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A Little Yummy…Favorite Foodie-Finds from Round the World: India

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 ;-)

Indian man enjoying chai

An Indian man breaks to enjoy a mid-day chai

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.

Indian Thali

A traditional Indian thali with sides and small dishes that are constantly refilled until you are full

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.

South Indian Dosa meal

A south Indian dosa meal with a lassi and some other dishes and traditional sides

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!  ;-)

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  • I should not have clicked on this before lunch! Most Indian restaurants in the United States and Europe focus on northern Indian dishes that are usually creamy, heavy curries. But, after traveling through India our favorite meals were thalis, dosas and snack food (e.g., samosa chaat). We are always on the lookout now for southern Indian restaurants when we travel but the dosas never seem to be the same.

  • You don't happen to be talking about Natraj's restaurant in Udaipur??? I love their thalis! Although the best I've ever had were in Ahmedabad. A Gujarati thali is my favorite meal on the planet…

    Why do I have to be so far away from India right now?! Ahhhh!!

  • Stephanie RJ

    Actually Dosas are not cooked in the tandoor (a relatively recent introduction to the south) but on either a griddle top or a 'tawa', a flat, usually cast iron (but nowadays often nonstick) pan. Much like a crepe!

    As for favorites, I love avial (which you might have in the thali there, it's a dry coconut and vegetable curry) and pumpkin curry. But my favorite dish of all must be vellayappam and ishtoo. Vellayappam is like a hybrid of a dosa and idli – the batter is fermented overnight and is slightly sweeter than either dosa or idli, it's cooked in a special curve bottomed pan. Ishtoo is the simplest curry – potatoes, onions, a chili pepper, salt and coconut milk, simmered in a clay pot. You'd rarely find it in a restaurant, but it's the most wonderful and comforting food.

  • I'm lucky, Vancouver offers many types of Indian cuisine. I've tried dosas and thalis. Ooh, those pics are making my mouth water.

  • I should not have clicked on this before lunch! Most Indian restaurants in the United States and Europe focus on northern Indian dishes that are usually creamy, heavy curries. But, after traveling through India our favorite meals were thalis, dosas and snack food (e.g., samosa chaat). We are always on the lookout now for southern Indian restaurants when we travel but the dosas never seem to be the same.

    • ShannonOD

      I completely agree on the South Indian dishes, although I didn't make it to
      the south, so I am sure that there were a bunch of specialties that I missed
      out on. When I get back to India I definitely starting the exploration in
      the south :-) Those crispy dosas and street samosas are just too alluring –
      hope you found a good substitute for lunch in South America! :-)

  • You don't happen to be talking about Natraj's restaurant in Udaipur??? I love their thalis! Although the best I've ever had were in Ahmedabad. A Gujarati thali is my favorite meal on the planet…

    Why do I have to be so far away from India right now?! Ahhhh!!

    • ShannonOD

      That is EXACTLY the one!! I love that you went there too – it was one of my
      fav foodie experiences in India becuase I was absolutely the only Westerner
      there :-)

      Will have to add the Gujarati thali to my list of things to try when I get
      back to India – I am with you on the India longing, pondering how soon I can
      get back over there… :-)

      • As soon as I read the post I had a feeling it would be the same place! I remember sitting upstairs at Natraj's as the only foreigner there as well and loving every minute…two, three, four servings…I couldn't stop!

  • Stephanie RJ

    Actually Dosas are not cooked in the tandoor (a relatively recent introduction to the south) but on either a griddle top or a 'tawa', a flat, usually cast iron (but nowadays often nonstick) pan. Much like a crepe!

    As for favorites, I love avial (which you might have in the thali there, it's a dry coconut and vegetable curry) and pumpkin curry. But my favorite dish of all must be vellayappam and ishtoo. Vellayappam is like a hybrid of a dosa and idli – the batter is fermented overnight and is slightly sweeter than either dosa or idli, it's cooked in a special curve bottomed pan. Ishtoo is the simplest curry – potatoes, onions, a chili pepper, salt and coconut milk, simmered in a clay pot. You'd rarely find it in a restaurant, but it's the most wonderful and comforting food.

