India can be hit and miss when it comes to food.
When it’s good, it’s exceedingly so. One of the highlights of our India trip was sharing in a pot luck dinner in Jaisalmer. Ashraf, the owner of our hotel, was nice enough to open the kitchen to us. We showed his cooks how to make Trini fried chicken and fried rice. In turn, we enjoyed a great biryani and learned how to make apple strudel and two types of potato salad (one with vinegar and another with pumpkin oil) from Austrian sisters, Karin and Uli.
However, when the food’s bad, you could find yourself on the toilet for several days. We had a bad case of Bengaluru belly because we were desperately hungry and thus made a very bad food choice. To avoid traveler’s diarrhea and other terrible food experiences in India, here are our tried and tested travel tips.
- Wash your hands frequently. If there’s no running water, use hand sanitizer or wet wipes.
- Only drink bottled water. To be even safer, brush your teeth with it!
- Avoid raw fruits and vegetables/fruit juices/fruit smoothies.
- Eat hot/just cooked food.
- Be wary of the meat. If it smells off, don’t eat it, no matter how hungry you are!
- Be careful when it comes to street food.
- If you get ill, rest, drink lots of water (with oral rehydration salts), take charcoal tablets, and eat plain crackers or bland food (no dairy and nothing that is too rich, sweet, fried, fatty, or heavily spiced) until you feel better. We were lucky enough to get fresh coconut water (straight from the nut) from a vendor on the street close to our accommodation.
- Do gentle yoga poses to get rid of stomach gas.
- If you’re still ill after a couple of days, go to the nearest pharmacy and ask for Norflox TZ tablets (unless you’re allergic). Locals in Bengaluru recommended it and it worked really well! If that doesn’t work, head to the nearest doctor or hospital.
Once we got over the food poisoning, we were much more mindful about what we ate and really started to enjoy eating in the country. Here are 7 of the best things we ate in India.
1. Millet chapati, yogurt curry, and curried potato
Believe it or not, but this delicious meal came from a basic mud-floor kitchen with a wood chulha (open-air stove) in one corner. The chapati (a type of flatbread) was made with real ground millet and cooked over an open fire. Also, the potato curry and yogurt curry were so light and subtle, unlike the heavy-handed flavors of Indo-Trini curries. #bestmealever
2. Aloo paratha
This was my favorite breakfast ever in India. No one could mess it up! It was so simple: a paratha (another type of flatbread) stuffed with aloo (potato) and fried on a tawa (griddle). It’s usually served with fresh and cool dahee (curd/yogurt) and a tangy tomato or mango pickle.
3. Paneer mushroom burger
When it comes to burgers, we usually like our meat rare/medium-rare. Of course, beef is hardly served in India because cows are considered sacred to the largely Hindu population. However, there are other kinds of burgers served in India. The best we had was a paneer (a type of fresh cheese) mushroom burger at a rooftop restaurant in Jodhpur. It paired well with an ice-cold Kingfisher beer.
4. Mutton biryani
You cannot go to India and not try this complex rice dish. The amalgam of rice, spices, and meat (usually chicken or mutton) is the perfect one-pot lunch or dinner. The best mutton biryani we had was in Kolkata. So moreish!
I know I said not to eat the fruit but I had to share this story. While on the train from Bengaluru to Mysore, my stomach still felt queasy. Then, this woman came on board with a huge basket of guavas. I couldn’t resist. We bought four. She deftly cut the fruit into slices and smothered each with a chili-salt concoction. It reminded me of Trini chow (savory fruit salad) and instantly, I felt much better!
Chai is everywhere in India. It literally means “tea.” When you go into any shop, you are likely to be offered a cup of masala chai. It’s usually piping hot, milky, and very sweet. The strong black tea is also fragrant with spices, particularly cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and ginger. I think it’s the best way to start the day and beat the heat in India!
We eat so much yellow-split peas dal in Trinidad but we had the best dal in India. In fact, Jesse and I lived off tarka dal and dal tadka (with rice or naan) for most of our six weeks there. The lentil soup was so smooth and delicately spiced with cumin and other flavors not typically found in Indo-Trinidadian cuisine. Bonus: the dal was cheap, hot, filling, nutritious (high protein content), and always made from scratch.
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