Once upon a planet, there were, approximately, two kinds of folk. The first cannot be separated from home and hearth for all the goodies in the world, and the second could not be kept off the road, for whatever reason. (Yes, some there were – like me – who oscillated like pendulums between these two ends – but that is another story!)

Of the second kind, I largely speak here. Thanks to these folks, many of us live in a constant state of mild envy. However, these footloose lives do much to broaden our horizons, and not just mentally. Beneath the stories of unbelievable journeys and mind-blowing landscapes and incredible sights are also tales of drool-inducing culinary explorations and exploits. I have been lucky to go on some of these, but have also found wonder in the most mundane. This post is as much a recollection of sensible lessons as of discovering true foodie delights.

When in the mountains, with a chill in the air… nothing like a cup of hot tea!

Tea
Tea

And truly, the tea of the mountains is one of a kind! From my wanderings in different corners of the Himalayan foothills, I have learnt that tea invariably is a highly milky, highly sugary extraction that almost leaves you as high as the hill you stand on! But like I said, when there’s a fog about and your hands crave for warmth, even this diabetes-inducing potion will seem heaven-sent!

Trips to the hills also usually mean daylong walks or hikes for me, clambering through precipitous hill tracks and quaint little towns and villages. Which makes the smaller meals that one can have throughout the day most essential. A full meal usually leaves one in no state to walk, leave alone trek uphill! So, any guesses which is the ideal food in such circumstances?

 

Maggie
Maggi

 

The hills can also be about communities that have found a refuge against time, a quiet corner in which to practice their way of life and give visitors a taste of it as well. In Manali, for instance, there is enough hint of a strong Tibetan presence, as these innovative “open top” momos (served at the Yak & Yeti in Old Manali) evidence.

open top momos Photo Courtesy: Anuj Kumar
open top momos Photo Courtesy: Anuj Kumar

 

This next example comes from Crank’s Ridge, located between Almora and Kasar Devi in Kumaon. Needless to add, Crank’s Ridge is one of those places made famous by American “hippie” travelers during the great age of counterculture. This little cafe is among the spots where you can wistfully regret not being young in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Kasar Devi This place is on Facebook! (And is not the inspiration for this Papon song!)
Kasar Devi
This place is on Facebook!
(And is not the inspiration for this Papon song!)

 

Lest you think all the fun is in the mountains, the plains hold as much joy for the traveler – even those who hesitate to venture far from home. Breakfast in the plains, depending on the weather, can vary from the healthy to the anything but. For instance, when going on a Delhi darshan in the winter, a breakfast of samosa and chhole-bhature may seem par for the course!

Chhole Bhature
Chhole Bhature

 

Or, for another example (and this is a personal favorite), the quintessential aloo chaat, which, if made with the right spices, can be a proper Suprabhat for the taste glands!Or, for another example (and this is a personal favorite), the quintessential aloo chaat, which, if made with the right spices, can be a proper Suprabhat for the taste glands!

Aloo chaat sizzling on the tawa at Jugalkishore Ramjilal in Chawri Bazaar, Delhi
Aloo chaat sizzling on the tawa at Jugalkishore Ramjilal in Chawri Bazaar, Delhi

 

At the other end of the spectrum is this staple from Madhya Pradesh – the ever so humble yet ever so exotic Poha (now also available in – uggh! – ready-to-eat packets).

Poha sold at the main chowk in Mandu, Madhya Pradesh
Poha sold at the main chowk in Mandu, Madhya Pradesh

 

For those with hearty appetites, and with a fondness for “Indian breads”, a serving of naan can be an anytime meal. The stuffed naans at Kake di Hatti in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, though, are a family meal even if only one naan is ordered!

Stuffed naan at Kaake di Hatti, Chandni Chowk, Delhi
Stuffed naan at Kaake di Hatti, Chandni Chowk, Delhi

 

Out in Rajasthan, one finds rotis served with a local delight, the Ker Sangri. Where usually one might ask for more roti, here you are likely to keep ordering the ker!

Roti with ker sangri (rightmost above the roti)
Roti with ker sangri (rightmost above the roti)

No matter how sated one is with a meal in India, completion requires partaking of some dessert. And in this respect, India absolutely does not lack either variety or imagination. Whether it a humble barfi or sandesh, or the rather ethereal daulat ki chaat, or even our adaptation of the sundae, we have desserts to tempt even the long-suffering diabetic. Here are some, ahem, examples:

 

 

Untitled
Daulat ki chaat, a tryst involving milk, moonlight and morning dew (Photo Courtesy: Omendra Sachan)

 

Mango (stuffed with) kulfi: An Indian ice-cream dream
Mango (stuffed with) kulfi: An Indian ice-cream dream

 

A sundae done right
A sundae done right

 

The Winter Triad: (left to right) Gulab Jamun, Moong Dal ka Halwa, Gajar ka Halwa
The Winter Triad: (left to right) Gulab Jamun, Moong Dal ka Halwa, Gajar ka Halwa

 

Southern Delight: An ice cream whose chief ingredient is Zingiber officinale – Ginger! (in Kochi’s Jew Town)
Southern Delight: An ice cream whose chief ingredient is Zingiber officinale – Ginger!
(in Kochi’s Jew Town)


This is a guest post by Raghu, who is, among other things, a scribbler-at-large and full-time foodie. A published poet, Raghu loves traveling, no matter what the reason or season. He regularly blogs at http://bencilo.blogspot.in/ and goes by twitter handle ‘godavar. ‘

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