Top 10 Indian Eats
Wednesday 8th - Tuesday 14th
10. Rogan Josh
There is nothing really remarkable about rogan josh - when all is said and done it’s just pieces of lamb submerged in a Kashmiri onion, garlic, yoghurt and ginger curry - and admittedly its appeal is not unrelated to the joy of munching meat after being confronted by vegetarian menus for weeks on end. Even so, when the lamb is really tender and the spices are just right, the subtle combination can be truly out of this world.
For those who don’t know, a thali is a traditional Indian set meal containing small amounts of dal, yogurt, vegetable curries, rice, chipatis and papad (popadoms). In most restaurants each part is served in an individual metal cup on a large tray - though if you’re lucky, you’ll get a stainless steel indented dish for authentic prison-canteen style dining. If you’re having trouble making up your mind, the thali is a fantastic compromise - a little bit of everything. Luke hit the nail on the head when he described it as ‘all the fun of a big Chinese dinner table, but you don’t have to share!’ 8. Omelettes
They may not scream India to the discerning gastro-tourist, but trust me, citizens of the subcontinent know how to whisk and egg, and omelettes - of every variety, including the acutely Indian ‘masala omelette’ (not for the faint hearted) - are on offer everywhere in all their very finest crisp and fluffy glory.
7. Malai Kofta
If your taste buds are yearning for something cool and creamy after one too many spicy options, this is the one to go for. Malai (cream) is blended with tomato, onion, ginger and spices to create a thick gravy, poured over deep-fried kofta (potato dumplings) stuffed with dried fruits and, yep, more cream (or cheese) – a winning combination to say the least, if not a diet-friendly one.
I’ve extolled the virtues of momos before, but they bear repeating. Technically these stuffed dumplings are Tibetan, but with a little effort can be found all over northern India. Get them steamed or fried, filled with vegetables, meat or even cheese then dip generously in the accompanying spicy tomato sauce for a sensational snack. Fried paneer momos are, incidentally, one of the finest foods I have ever had the pleasure of eating. 5. Lassi & Chai
Not technically food, but essential elements of Indian fare nonetheless. Lassis are something akin to smoothies, made with curd (yogurt) and served plain, sweet or flavoured with fruit for a cool, thick pick-me-up that keeps hunger at bay for hours. Chai, on the other hand, is ideal for early mornings and rainy days (a lifesaver during monsoon season!). It’s really nothing more than sweet, milky tea - though its masala-based cousin has more of a kick to it - but during a long bus or train journey, hearing the long-awaited cry of ‘Chai! Chai!’, seeing the Chai Man appear with his stack of cups and flask, then watching the world go by over a steaming cup of milky goodness is truly heart-warming.
4. Dal Makhani
The ever-present dal is a staple of Indian cuisine and available everywhere in many forms. The king of dals, however, has to be the dal makhani, notable for its richer, chunky whole black lentils and red kidney beans, mixed with cream, tomato and spice then cooked overnight to create as hearty a meal as you’ll ever eat.
Simplicity itself and utterly delicious - though less of a treat for your arteries. Take small bundles of any number of things - vegetables, cheese, meat, jalapenos, etc - coat in lashings of chickpea batter, then deep-fry until crispy golden brown and dip in whatever condiment takes your fancy. A reliable classic. 2. Paneer
Paneer would be the lovechild of a passionate encounter between cottage cheese and halloumi - a fermented cheese which can range in texture from soft, crumbly perfection to firm and tofu-like and is, shock horror, surprisingly healthy owing to its high water content. Two shining examples of its deliciousness and versatility are palak paneer, a thick, creamy spinach curry containing large cheesy chunks, and paneer pakoda (see above).
1. Street Food
It feels like a bit of a cop-out to lump together all the street stall goodies I’ve discovered, but the alternative is a list dominated by them with no room for anything else. Food stalls sporting huge, sizzling woks of deep-fried delicacies dominate most bazaars and old streets, dolling out endless newspaper-wrapped snacks at 5 or 10 Rupees each (around 5p). Personal highlights include samosas (thicker, crunchier and more pyramid-like than their flatter, soggy English counterparts, stuffed with potato and spices), vada sambar (small, fried lentil doughnuts, a savoury, stodgy treat) and channa puri (spiced chickpeas in puffed fried bread).