The spicy mingling of scents when you step foot into the country is, perhaps, my favorite memory of India. The food selection in the country is simply outrageous. They have hundreds and hundreds of traditional dishes that vary from region to region and the entire country is suffused with the scent of spicy curries emanating from street stalls and local restaurants. (In addition to the dishes – have you tried the curd…it’s divine ;-)
And as a vegetarian, India meant I was in foodie heaven. I actually fear what’s in store for me when I make it to countries like Argentina and Chile, where meat is a dietary staple. In India though, my meatless dietary choices were in the majority and I made good use of the selection – every chance I got I tried a new dish, and local regional specialties were tops on the list.
Indian Food Every Traveler Should Try
My hands-down ultimate recommendation for a tourist in India – particularly if you’re only in the country for a few days/weeks, is to try the Indian thali. At the right establishment this dish will rock your world. It’s a sample platter of sorts and it’s all you can eat.
At a thali-specific restaurant (and we found an amazing one in Udaipur) you are given a metal tray with several metal dishes. Then men circulate the room and fill up your dish as you eat – you get a smattering of dishes like dhal, a paneer dish, a potato option. Then they toss a handful of onions and lemons on the side, a handful of rice/chapati, and you are good to go. Tip: Pay attention! They rapidly refill your plate as they circulate the room until you tell them to stop.
My Favorite Indian Dishes
So, with all of this sampling and taste testing for six weeks through India, I have several favorite dishes: tomato aubergine curry, palak paneer, and bhel puri (it’s the crunchy – I love the crunch thingies!).
Cousin H (also a vegetarian – how ideal was that!) was mildly obsessed with the South Indian dosas – and when they’re good, they are incredibly tasty. I like them. Not a favorite, but they’re pretty unique.
The key to a dosa is the incredibly thin and crispy layer on the outside and the one drawback is that you can sometimes only order dosas for dinner (what about every other time of day?!). Inside is any combination you choose – traditionally very potato based.
Note the small white creamy side dish – this is the light and cooling coconut paste used to alter the flavor of the dish or cool your palate after a particularly spicy bite!
I love Indian food with all of heart (yes, there’s still room in there despite the love-affair I’m not-so-secretly having with Indian curd).
Have you had a mind-blowing foodie experience? Do share and be specific so I know where I’m heading next! ;-)