Recently, after my trip to India, I discovered the meaning of a Delhi Belly. Rather unpleasant, I must say.
But did I get myself a Delhi Belly when I was there?
I was awed, yes, AWED by India’s thalis, vegetarian or not. It was all about the variety. Tasty varieties. From the very touristy version to the Rajasthani’s, every set was an explosion of colours and flavours. Consisting of tangy starters, flavoursome mains (rice included) and sweet desserts (imagine gulab jamun…with ice cream!), it was completeness at its best. I’m still AWED.
Familiar sights. The ever-filling rotis; naan and parantha. But don’t expect anything lesser than those with fillings like mashed potatoes, mint, onions, mixed vegetables and paneer (cottage cheese). A good complement to the spicy curries.
Some snacks to munch while awaiting the mains? Gladly. Pyramidal samosas filled with minced lamb or chicken, decorated with crunchy vegetable cubes and a generous amount of spices. Too spicy, say you? Perhaps a milder, smoky vegetable sheekh will tantalize your tastebuds. Remember to dip it into that chilled, mint raita (dahi) for a taste of culinary juxtaposition. Or perhaps some juicy momos, crispy-skinned fried paneer...or simply, savoury papads?
Delving into the mains, the all-time favourite briyani rice is the best bet. Saffronized long-grained rice, laced with aromatic spices and purified butter. The taste lingers. But of course, one should never forget the pulaos as well. Dig deeper, and one may find pieces of chicken, mutton or simply, eggs for added flavours. And how is it possible not to complement the rice with the rich, spicy, crimson-hued Mughlai Chicken/Mutton? Let the combination of cinnamon, cardamom seeds, garam masala, star anise and yoghurt bowl you over. There’s also the familiar soft, charred tandoori chicken for the unconvinced.
We can’t possible neglect the ubiquitous yet distinctive South Indian cuisine. The endless sides including dahi vadai, onion bajji, appam and ghee paper masala dosai will keep one entertained. When it comes to rice, specials like bisi bela bath (a blend of spiced rice and lentils), pullogare (tamarind rice) and chitranna (lemon rice) sure provide a good exposure as to how interesting life is beyond the plain, white rice.
Youngsters (or youngeesthanis, they call it) prefer to be hip. And hipsters eat what’s cool. And happenin’. Like the Maharaja Burger from I’m Lovin’ It. Think Big Mac, where beef is substituted with curried chicken patties. Pizza? Yes, Indianized with toppings like kadai chicken and murg mussalam. The masala lemonade’s definitely for the adventurous at heart. And Khan ChaCha at Khan Market got the huge crowd goin’ with their snacks like the mutton seekh kabab roomali roll and chicken tikka roomali roll.
When it comes to desserts, sweets are seriously sweet. No in-betweens. I can’t forget that cooling kulfi on a summer’s night in Jaipur. Frozen milk, embedded with nuts and candied fruits, it was divine. That hot, firm rawa kesari bath sets a nice, sweet tone to a scrumptious South Indian meal. Like falling into Willy Wonka’s factory, India’s dessert shops are full of shapes and colours. And immensely sweet. From a plain milk cake to the green coconut barfi to a crunchy badam pista to the what I call sweet muruku (syrup drenched deep-fried batter called jalebis), one can be assured of a sugary high.There is also the Swiss confectionary pioneer, Wenger’s, to provide pastries like fig tarts, coconut macaroons and cheesecake tarts, which are equally sweet and rich.
What is a trip to India without a cup of chai? Smooth, aromatic and sweet. A sip of India.
In most restaurants, when one asks for the bill, a tray (or bowl or plate) of cumin seeds and rock sugar is presented. A natural mouth-freshener.
So, to answer the earlier question on whether I developed a Delhi Belly in India.
Yes, I did.
A good Delhi Belly at that.
None of those unpleasantnesses.
But one full of colours, spiciness and flavours.