A Week of Indian Food: Day 6 – Snacks

India has the best snacks, assuming that your tastes run more towards fat-bombs and spice and less towards freshness and health. One of our important goals for this trip was to leave knowing that we had eaten an adequate amount of Indian snacks. I think we can safely say that we fulfilled our mandate.

The best/worst part of snacks is that they generally are sold/consumed either outside or in trains. When you are outside or on a train, you generally have filthy hands, and are in the public eye. Both excellent pre-conditions for consuming messy foods.

Just go with it, T-bone.

Let’s start with the familiar. Samosas are one of my favourite Indian snacks. They are comprised of a gram flour (chickpea flour) shell filled with a potato/chickpea/pea/spice/etc mixture. The resulting concoction is thrown in a vat of oil, and fried until it begs for mercy.

Ahhh. Mercy!

The goodness inside.

A variation on the samoso theme is the kachori. Strangely enough, I had never tried one of these delights. It also has a potato-based filling, but the outer shell is made out of wheat flour rather than gram flour. Based on my limited experience, it seems to be fried even longer than samosas, and when it is removed from the oil, the kachori-walla gouges a hole in its center and fills it with spicy sauce.

Dude. You forgot the hole.

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(The crater in the middle of the flavour volcano).

Todd made it his mission to eat chaats (savoury snacks) before we left India. We found a promising chaat-wallah outside the Amber Fort in Jaipur, and ordered a round. He tossed together a mixture of rice crisps, lemon, chilli, onion, tomato, deep fried gram flour crisps, deep fried lentils, peanuts, and salt. This really is the genius of Indian food – taking a set of unlikely ingredients and creating beautiful harmony.

In the words of George W. Bush, “Mission accomplished”

Enough with the savouries! On to the sweets. We consumed an embarrassing number of Indian sweets on the trip. Indian sweets are all generally based on the same few ingredients – milk, sugar, and spice (sounds a bit like chai…). These ingredients are then shaped into a variety of forms. My personal favourite is milk cake – a fudge-like dessert that tastes like buttery sunshine.

It was really hard to make myself wait until after I’d snapped a photo to eat this beauty.

And last and probably least, a good ol’ packet of Hide & Seek biscuits (“India’s finest molded chocolate chip cookie”) and chai. For times when you’ve ingested enough bacteria and want some processed/packaged fat and sugar.

With all these amazing snacks, it was difficult to find enough space in our guts to hold actual meals. You will be relieved to know that we soldiered through this minor difficulty.

A Week of Indian Food: Day 5 – Trekking grub

When we were in Jaisalmer (our first destination, after Delhi), T-bone and I had the opportunity to go on an overnight camel trek. I’d gone on one years ago, and the romance of it was still emblazoned on my brain. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how painful it was (like riding a horse x 10), and we spent the trip gimping around bow-leg style. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful trip, and included some interesting food.

No, not these camels. Wouldn’t eat these garbage sacks if I was starving to death.

We were served 4 meals on the trip – two breakfasts, one lunch, and one dinner. The breakfasts were identical, and the lunch and dinner were variations on a theme. Our first breakfast was served in our camel driver’s hut.

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The second was served in the dunes.

Feelin’ a little groggy before the massive sugar hit kicked in.

Anything tastes good when you’re out in the cold, but I have to confess that the breakfast combo was a little biased towards the carbohydrate end of the spectrum. On both days, we received no less than an entire loaf of toasted white bread, a package of cookies, fruit, fake jam, and sugar-bomb chai. Oh, and cracked-wheat porridge. Good thing I’m a pretty lazy soul to begin with, or this combo would have had me bouncing off the walls/dunes.

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Bam!

Lunch included chappatis, a cauliflower/cabbage curry, and pickle (a spicy chutney).

This was the first plate. Our camel driver apparently forgot that he only had two clients, and cooked enough to feed six people. He force-fed us the leftovers.

Dinner was a beefed up (oops – shouldn’t mention beef and India in the same sentence) version of lunch. We had chappatis, vegetable curry, dhal, rice, and pickle. Our camel drivers cooked the meal over an open fire, where we all huddled against the cold.

