I ate a lot in India. Most days, I was so full from dinner the night before that it was hard to eat breakfast. But I ate it. Oh, did I eat it.
The Overall Best Thing I Ate
Southern India is dosa territory and I had plenty of them during my trip. Best by far was the Mysore Masala Dosa, which is the specialty of Mysore, and Om Shanti does them right. Make sure to visit after 3 pm to try them (or beg, like I did), since it’s alright to eat dosas for breakfast or dinner, but lunch is reserved for a thalis.
The restaurants is a no-frills place that’s clean and always seems to be busy. Our driver, who visits Mysore often, recommended it and said it’s his favorite spot when he’s in town. The food was a hit with all of us, from the crispy dosa to the simple, yet flavorful tomato and coconut chutneys.
If you’re there, don’t skip a hot cup of Mysore Chai at the end of your meal. Like their namesake dosa, it’s extra flavorful with strong notes of ginger and cardamom. It’s not to be missed!
The Best Street Food Turned High-Class Appetizer
Pani Puri is the classic Indian street snack. Everywhere you go you’ll see vendors with carts full of the crispy shells, ready to dunk them into the vibrant green water and plop them onto a small silver plate, to be quickly eaten by a waiting customer. As much as I love watching people line up to eat them, I’m a little timid to try them. Maybe it’s the fear of the water, or the fact that the vendor’s hand is repeatedly dipped into the water throughout the day, that’s kept me away. Regardless, this appetizer was so much fun to eat!
I had eaten pani puri before but never had the shells been filled. These little guys were stuffed with a mashed potato and bean filling and then sprinkled with chopped herbs. The end result was less room for the liquid, which I didn’t mind since it made eating them less sloppy ( nice since it was at a restaurant and not roadside). It also ended up being much heavier and I found that I was full after the appetizer.
Best Replacement for a Traditional Salad
I love a good salad. I’ll even eat a not so good one. And when I travel, I miss eating leafy green bowls of lettuce. I know eating raw vegetables in developing countries is questionable, not to mention really hard to find, but I still miss it. So, when I was introduced to this no-lettuce salad that was still light and healthy I was pumped!
These lentils were soaked overnight and lightly steamed, though I was told that they’re often served raw too. The freshly chopped cilantro, dusting of masalas, and squeeze of lime was the perfect dressing. I will try to make them when I’m back home.
In South India I hit the jackpot of savory breakfasts. I don’t really care for pancakes or waffles because they’re too sweet, so I was thrilled with the assortment of non-cavity inducing breakfast options. I’d had idli sambar before and liked it, but I always felt like the idli was a bit lacking in flavor.
Then, I tried Uttapam.
While it resembles a pancake, there’s really no comparison in taste. The batter is made up of a mix of urad dal and rice, which is fermented. The result is slightly tangy, and the finished product is really moist and spongy, and not fluffy like a pancake. In the batter I was given the option of vegetables, which of course I choose all of them, and was served the glorious dish above. Fresh herbs, spicy peppers, pungent onions: it had it all.
The Best Store Bought Snack
I love chickpeas. If Chana Masala wasn’t the quintessential white person Indian food (along with Chicken Tikka Masala), I would probably order it at every Indian restaurant I visit (disclaimer: this is true only in the US. I would never order that in India where there’s so many other amazing new dishes on the menu.)
So, I flipped when I first tried Chana Jor Garam. It’s flattened, spiced chickpeas that are lightly fried until they reach a crunchy deliciousness. Much like pani puri, this is a street snack, where it’s served with chopped onions,chili peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and topped with lemon juice and a generous sprinkle of spices. Best part about the street version is that you’ll see it served hot in a cone made of newspaper. How adorable is that?
Unfortunately, we didn’t see any roadside chana jor garam vendors this trip, so the packaged snack had to do.
Now, if only I could figure out why chickpeas are sometimes called “chana” and other times called “chole”…