… Okay, so maybe averaging four meals a day didn’t help. But I wanted M. to try all my favourite dishes and he was more than willing to oblige! And the further south you go the better the food gets (and yes, that’s a highly objective opinion!).
Here’s a list of a few of my favourite things to eat in India.
A pani puri defies description. So I’ll just give you the step-by-step guide to eating it:
Step 1: Take the puri (the deep fried circular shells you see in the picture) and crack a hole in the top with your thumb.
Step 2: Fill the opening with a small teaspoon full of each of the fillings including the “pani” (the spiced water).
Step 3: Quickly pop the whole creation in your mouth.
You will instantly feel the burst of the sweet tamarind sauce with the sour pani mixed in with the crackle of the puri. Whoever invented the pani puri needs to be given a Nobel Peace Prize, because when you crunch down on one, all feels well with the world.
The picture of the pani puri seen above is the “safe” version. Pani puri should be eaten on the side of the road, with the pani puri wallah doing steps 1 and 2 of the process for you with all the ingredients from his cart. The last stage is to fill the puri by dipping his hand into a vat full of pani before it hits your plate and then enters your mouth. It’s more fun and no doubt more authentic, though the hygiene factor is up for discussion. As a result the uninitiated tummy might find the real deal a little bit too exotic.
In the photo below you’ll see a variant of the puri above. This is the big fluffy puri, it’s equally delectable cousin. Just tear away at it and use each piece to scoop up the curry – heaven!
Eating puris at “Diana” in Udipi ©MRandin
A masala dosa for breakfast improves your karmic state for the rest of the day. It’s an Indian crêpe (for want of a better phrase) that you eat with a potato mixture. The size and consistency of dosas varies and I’ve seen some that are so big they need to placed over two tables!
A thali represents all your Christmases rolled into one. Thali’s are usually vegetarian in nature. The Wikipedia entry on “thali” describes it as “a selection of different dishes, usually served in small bowls on a round tray.” I would have included a picture except that we were too busy eating and forgot.
We had our thali at Woodlands in Udipi, which has also been given a thumbs up by the Lonely Planet.
M. was enjoying the food so much he decided it needed an alcoholic accompaniment and so asked for a Kingfisher beer. The problem is that Woodlands is owned by a Hindu family who are, yes, you guessed it, teetotallers. Poor M. was very embarrassed. Thankfully, everyone saw the funny side!
Dhai Vada tastes so good that I’ve never really bothered to ask anyone what it’s made of until I sat down to write this post. One blog describes it as a “lentil dumpling in sweet youghurt”. I’ll take their word for it.
We ate this Dhai Vada in Diana restaurant in Udipi. Although this place has never made it into the Lonely Planet, it’s legendary. Everyone knows about it because it’s been there since time immemorial.
Oh yes, we also had lots of fish curries, clams, king prawns, chicken and meat curries, all of which were washed down with liberal amounts of Kingfisher beer and local wines. I even tasted home made pineapple wine, which quite frankly should be bottled and sold worldwide.
If you’re travelling in India and the quantities of spice in your food get too much for you, never fear there’s always a McDonalds near!
So in a nutshell, this is why I’m almost 5 kilos heavier than I was before Christmas.
Even the Lonely Planet believes that South Indian food is special and has dedicated an entire chapter to this cuisine in its guide.
Scrumptious India? I certainly think so!