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Todd demonstrating a facial huddle.

The camels also had some tasty treats, including a sack of grain, twigs, and, when their buddies got too close, camel butt. Apparently, there’s nothing like a mouth full of filthy hair and faeces.

Camel butt? Where?!

When we left the dessert, protein was the first thing on the agenda.

A Week of Indian Food: Day 4 – Indian breakfasts

I was a little remiss in my breakfast duties, and didn’t properly document the range of Indian options. However, I think I have enough to give you an idea of the available options. Everywhere you go (in tourist areas, at least), there is the inevitable toast and omelette option.

T-bone eating: it’s inevitable

The standard version is a two-egg masala (in this case, a mixture of tomato, onion, cilantro, and chilli) omelette accompanied by four slices of white toast, butter, tea, and fake jam. I’m not sure what it is about India, but for a country that does so many culinary things right, they really do jam wrong. Unless you get the real (ie: expensive stuff), it tastes like rotten jello.

Anyway, on to more interesting foods. A typical northern Indian option is aloo puri. Aloo refers to a potato curry, and puri is a deep-fried flat bread. The combo is delicious, but man, is it a load of fat first thing in the morning. I only ordered this once. Ok, maybe twice.

Accompanied by no fewer than three drinks – chai, lassi, and juice

A typical southern Indian option is dosa, a rice-flour pancake. Other south Indian favourites include idli, uttapam, and vada, and they are all based on the same idea – fermented rice dough, formed into various shapes. It sounds weird, but it’s delicious. In the photo below, I am eating a paper masala dosa. The dosa is the crispy pancake, while (as far as I can tell) “paper” means that it is 5 times the size of a usual dosa, and masala refers to a potato curry in the middle of the dosa. The dosa is accompanied by coconut chutney, and sambar (spicy lentil soup).

Oops. It’s half devoured already. That’s awkward.

 

Eating so fast you can’t even see my hand.

Nothing like getting your day started right!

A Week of Indian Food: Day 1 – Chai

There is just no way that I could fit the massive quantities of food that T-bone and I consumed in India into a single post. Your screens would explode and splatter your walls with calories. Instead, I’m going to do a brief post every day for a week, with each day covering a unique food group. It’s just gotta be done.

*Warning: This is in no way a definitive guide to Indian food. It’s just a selection of what I actually captured on film + our particular food fetishes.

Starting off with…chai! Chai is foundational to the Indian diet, and the average person drinks something like ten thousand cups a day. Basically, chai is a combination of tea, milk, and spices (may included cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, etc) cooked together until it boils.

Gettin' a little possessive of his chai

Gettin’ a little possessive of his chai

Oh, and let’s not forget the sugar. Similar to their regional buddies in Thailand, Indians like sweeeet drinks. If you want to have a proper cup of chai, add sugar to the milk/tea mixture until it is totally saturated. When the sugar stops dissolving, you know it’s ready to drink.

Often, the cheaper the chai, the more sugar it contains. Train chai is particularly sweet. At only 5 rupees (10 cents) per cup, you can really give yourself some cavities. It’s lucky that the cups are so small. The best part about train chai is the chai wallahs that serve it (“wallah” roughly translated means someone who performs a particular task. ie: chai seller). You can hear them before you see them. They chant “chaiiiii-yuh, chaiiiiii-yuh” in a voice that is impossible to replicate, but is totally unmistakable. New chai wallahs must receive special training, because they all sound exactly the same.

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Not impressed with this train’s chai, or its wallah

The more expensive chai served at guesthouses is often unsweetened, and comes accompanied with a sugar bowl, thus allowing unaccustomed westerners to sweeten their own brew.

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Chai was a huge blessing on our trip. Whenever we (ie: I) started feeling overwhelmed, we’d stop for a chai break. Sometimes chai breaks happened 10 or 15 times a day. You do what you gotta do.

And T-bone clearly needs a break.

And T-bone clearly needs a break.

And now we’re suffering from chai withdrawal. Suddenly having a caffeine/sugar IV drip removed from your body is a rude shock. Good thing there are 5 iced coffee vendors on our street.