India – Food and Drink

2) The Food and Drink

In short: both interesting and delicious.

In long: I’m no good at writing about or taking pictures of food porn. So I guess if you’re interested in descriptions of fiery curries and succulent chunks of mutton with sprinkled cilantro, you can find a professional cook book. I’m going to discuss less the ingredients and more the experience.

The obvious worry for any foreigner entering India is encountering stomach issues. To this, I can say I basically avoided anything serious, which was pleasant. But I can say that some meals definitely leave the plumbing a bit…shaky. (Enough on that.) As I mentioned, tourists basically spend a tad more money, and eat at places that specialize in not giving you diarrhea. We ate at one or two places that were of dubious quality with predictable results. But mostly, we ate fine.

Basically a good majority of it was curry, rice and naan, which were all fantastic. Two of the restaurants were not only the most interesting and delicious restaurants we ate at in India, but I would contend the world.

The first was based on the Silk Road, appropriately called The Silk Road. They selected meats from along the route (including Iran, Pakistan, India, China, etc.) and cooked them presumably the way they were from back then. They skewered the meats and barbecued them over charcoal right in front of you. Also, it was unlimited meat. Oh, and also they had a massive buffet of some of the most delicious grub I’ve ever had, with breads and spreads and beans and lentils and soups and dairy products and veggies everywhere. Also also, it was under ten bucks. So yeah, it was amazing.

The other awesome restaurant we went to was basically upscale street food, called Soam, pictured left. It was based on food from Gujarat, the region the prime minister is from, and it’s cooked in a way foreigners can enjoy (ie not actually cooked on the actually streets). The best part was we were absolutely unfamiliar with 80% of the menu, and they basically gave us a varied spread that included zero curries, which was certainly a change of pace.

There was one interesting quirk I noticed on virtually any packaged food: they all included a dot, either red or green. Because the country is primarily Hindu, there are loads of vegetarians; the green dot indicates it’s okay for vegetarians, much the way of a Halal or kosher marking. And on that note, McDonald’s. We went to one once primarily because we were lazy, but also because I’d read a lot about how odd they were to foreigners. The serve zero beef. They used to and they did terrible business. And now there are zero beef options because of the Hindu influence. Which is probably a good thing, as cows are awful for the environment (in good company with humans and beavers). But basically you get chicken or a strange fried veggie patty thing with a spicy sauce that may or may not rip right through you in typical Macdos fashion.

One of the weirdest things I had to get used to with Chinese cuisine was seafood. In the US, beyond shrimp fried rice, there is virtually none at the non-authentic places. So it was a bizarre mix to me to match fishiness and Chinese flavors. The same with Indian food. We went to one place in Mumbai and one in Goa that were known for seafood and it was utterly delicious, pairing shellfish and dense curries. On a slightly different note…

So the food is okay to eat if you pick the right place. Cool. The water? The same as well. I read a blog before I went, which was pretty sensationalist looking back. He said that under no circumstances should you ever open your mouth while showering and you basically shouldn’t let even a single drop enter. In the end, some certainly did get in my mouth and I even used the tap to wet my toothbrush. (crazy me). But the point is, that the water isn’t thaaat bad at all, and it certainly depends on your bowels. Some locals will boil the water and drink it, some use heavy duty filters, and some just use bottled water. We stuck to bottled water of course for drinking, and never had a problem with sketchy, previously opened seals.

And the last comment was on alcohol. Apparently the country has a weird relationship with drinking, relayed to me by a cab driver. “If you give Indians beer, they drink too much. And if you give them too much in public, they start fighting.” True or not, the strange laws exist. The drinking age in some states, including where we mostly were, is 25. That’s right: 25. I’m not legal to drink in New Delhi. There, I asked for a beer at dinner, and they told me straight up no. It’s not served at restaurants, only bars, clubs and designated (and strangely rare) liquor stores. Even our hostel had placards everywhere, screaming at patrons that booze is forbidden in the rooms. (So drink in the halls?)

I spoke with Clemente’s cousins (Hi Clemente!)in Mumbai and they described it like this. They were simply looking for a bribe. If I threw them a 100 note, they would have gotten me a beer, no questions asked. She said it’s 21, not 25 and that no one cares. I think there’s a law, but no one cares about the specifics as long as you pay them. Cool.

So did you like the short version or the long one better?

Indian Food


Like what you’re reading on India? Check out some other related articles in: The India Chronicles!

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