I love Indian food, but as a person who never set foot in India until two days ago, I always wondered if I knew what I was talking about.
The answer is “sort of.” The food here is recognizable as the Indian food I’ve eaten in the US or the UK but it isn’t a cartoon version of what some business person thinks the Western palate requires. In fact, not surprisingly, it’s a lot more like what an Indian person thinks of as “food.”
Not the food you buy on the streets. No matter how tempting the smells from the street hawkers we are taking as few chances with our delicate western tummies as possible. But it is still different, in nearly undefinable ways.
It’s the same experience we’ve had in China, Thailand, Vietnam. There’s no substitute for the real thing.
Take yesterday’s lunch at our hotel in Agra.
Tom, Gale, Jerry and I had Paneer Tikka — Indian fresh cheese that I learned to make from the best Indian cook I know. This version, instead of being sauced to within an inch of its life, was marinated and grilled and fantastic. You could actually taste paneer, charred and herby and fabulous.
We had the Tandoori Aloo. I’ve had a lot of Indian potato dishes but this was a potato, hollowed out and stuffed with mashed potatoes and nuts and spices and grilled in a tandoor. Happy, happy mouth!
We also had Tandoori Simla Mirch – delicious green pepper also stuffed with veggies and other delectable things — and lentils, and naan and raita. It was fantastic, all.
And of course that extra touch of authenticity was added after lunch when we piled into our van and went to see this:
Back to New Delhi and fiery lungs and smog masks this morning (but with the promise of a fantastic meal tonight.). I’d say this little side trip was totally worth it.