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks for the correction – I had no idea. One of the restaurants in the
      north told us we couldnt order a dosa because the Tandoor oven was down!
      Chalk that up to being a tourist I guess :-)

      All of those curries you describe sound absolutely amazing – I am a sucker
      for any of the coconut curries and dishes, so you have certainly given a few
      fantastic ones for me to add to my list for next time I'm in the country!
      I'll have to keep a keen eye out for the Ishtoo if I'm in any more homey
      environments. Thanks again for the feedback, you have me excited to get back
      to India and try some new dishes :-)

  • What a fabulous post… I love Indian food and I'm happy that it seems to be going more mainstream in many cities. Where I grew up in the states (deep south), you were considered sort of weird if you liked it.

    The spices are really good for you

  • I'm lucky, Vancouver offers many types of Indian cuisine. I've tried dosas and thalis. Ooh, those pics are making my mouth water.

    • ShannonOD

      I hear you – it's after writing these entries that I decided that Indian
      foods were top on my list of restaurants to find when I was in NYC these
      past couple days! You're lucky to live in a big city with a lot of great
      choices!! :-)

  • ShannonOD

    That is EXACTLY the one!! I love that you went there too – it was one of my
    fav foodie experiences in India becuase I was absolutely the only Westerner
    there :-)

    Will have to add the Gujarati thali to my list of things to try when I get
    back to India – I am with you on the India longing, pondering how soon I can
    get back over there… :-)

  • ShannonOD

    I completely agree on the South Indian dishes, although I didn't make it to
    the south, so I am sure that there were a bunch of specialties that I missed
    out on. When I get back to India I definitely starting the exploration in
    the south :-) Those crispy dosas and street samosas are just too alluring –
    hope you found a good substitute for lunch in South America! :-)

  • ShannonOD

    Thanks for the correction – I had no idea. One of the restaurants in the
    north told us we couldnt order a dosa because the Tandoor oven was down!
    Chalk that up to being a tourist I guess :-)

    All of those curries you describe sound absolutely amazing – I am a sucker
    for any of the coconut curries and dishes, so you have certainly given a few
    fantastic ones for me to add to my list for next time I'm in the country!
    I'll have to keep a keen eye out for the Ishtoo if I'm in any more homey
    environments. Thanks again for the feedback, you have me excited to get back
    to India and try some new dishes :-)

  • ShannonOD

    I hear you – it's after writing these entries that I decided that Indian
    foods were top on my list of restaurants to find when I was in NYC these
    past couple days! You're lucky to live in a big city with a lot of great
    choices!! :-)

  • ShannonOD

    I'm not from the particularly deep south, but I definitely know what you
    mean – there are still not a lot of great choices for Indian restaurants in
    the places that I have lived in Florida – some of my “home” friends would be
    perfectly mystified if I suggested going for Indian! :-)

  • What a fabulous post… I love Indian food and I'm happy that it seems to be going more mainstream in many cities. Where I grew up in the states (deep south), you were considered sort of weird if you liked it.

    The spices are really good for you

    • ShannonOD

      I'm not from the particularly deep south, but I definitely know what you
      mean – there are still not a lot of great choices for Indian restaurants in
      the places that I have lived in Florida – some of my “home” friends would be
      perfectly mystified if I suggested going for Indian! :-)

  • As soon as I read the post I had a feeling it would be the same place! I remember sitting upstairs at Natraj's as the only foreigner there as well and loving every minute…two, three, four servings…I couldn't stop!

  • brookevstheworld

    So hungry. Waiting for dinner and tummy grumbling extra loud now :)

  • brookevstheworld

    So hungry. Waiting for dinner and tummy grumbling extra loud now :)

    • ShannonOD

      Mission accomplished then, enjoy dinner. ;-)

  • Chicken Saag. Veggie Samosa. Turka daal. Palak paneer.

    Oh my god. I LOVE INDIAN.
    Any other questions?

