Food in India.

I had to go to India on business as well as pleasure a few days ago, and was looking forward to the food.

Not TOO much of it … it can overpower your entire metabolism, and so I have had a rule that in India I will eat local a few times, but also unashamedly seek out where I can get a simple omelette or a club sandwich. The answer is usually the 5 star hotels in town, which in Delhi are numerous, though by far my favourite is Claridges, and in Mumbai should have been the renowned Taj Palace Hotel which was ransacked by terrorists a couple of years back, but when I went there the other day was, at least to my taste, an unmitigated dump full of fakirs and poseurs!

I had a wonderful meal on the first night, invited  there by my Agent in India Vinod. We went to a sort of food mall where there was a restaurant called GULATI which has been going since 1959.

I started with a nice tandoori chicken – which is not the vile red it is in this country – which was perfectly roasted. Presentation is not the in thing in India I am afraid – you know what I am like on presentation – and so it came rather piled up on a plate, but tasted delicious and juicy! It came, as most things in India did, served with pieces of Lime and not Lemon.

It came with a copper pot of Dal, some plain rice and a dish of Raita which is yoghurt and spices. It also came with a side of sliced raw onions with turmeric powder and lime, which the Indians absolutely lapped up…but which I did not like I am afraid.

It has to be said that when you think about it India food is actually rather unhealthy. They cook everything in Ghee – bigged up butter – add rich sauces to everything, eat everything with copious quantities of sugar, including their almost undrinkable tea, and eat sweets like they are going out of fashion.

I went out for another meal in Delhi to a South Indian restaurant  called either Wukkas or naivaidyam (the person I am interrogating on Facebook chat cant make up his mind) where we arrived too late to eat, and so ‘made do’ with a snack. Some snack! It came on a vast copper platter, and was basically a Dhosa (Indian for wrap) with a series of really delicious dips. Coconut, lime, yoghurt and other, stronger stuff. Judging by the enthusiasm of my friend’s 14 year old daughter Tanya to go there, and my own experience in Southern India many years ago, Southern Indian cuisine is somewhat better and healthier than the stuff in the North, and also I think contains more varied ingredients with more greens! That is of course the problem with northerners the world over….!

Whilst in Bombay (I bloody refuse to call it Mumbai!) we (Oscar and his delightful friend Tom, he of the unruly hair, shorts and flip-flops in December) went in search of a beachside restaurant one evening (well, the only evening as I hot footed it out of the ghastly place the next day). We drew a blank and so wandered into what turned out to be a fabulous food emporium on the beach, where about 10 stands were set up cooking street food. We were made to feel very welcome and ambled about deciding what to eat.

Oscar decided on a Dhosa – cooked fresh infront of us – which was truly fabulous. Like a sort of Crepe, but somehow made ‘stronger’ if that is the right word, in order to take more filling, it was filled with spicy potatoes, onions and spices and then wrapped up and cut in half. It was served on a metal tray – SO much more practical than a damn silly plate – with some Dal, some rice and a couple of dips, and we took it down to the mats on the sand, bought a bottle of delicious Limka – an old fashioned Indian lemonade – and sat crossed-legged looking at the sunset. It was pretty close to Nirvana ….

After eating this one (OK OK…I ordered another being the piglet I am!!) we went down to the beach to investigate puddings! First of all though we bought the starter we should maybe have had at the right time. A corn on the cob cooked over charcoal embers. Looked great, but before we could say “How bloody stupid to rename Bombay to Mumbai” the corn-wallah had slathered the thing in a lemon-salt which was absolutely disgusting. Oh well…Oscar ate it!

Next was a Mango. Looked wonderful, but tasted of nothing whatsoever….apart from the ubiquitous Lemon salt. Disgusting 2!!…and oh…btw… Oscar ate it!!  :-)

The best meal I had was where I was staying in Delhi …or Delhi Cantonement to be precise. It is the diplomatic quarter…the posh end of town. Where was I staying? Claridges…? No. The Taj Supertowers…? No. I was staying at the Delhi Youth Hostel!

Absolutely amazing place…I had my own immaculate room with 3 beds and AC and bathroom for £12 a night! They served food in the evening, and after our return from the Taj Mahal (go by train, not 10 1/2 hours by car) I was so knackered I tried their food. Gorgeous!

We had a slightly larger type of Dal – at least I think it was – which, whilst spicy, was also delicious in taste. That is so often the problem with Indian food … the spices so often overwhelm the ingredients.  the rest was the usual staple – Aloo (spiced potatoes) Rice (with pink bits in it) and a Chapatti.

The rest of the food was European stuff. I did get a bit of Delhi Belly after the first meal in Delhi, but I knew I might as I was a bit enthusiastic in my choices, but it passed in 24 hours … just in time to let rip again! lol

So it was all very interesting. Much to my shame I did pass on a Food Tour of Old Delhi – I am afraid I had to go to a meeting – which I will do next time, but otherwise think I did a reasonable job of dabbling in a bit an Indian culinary experience!

Previous dinner posts from Peter

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