We were pretty lucky with our experiences eating in India. We didn’t experience any of the chronic bowel problems I’ve heard about, though we invented a new acronym for what we sometimes did experience – SBE – Sudden Bowel Evacuation – which hit every once and a while and afterward we were fine for a day or two. Even writing it I’m a bit superstitious since saying it could sometimes provoke a bout of it.
But we loved experimenting and even SBE didn’t stop me from the next taste, the next new adventure. Luckily we had locals with us to point out their favorite places and dishes.
I had ice cream a few times while in India, and while it didn’t compare to the gelato here in Italy (check out my Tour del Gelato to see how much I love it), it was a welcome cool break on many days. I thought it was interesting how the ice cream was often presented in pre-cut “loaf slices” or in certain cases in a single tub with other flavors on all sides.
One flavor I discovered that I really enjoyed was “American Dry (or Dried) Fruits” – and every time I had it, it was something different. Often with a base of chocolate chip, there were nuts and/or gummy “fruit” mixed in. A few times the base was cardamom-tasting and once it was like a creamsicle. It’s definitely worth trying once!
Desi Chinese or Indian Chinese Cuisine
According to Asia Times online, Indian Chinese cuisine or “Desi Chinese” is the most popular cuisine after local (Indian) cuisine, and we could tell our friends enjoyed it. Almost every restaurant had a few Indian Chinese dishes on their menus. It definitely beat most of the mediocre Chinese food I’ve eaten in Italy.
This following dish was one of the hottest and tastiest of the trip, and even its name is cool: Veg 65. What’s the 65 for in Veg 65 or Chicken 65? It’s still not clear to me. Some claim because it was invented in the 60s, others because there are 65 ingredients in it, and still others that say there are 65 chilies to a kilo of ingredients. The last one makes the most sense to me. It’s hot! I would imagine 65 to be the degrees (in C°) inside your mouth when eating it. When it first appeared, because of the shape we thought they were actual hot peppers fried in more hot pepper! I was determined to try one anyway. Luckily, they were just vegetables in a strikingly similar form to a hot pepper in a spicy spicy sauce. Delicious.
Of course the Garlic Chili Noodles were also a common favorite and a good fallback option if you needed one of those SBE “downtime moments.”
One of my favorite dishes (which I didn’t photograph) was Manchurian Vegetables – dark balls of vegetables fried in a wok with “Manchurian sauce.” A great snack. A starter dish I saw frequently on the menu but never tried was the “Chicken Lollipop” which never failed to elicit a chuckle but I was always too hungry to experiment with it. Who’s tried it?
One of our favorite experiments, when our friends in Gujarat asked if we wanted “burgers” we were a bit skeptical since we were really enjoying all the Indian food. When we arrived at the stand, we were surprised to find Dabeli or Dabeli Pao, a little sandwich that looked like a hamburger, mostly because of the butter-toasted bun, but was filled with potatoes, spices, onions, cilantro and then rolled in those crunchy snack sticks you can find everywhere in India and served with cilantro and tamarind chutneys. It was absolutely delicious. We continued to obsess about them for the rest of the trip.
Other Indian Street Foods
I loved the Bataka Vada – these fried balls of potato and spices.
I was already a big fan of Samosas, and luckily we have a Pakistani-Indian place here in Italy that makes delicious and cheap samosa! But I was excited to try the Samosa v2.0 – I believe it was a type of Samosa chaat. My friend called it a “ruggerah” but I’m not sure on the spelling on that. Anyone? These were smaller samosas smothered in (curry) gravy, potatoes, onions and cilantro.
This place was really good, and literally a hole in the wall. We had to stop by twice in order to catch any samosas. A father and his two sons were working there, and only two people could be inside the space at one time. The older son “won” this privilege standing behind the food with his little brother at his back, while his father stood partially outside and supervised. I had to duck to get inside and take a picture. The wall is immediately to my left, including the younger brother who scrunched himself to let me in.
I was fascinated by Pani Puri but it was never the right time to try them or we were concerned about the unfiltered water used that may provoke more SBE. We had some excellent Pav Bhaji that I didn’t photograph because I was so hungry.
Was there any food I didn’t like in India? Maybe. You’ll have to stay tuned.