Wondering what this guide to eating would contain? Read it to understand its importance. Food is perhaps the weakness of most Indians. The morning begins with the fragrance of a spiced tea in most Indian homes and if I say, Indians live for food, most of my fellow countrymen would agree. We are proud that our kitchens sparkle clean even after a festive dinner, but this cleanliness usually disappears the moment we step out of our house. This is why it is important to know the do’s and don’t of eating out while travelling in India. This guide to eating provides you some important tips.
How to pick a good place to eat?
I wish I could hand you a list of hotels and restaurants which serve great food all across the country, but that, you can always check with other guides such as the lonely planet food guide or the newer ‘Highway on my plate’ reviewed place.
Also, a name may limit your experience since you would not be ready to try other places. So, instead of giving you the names of 5 star hotels and great restaurants (which are rare when you are travelling to rural or hilly areas), I give you a guide to eat well and stay healthy during your trip.
When all you have for help is your instinct, use these tips and tricks to make that crucial decision of ‘to eat or not to eat.’
Pick a place which is crowded:
We are accustomed to pick restaurants which are less crowded, so that we can leisurely enjoy our food. During travel, especially in rural or hilly areas, steer clear from a place which is empty. Such places are more likely to give you stale or unhygienic food because they are usually out of business and do not renew their stock regularly. A crowded place on the other hand, uses all of its raw materials quickly, and gets fresh stock almost every day. Also, since more people visit it, it automatically becomes more accountable to its customers.
Be a vegetarian
Eating meat, poultry or fish during travel is an invitation to trouble, since the handling as well as storage of such food items is anything but hygienic. If you are still inclined to taste non vegetarian delicacies, then I would strongly suggest that you eat at a reputable place like the hotel in which you’re staying or a good restaurant. Everywhere else, stick to a vegetarian diet during your travel because it is much safer and less prone to contamination than its non vegetarian counterpart.
The only exception here would be if you are travelling a coastal area where seafood is the norm.
Eat what others are eating
A sure way to stay healthy and avoid upset stomach is to “Do in Rome as Romans do” or to be more precise, eat what others are eating. Needless to say, the popular food is the freshest, since it is in constant demand.
When all you have is a ‘Dhaba’ in sight
There will be many instances when you’ll have a humble Dhaba at your service. At such a point, you can pass by in search of a big or better restaurant or stop to eat. You may find a restaurant of your liking just a kilometer away or stay hungry for a long stretch. The choice is yours, but should you decide to give the ‘Dhaba’ a try, make sure you observe these important things:
The roadside Dhabas, especially in the Northern part of our country serve really good, hygienic and authentic food. You can choose a Dhaba over the restaurant for the following reasons:
• The Dhaba is on the roadside of a highway while the restaurant is kilometers away from it.
• The Dhaba looks clean and the kitchen is open or can be seen easily. I like to look at the kitchen if I doubt the cleanliness and from experience I can say that if they have a clean kitchen, they’ll let you have a look.
• Some foods taste good only in Dhabas. If you are looking for some authentic or a more home cooked sort of food, Dhabas are better than restaurants.
The necessity of clean drinking water
Contaminated water is one of the most common factors for upset stomachs and illness during travel. Always carry your own water during your trip or buy a packaged water bottle. If you have children along and you do not have access to bottled water, you can have the water boiled at a place where you stop to eat. This water, when cooled, becomes fit for drinking.
The confluence of the curries – Important in Guide to eating
When talking about eating out, I am always mesmerized by the change of curries that take place after every hundred kilometers. Since, the Indian cuisine is as varied as the rainbow’s colours, it is natural to find a North Indian looking for a ‘chapati’ in the South and South Indian in need of ‘rasam’ with their rice. I wish I had a quick fix for such a problem, but the truth is, the most enjoyable part of travelling, lies in tasting delicacies from every place you visit. As a general rule:
• ‘Thalis’ are the best options in the Southern part of the country. Since, they come with so many dishes, chances are that you will find something to your liking. Also, ask the waiter about a dish before ordering. The southern cuisine is quite spicy and tangy in flavor, so it is best to ask before.
• Same goes for the South Indians who are looking for a satisfying eating experience in the northern part of their country. Since rice is an integral part of the southern cuisine, a person can always opt for rice and spicy curries. Although the northern curries are thicker, you can always ask the waiter if a curry can be arranged which suits your taste.
• If still, you cannot adjust to the food, you can always carry your own. With ready to cook meals, the options are infinite. You can also carry a small stove, if travelling by your own vehicle, or an induction cooker to cook your own meals.
Be it with a good experience or a bad one, food can make or break your journey. But if you are wise enough to use common sense along with your instincts, you will sail through the difficult task of eating out in India. Be sure to carry a hand sanitizer, bottled water and your own glasses (tumblers) all the time. Have a great trip and bon appétit!
What are the rules that you stick to while travelling? Share with more travelers, just like you!