Indian food is one of the few cuisines that has not yet undergone Jamie Oliverication. The wrinkled street merchant remains the custodian of the cooking tradition. There may be the risk of “delhi-belly”, but for foodies like me that’s a worthy trade of for knowledge that I am biting into authenticity. If you’re the type to constantly quest for mouthfuls of glory, here are three experiences that cannot be missed.
Street Food in Mumbai
Street food is the heart and soul of Indian cuisine, and Mumbai is full of it. Begin your journey five minutes from Central Station with Sardar’s pav bhaji, a spicy dish that originated on the streets of Mumbai. Follow it up with vava pav from Anand, fried balls or triangles coated in garlic and chili powder. Wash it down with a juice from Bachelorr’s if you can find a seat, or walk along the streets and see what other culinary delights catch the eye. A warning to ye intrepid traveler, do not forget the triple C of safe street food – Customers, Cleanliness, and Checking for strange growths.
Fine Dining in New Delhi
At the other end of the price scale, (but still blissfully easy on the wallet by Australian standards) is New Delhi’s emerging fine dining scene. At the Taj Hotel you will find the restaurant Varq. Rated one of Asians best, Varq present street food with a modern twist, offering contemporary dining that actually tastes as good as it looks. Another favourite is Indian Accent. Located in a small boutique hotel, chef Manish Mehrota’s blend of lavish ingredients, Indian spices and international flavours has actually pulled a large enough crowd to fill the seemingly endless rows of tables. Last on my hit list is Karmin’s. Not all of Dehli’s best fine dining is contemporary – Karmin’s is over one hundred years old. Since serving the Imperial kitchens of the Mughal Empire in 1913, Karmin’s legendary favourites, (including a mouthwatering tandoori chicken) pack the place out with locals and tourists alike. A bit of a feat considering Delhi contains at least one place to by tandoori chicken per square metre.
House Made Masala Chai
You won’t have to look very hard to find authentic Chai in India. With Chai Wallahs on every corner, aged 7 to 70, chances are you’re going to be drinking a lot of it. Like aeroplane exit doors however, each Chai Wallah is subtly different. Some add saffron, ginger, or even sprinkle spicy garam masala on top. Others are masters of the “metre pour”, decanting the liquid back and forth from a height, creating foam in manner similar to south Asian stretched milk tea. Try it whichever way takes your fancy, but make sure you do. And while you’re on a sugar bender, why not follow it up with gulab jamun milk dumplings to complete your desert?
Check out our post on the 25 best street foods under $1
You can also make your own Chai at home