This week’s photo challenge theme – containers – immediately made me think of the huge amounts of food, spices, sweets, flowers and little trinkets that we came across on our travels across India, all stored in containers, bowls and sacks, bundled on top of carts and spilling out of roadside shops. Although the weekly photo challenge is usually just a photo with a small story or caption, there was absolutely no way that I could say so little about the food in India. It accidentally turned into a slightly longer post – oops! – as I found myself writing more and more and wanting to share the deliciousness of India with you 🙂
India is a huge country teeming with culture and tradition and some of the most welcoming people you could hope to meet. It’s full of diverse landscapes from the bustling cities and mountains of North India, to the sandy deserts of Rajasthan, and the rolling green hills and swaying palm trees of South India. As if that wasn’t enough for any wide-eyed traveller, it is also a country that has some of the best food I have ever tasted.
On our first day in India, we delved right in to the local cuisine with a street food tour of Chandi Chowk with Old Delhi Bazaar Walk & Haveli Visit. We were told to arrive with empty stomachs and were so glad we listened to that advice, as over the next few hours we stopped at an array of roadside stalls to sample every delectable dish our guide could spot, from aloo chat (spicy fried potatoes) to chloe bhatura (a fried hollow bread with spicy chickpea curry).
We visited the spice market in Old Delhi where untold amounts of bowls, sacks and containers of all shapes and sizes were filled high with spices, herbs, nuts, fruit, rice and tea of all varieties spilling over the edges. The smell was overpowering and I couldn’t stop sneezing from the heavy scent of spice in the air!
In Varanasi, our hosts at Homestay took us on a tour of the city and showed us their favourite foodie finds including spicy samosas in tamarind sauce, heavenly panipuri (a hollow crisp shell filled with flavoured water, potato, vegetables and spices) and a stall bursting with containers full of brightly coloured sweets and mints.
One of my favourite Indian delicacies was dhal, a thick curry sauce made from lentils, which you can’t go to India without trying at least once. Dipping a warm soft roti in it was like heaven in a bowl!
Whether we were in a tiny out-of-the-way restaurant in Rajasthan or enjoying the sun in Kerala, a thali was another of my favourite dishes in India. The huge meal comes on a large round tray full of small bowls all filled with a different dish. Creamy chicken curries, paneer, potatoes and other spicy dishes were the norm in the North, whereas the South Indian variety came with dishes such as flaky white kingfish, banana curry and beetroot chutney. Now, I have a major dislike for both bananas and beetroot, but here the food seemed to be so much more flavoursome and I (very) happily tried anything and everything that I came across. Served along with rice, dhal, vegetables, Indian breads and a sweet dish, I gobbled up as much of every thali as I could, until I was so full I’m surprised I didn’t burst!
In the desert town of Jaisalmer, carts carrying bowls full of sweets lined the narrow alleys, prickling our noses with the smell of sugar, fruit and fudge. If I wasn’t allergic to nuts, and so slightly hesitant to try the sweet treats, I would have stuffed myself silly with desserts too, but instead I stuck to the savoury Indian food, maybe with a platter of fresh fruit or a mango lassi thrown in for good measure 😉
As I’m sure you can guess, I pretty much didn’t stop eating for the entire 3 weeks I was in India. The delicacies vary dramatically from North to South, so I was always trying new things and experiencing different flavours. I’ve been craving the food since I got back home but, unfortunately, I haven’t yet managed to find anywhere in London that does proper authentic Indian food and not the version that has been adapted for Western palates. It might still taste good, but now I know it’s not quite as good, nothing will compare to the real taste of India.