> My new favorite thing? Pani Puri (Poori …or also called Gol Gappa). These puffed, crispy, mini puri bread discs are usually filled with a spicy chickpea curry or a spicy water made with green chili. Usually four or five are eaten at one sitting as a snack.
Traditionally a street food or home cooking snack, these tasty little puffs are fast becoming available in restaurants as their popularity increases.
Go immediately to your Indian market for the basics to make them yourself (see video) or start by buying them already made in the frozen food section.
So after being in India and Nepal for three weeks and eating like a modern day Maharaja, you’d think I’d have tons to talk about. Well…I do…kinda. First of all, every meal I had was five courses served by dozens of wait staffers in beautiful settings…but to eat safely we had to restrict ourselves to the resorts and five star restaurants (usually I’d hardly call this suffering) but these places like to cater to tourists who demand less spicy, less authentic version of Indian food…or something at least more like the Indian food they already know from home. Disappointing and odd. So…what’s the rage in five star Indian cuisine? French and Chinese. Yawn.
One way I got around this and came closer to feeling like a local…or at least feeling like I was eating something similar to all of those wonderful street foods that haunted me everytime I stepped outside my hotel bubble, was gorging myself on breakfasts and snacks.
The enormous “Nashta” breakfast buffets always offered a large regional food selection due to the kitchen staffers eating the left overs as part of their wage. Stuffed Paratha with potatoes and cauliflower, spicy Aloo Puha, Vada Sambhar with green chilis or Toovar Sambhar with lots of lentils…I started a habit of needing a morning fix of chicken soup with green chili, spring onions and a shot of hot sauce…Breakfast Of Champions!
Another easy way to cut through the westernized versions of Indian food was to order a large selection of breads and snacks. The homemade versions of these were always available off menu and the packaged versions were easy to find. Beautiful Chapati, Poori, Kachori and stuffed Kulcha breads made me feel like I was eating local and the dozens of varieties of Pakora, spicy Pakoda and Samosa snacks made me feel like I was getting away with something. The packaged chips and nuts (tamarind and shrimp flavored crackers, green chili and lime peanuts) always kept me guessing and smacking my lips.
Here are a few culinary highlights of the trip:
A hot spicy sauteed cabbage and green bean dish while sitting under a large tent in a garden in Madha Pradesh near Khajarajo. Lots of sun, lots of room temperature beer and lots of spicy chicken stuffed Mughlai Paratha.
A hot, spicy traditional northern samosa served to me in a truck stop near Jaipur when I thought there was no hope from starving to death.
A fantastic lamb curry with the best Chapati I’ve ever tasted in the Indian restaurant of our resort in Agra. I think I giggled a little bit drenching up the gravy.
A bland tasting Paneer Madras with a wonderful cold beer sitting three stories up on a balcony overlooking Durbar Square in ancient Bhaktapur.
A miniature butterfinger bar I had stuffed away in my bag after 16 days of sweet withdrawal (I’m not too proud to admit it).
Home made Nepalese moonshine served to me in small saucers while I sat on the floor, watched dancers and pretended that sitting on the floor was comfortable and that I wasn’t getting drunk.
Savory tasting whipped milk icing birthday cake given to me from friends in the New Delhi Airport.
I’d love to go back…but I want to do my homework first next time. I need to find out exactly how long it would take and exactly how sick I need to get in order to acclimate the common Indian street food bacteria into my diet. I’m thinking small doses over a few months should get me close to being able to walk up to a bustling street vendor and order anything I want.
A midwestern bear eating his way through the world
I'm just a regular foodie kinda home cook guy that lives in Indianapolis and has been in love with food my whole life. If I'm not trying my hand at making cheese or have my arms stuck into a roasted pig, I'm learning and writing about the food around me.