “chikkee”, which is like a nut brittle, which comes from Matheran, and “petha”, which something like a honey-saturated pumpkin, which comes from Agra, in both a dry and moist version (don’t worry, there’s so much honey that you don’t taste the pumpkin), and “amsat”, which is made of many layers of candied dried mango, all pressed together into brownie-sized square. And, of course, in Rajasthan they specialized in “julaybees”, which are (excused me if this technical definition is a bit much to follow) sugary orange squiggles, that are deep-fried, and often served with breakfast.

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Halwa



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Jalabi - a sugary, syrupy pretzel

And let’s talk about beverages. Earl and I very quickly learned to steer away from the coffee, since most of the coffee you get is just Nescafé from a machine. Anyway, the “masala chai”, or spiced tea, is so delicious, you must take every opportunity to indulge! In fact, Earl will tell you that my favorite Indian person, outside of family, is the “chai wallah”, or tea seller. The good news, is that you can find a chai wallah on nearly every corner of India!

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The Chai Wallah - a table, pot and fire is all you need!



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Another Chai Wallah



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Mmmm chai!

Earl’s favorite person was the “lassi wallah”. “Lassi” is a sweetened or salted yogurt-based drink. Indians view it kind of like our milkshakes — a good way to cool off on a hot day. Most of the lassis you get come plain, but we found some really delicious fruit ones, including mango and papaya as well a to-die-for saffron one in Jodhpur. Well, technically there were two in Jodhpur: the first at a little shop just on the edge of the clock tower square, where they know that if a foreigner walks into the shop, they want a “makhaniya” or saffron lassi; and the second, which was even better, was made by our cooking instructor Rekha’s husband, Anil. Wow. Amazing.

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Fruit lassis in Jaipur in one-time use clay cups



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Saffron Lassi in Jodphur during our cooking class

Oh, and speaking of milkshakes. When you order a milkshake in India, you need to be prepared that that’s exactly what you’re going to get — a milk shake. The first time we ordered one in Agra, we were unprepared (and therefore somewhat disappointed), but the second time, we stumbled upon a little shop on the edge of Connaught Place in Delhi that was doing a roaring business with the locals, to the point that the shop didn’t even have a name posted outside! They just served up big milk bottles with a flavoured milk-shake, to be sucked up by a big straw! And they were super yummy, refreshing, and filling! We first ordered one with ice cream, but it didn’t even need it. We immediately got a second one with just milk, and it was fantastic!

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Milkshakes in Delhi at Connaught Place



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Mmmm so good!

Finally, as everyone who’s ever been to an Indian restaurant knows, every meal ends with a little digestive, usually a palm-full of some sweet mixture containing anise seed. In India, you might buy some paan, a bundle made out of a paan leaf, and containing some filling. In our case, when Earl’s cousin Dotty and her husband took us out for lunch, we finished with a paan with sweetmeats, I think.

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Many options at the market for after meal digestives



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Paan with Franklin after a great meal

Hopefully all of my gastronomic reflection was not too much for you — it’s hard to get 6 weeks of amazing food into a single article. And please don’t consider this an exhaustive reference to Indian food. I am certain that it would have been possible for Earl and I to eat something different for every meal, and still not make it through everything available in India!

P.S. I know a few of you are wondering if we ever “cheated”, and just went to a McDonalds or something for dinner, and the answer is yes, okay, twice. (And that doesn’t count the time that I ordered a “burger” at an Indian restaurant, for starters, because there is no “burger” involved, just some kind of potato patty served with sauce and veggies on a bun). Just to keep the record clear, we stopped once at a KFC in Jaipur, and once at McDonalds in Delhi, where I ordered the only non-Indian thing on the menu, a McChicken sandwich. And it was okay. Not that good. We went back to Indian food the next day.

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An Indian veggie burger



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P.P.S. Please let us know some of your favorite or memorable Indian food experiences!

1 comment to Our Food Experiences in India. Yum!

  • kitty

    My Memorable Indian food experience is the one that I had with Earl’s Mom, when we were together the week before your wedding, who had made us something that “was not spicy at all” (ja right). I just loved the way she worked on it and how she prepared it. It would have been great for me if she had left the spice out totally, but just to be part of the experience was really great.

    I did like the chicken cooked in the yogurt (which now I do not eat anymore since I became vegetarian) and made it once at home as well.

    This is the extend of my experience with Indian food, but I am open to more (just without the spice please, since I really cannot taste anything else than the spice and the tears that are running down my cheeks as it burns my insides)

    I am really looking forward to a demonstration by the 2 of you when you come home

    Thanks again for sharing

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