  • Sofia

    I LOVE Indian food, especially Thali!! Have never tried the dosas though, I haven't heard of them until now. Will definitely look out for them next time I eat Indian.
    Actually I just wrote a blog about the best countries to visit for vegetarian food lovers, and India is by far number one, the choices are just endless..

  • ShannonOD

    Oh man! You definitely need to try a dosa at the next opportunity. I was
    traveling w/my cousin and it is her absolutely favorite Indian dish. As for
    the vegetarian countries – you are so right, it was pretty fabulous to
    travel there and have endless, endless foodie choices. :-)

  • ShannonOD

    With you on the palak paneer – with all that I have tried, I still come back
    to it as my fav too :-) Your carnivorous self is on your own with the
    Chicken Saag – blech ;-)

  • Chicken Saag. Veggie Samosa. Turka daal. Palak paneer.

    Oh my god. I LOVE INDIAN.
    Any other questions?

    • ShannonOD

      With you on the palak paneer – with all that I have tried, I still come back
      to it as my fav too :-) Your carnivorous self is on your own with the
      Chicken Saag – blech ;-)

  • Sofia

    I LOVE Indian food, especially Thali!! Have never tried the dosas though, I haven't heard of them until now. Will definitely look out for them next time I eat Indian.
    Actually I just wrote a blog about the best countries to visit for vegetarian food lovers, and India is by far number one, the choices are just endless..

    • ShannonOD

      Oh man! You definitely need to try a dosa at the next opportunity. I was
      traveling w/my cousin and it is her absolutely favorite Indian dish. As for
      the vegetarian countries – you are so right, it was pretty fabulous to
      travel there and have endless, endless foodie choices. :-)

  • ShannonOD

    Mission accomplished then, enjoy dinner. ;-)

  • DavenDeb

    Thali's are our favorite too. I love how the food just keeps on coming. More scoops of rice, more curries, more anything you want. I am always overstuffed when leaving the restaurant. People say that you lose weight in India, Dave and I gained weight!!! (yep, we are a little on the piggy side:) I can't get enough of paneer.

  • ShannonOD

    I am right there with you on the gaining weight…at least I did until I
    started getting sick regularly – perhaps that's why everyone says they lose
    weight too! So perhaps it's a sign you guys are doing well on that front
    :-)

  • DavenDeb

    Thali's are our favorite too. I love how the food just keeps on coming. More scoops of rice, more curries, more anything you want. I am always overstuffed when leaving the restaurant. People say that you lose weight in India, Dave and I gained weight!!! (yep, we are a little on the piggy side:) I can't get enough of paneer.

    • ShannonOD

      I am right there with you on the gaining weight…at least I did until I
      started getting sick regularly – perhaps that's why everyone says they lose
      weight too! So perhaps it's a sign you guys are doing well on that front
      :-)

  • I remember that I was so hesitant before to try Indian cuisine but I changed right after I had some. Its the thought of trying the unknown that got me scared.

  • ShannonOD

    I dream about Indian food – it's hands down a fav! :-) Glad you had the
    guts to try it!

  • I remember that I was so hesitant before to try Indian cuisine but I changed right after I had some. Its the thought of trying the unknown that got me scared.

    • ShannonOD

      I dream about Indian food – it's hands down a fav! :-) Glad you had the
      guts to try it!

  • manuchettan

    It is with a very broad smile that I read this entry. I can't actually stop smiling. It feels so nice that all the people here had nice experience with the humble Indian cuisine. It is a matter of immense happiness for a local like me. I too, like Mary, am brought up in the deep South and yes, the taste of local food there is exotic. I have been to Udaipur a couple of years ago. Dinner at Natraj restaurant was a mouth-watering treat. I like to share my blog here.

    http://creativefactory.blogspot.com

    • ShannonOD

      The food in India is truly one of those things that I wax poetic about – and
      the southern food, oh so delicious. I truly have not met a single traveler
      who does not rave about the eating experience in India – like the people it
      is varied and completely unique.

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