If you are planning to travel to India for the first time, what would you choose to taste?
The absolutely delicious naan, a salty and … pink tea or a food that is addictive?
The first thing that crosses your mind when I mention Indian food is spicy food, right?
Well, Indian food uses lots of flavors (more or less spicy), but also has a lot of absolutely heavenly desserts.
Here is the best food and tea I tried in India:
By far, Paneer was what I loved the most – a food made with tomatoes, nuts and Kashmir chili powder that colors the food (but it’s not spicy). There are also other ingredients that wait for you to discover. All these transform in a creamy sauce. There are other ingredients as well in the sauce besides the main ones. Then the fresh cheese called paneer is added and boiled for a few minutes (approx. 10 minutes).
Aloo Chaat is like a Romanian potato dish which usually has a tomato sauce. Only that they add some masala as well and it has a kind of sweet taste. Nevertheless it is also spicy, so I had to eat it with naan.
Momos, either vegetarian or with meat. Momos are like a Dim Sum. People say momos are of Tibetan origin.
I personally liked the ones pan fried than the steamed version.
Indians, for sure, love momos. They love momos so much that a couple of years ago a politician from Jammu and Kashmir declared that he wants to forbid people eating momos.
Why? Apparently (like in many processed products) sometimes monosodium glutamate is added for the flavor, which creates addition for people. He considered the consumption of momos more dangerous that drinking alcohol. If such a proposal would be taken into consideration in the future, it will be challenged by all the people that love momos.
If you’re not eating something sweet, then chances are that you will eat it with some flat-bread like roti, naan, poori or something else.
I love naan when it’s still hot and to pour a generous amount of butter on top until it melts and runs over your fingers. If it gets cold, it’s not that good anymore.
The best naan I’ve tasted so far was here.
Most often during my travel I tasted roti and naan.
So, what’s the difference between roti and naan?
Naan is cooked with refined flour (it’s much whiter and softer), whilst roti is prepared with unrefined flour (much darker and much drier)
Some dishes that I did not fully enjoyed are Idli and Medu Vada, dishes more from the Southern part of India. They deserve to be mentioned because they use really old recipes.
Both are eaten with chutney or vegetables, otherwise they are pretty bland and tasteless.
Actually Idli, Medu Vada and Dosa are made from the same dough, only that Idli is boiled, Medu Vada is fried and Dosa is baked in a pan.
Hard choice when it comes to desserts. I tasted lots of good ones, some extremely sweet even for me.
So here are my top choices:
Barfi is a delicious dessert with coconut and banana.
Malpua is a fried dough like a mini-pancake with a very sweet sauce.
Kulfi is a local ice-cream based on condensed milk reduction and fruits
Rasmalai are milk and sugar balls. Initially I thought they are made of bread. At least the texture led me to this thought.
Shahi Tukda (named also Royal Peace) contains a bread made by a local recipe, with sugar and an amazing cream. It was the best dessert I’ve tasted during my stay in India.
Of course Masala chai is well known, but how about a pink and salted tea?
Noon Chai is originally from Kashmir and is made from a special green tea leaves called Namkeen.
A certain type of leaves are used that when are boiled, the tea becomes pink. The more you boil them, the pinker and tastier the tea becomes. Best is to boil them for about 30 minutes and to add cow milk and salt.
People say that this tea is good for dizziness, dehydration and that it helps the digestion.
I fell in love with Kashmir chai.
It’s called Kashmir Masala Qahwa and has Saffron (Kaser), Green tea, Cardamon (Choti Elichi), Cinemon (Dalchini), cloves (laung), Saffron Stamens (Bhagav pu k sara), black pepper (Kali mirich) and herbs. The cinnamon flavor is what makes me think always about cold winter days, when you want to drink a hot tea.
Unfortunately I could not buy this type of tea once I got back in Romania because currently there’s no one on the market that sells it. I even asked in the Indian community here and they told me that I won’t find it in Romania. There’s no need to go to Kashmir though :), I will find it in Delhi as well.
Useful things to know
- Street food is an experience not to be missed.
The best is to go with a local guide, but if you want to try it on your own at least consider some useful tips. Choose only food that is freshly made and still hot (don’t choose something that has been staying in the sun).
I could not be there and not try some. So I tasted the samosas and drank a delicious Lassi.
Lassi is a salty yogurt, perfect for a hot day in Delhi!
People say it is good for the stomach. Just take a look before you buy one if you’re just stopping in a market or somewhere on the street. Apparently, the best option for tourists is for the salesman to show you it’s sealed and to open it in front of you.
- Don’t be afraid of the idea that you will travel to India and you won’t be able to eat anything.
Yes, there are regions where the food is a lot spicier, but if you keep an open mind, there are options too (I keep hearing stories that you have no option, that everything is very spicy, etc). For example, if you’re staying at a 4 or 5 stars hotels (I don’t know much about the lower categories) you will have the chance to eat local food prepared for the guest’s taste, so you’ll have also more moderate spicy food.
- If you travel in the north the food is more like moderate spicy, whilst in the south is much spicier.
Among the most well-known regions or cities that have spicy food are: New Delhi and Rajasthan. But the spiciest region in India is actually Andhra Pradesh (a South-Eastern region a couple of hundreds of kilometers from Chennai and Hyderabad).
I don’t eat very spicy and still, I did not had any problems because of this.
- You will always have a lot of sauces, but this you will probably know by now. Rice is a side dish always at hand.
I ate so much rice in 2 weeks that equals to total amount eaten in the last 2 years. Yes, I don’t eat a lot of rice at home, but with such delicious sauces how could you resist the temptation?
- People eat with their bare hand (or you can dip with pieces of flat-bread like naan). And now some disgusted voices might say what a horror, but if I think at my childhood in the rural area, this was the same in our countryside. I remember that in my childhood I would hear people saying that the food is much tastier if you eat it with your hand :).
- There are alternatives for people who don’t eat meat.
About 23-37% of the population of India is vegetarian (yes, studies differ…a lot). The regions with most vegetarian people are: Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab where over 75% of the population is vegetarian, followed very closely by Gujarat (about 70%).
- If you have the opportunity to travel to several regions, no matter where you are staying, always ask what kind of food is made only locally. Food has certain influences and is a shame not to try the local food (that probably you won’t find it somewhere else). There is also food like paneer, aloo chaat that are more common, dar also specific types of local food.
- The usual places to eat (besides more expensive restaurants and hotels) are very simple. And this is the beauty of them.
* This was a sponsored trip by Goamit Adventures.