One week from today, I will board a plane and head back to one of my favorite countries: India. The trip is part of a project with the Goa Tourism Board, and I’ll be joining 14 bloggers, YouTubers, and influencers to explore the state of Goa. The focus will be on luxury, adventure, and food, so I’ll be spending most of my time eating my way through India.
Through my trips, I have had some of the best food around the world, but I think that of all the places I’ve traveled to some of the best food I have ever had was while I was in India. Which is just part of the reason I am so excited to get back there in a week. I love India for so many reasons, and while their food is just one of them, I am excited to eat nothing but Indian food for three weeks, especially because I know exactly what I’m in for.
Since I spent my last trip in both the North and South of India, I was able to experience a variety of flavors and dishes, but I still feel that there’s so much more for me to eat. For now, however, here are some of my favorite vegetarian meals in India.
Similar to crepes, dosa are made from a fermented batter made from rice and lentils. It’s thicker than a crepe, but the idea is the same. Inside, there are many varieties, but each of mine were filled with vegetables and potatoes. While I had several good ones, nothing will compare to the best one I had during my time in India, which was at CTR in Bangalore.
This meal is one that is made up of a variety of dishes all on one plate, and it varies from day to day and place to place. The meal tries to balance the flavors of sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and spicy and usually includes rice, dal, vegetables, chutney, yogurt, and papadum. It’s like a buffet that comes straight to your table, so you want to make sure you come to the meal with a big appetite.
I often categorize dumplings as one of my favorite food groups, seriously. I could live off of a variety of dumplings and while in Rishikesh, we had the opportunity to try momos, a dumpling native to Tibet and Nepal. While the momos in the restaurants in town were delicious, one night we went to a street food stand in downtown Rishikesh. These momos were some of the best dumplings I’ve ever had, and proof that street food can often be the best food.
While I still have yet to make it myself, my friend, Rachel, has a recipe that one of these days I will definitely use. The spinach and cheese dish has always been a favorite of mine, and since that’s the case, I ordered it often while in India.
Butter Masala Paneer
Paneer is a favorite of mine, and since I didn’t want to just eat saag paneer every time I went out, I always tried to give another dish a chance. Butter masala paneer was easily a second favorite of mine after my go-to paneer dish. The paneer is cooked in a tomato based sauce and the flavors meld perfectly together for a warming and comforting dish.
Often served for breakfast, I first had these cakes, made from rice and fermented lentils, on Food Street in Bangalore. Light and fluffy, they are perfect to dip in chutney and other sauces.
This flattened rice is a typical breakfast in India, and I had it often while doing my yoga teacher training. It’s mixed with vegetables, spices, and peanuts. This was my favorite breakfast dish during all of my time in India.
Of all the desserts I had while traveling in India, this one was my favorite. While hard to describe, I had my first one while standing in the middle of a crowded sweet shop in Rishikesh, a few days before Diwali. We were in town to pick up our sarees and one of our instructors came along to pick up fireworks and sweets for the celebrations. He handed us the Rasmalai and I had no idea what to expect. It was a bit spongey and sweet, but so good, I drank the condensed milk it was sitting in, leaving nothing left in my bowl. For the rest of my time in India, I ate it as often as I could.
I forget when I first had soan papdi, but I remember thinking it tasted very much like cotton candy. The sweet comes in squares, but is flaky, so it dissolves quickly once in your mouth, very much like how cotton candy does. It’s made from sugar, flour, milk, cardamom, and garam (chickpea) powder.
When I was a teacher, my students whose families were from India knew how much I always wanted to visit the country. They were so excited I wanted to visit India, that they’d often bring in food for me to try, usually laughing if something was too spicy. Luckily, they’d also bring me this sweet. Jalebi is a batter that’s deep fried in a spiral shape and then soaked in simple syrup.
This was the first dessert I had while in India. During the first night of yoga teacher training, we had a puja and this was given to each of us during it. I liked it immediately. Made with cashews, milk, and sugar, the sweet is often cut into triangular shapes and topped with a layer of silver.
These sweets reminded me of doughnut holes. They are made with milk solids that become a dough, rolled into balls, and fried. Once done, they are covered in a sweet syrup that is often flavored with cardamom, rose water, or saffron. At the wedding, I may have had a few too many, but they were too good not to eat as many as I could get my hands on.
This dessert is similar to fudge in consistency, but it melts away in your mouth. It’s made of ghee, sugar, and garam powder and was another favorite of mine.
Chai has always been my favorite tea, but having it in India felt like coming full circle. I’ll never forget my overnight taxi ride to Rishikesh for many reasons, one being the fact that my driver almost fell asleep and had to slap himself for the last hour, but the strongest was that first stop at midnight for chai. It was just a roadside shop, and I watched the man in the kitchen prepare the chai, patiently awaiting the moment I’d finally get to have the authentic, traditional tea. I was so excited, I burnt my tongue, but nothing could have ruined it for me. From that moment, I was more hooked than ever. I made sure to indulge as often as possible, but my favorite chai in all of India was from CTR in Bangalore.
Chai may be my addiction while traveling in India, but badam milk isn’t far behind. While I was only able to enjoy it once, since I found it so late in my travels, I know I will drink bucket loads on my next trip. Badam milk is almond milk, which may sounds quite ordinary, but the way it’s made is anything but. We had ours on Food Street in Bangalore, and it was served hot with spices.
There’s a lot of places where lassis are offered, but many of them are quick versions of the real deal. This yogurt drink is sweet and creamy, often mixed with fruit like mango. The best was from Pappu Lassi in Rishikesh. I am sure there are more spots like it around the country, but this place serves their lassis extra cold in metal cups and tops them with almonds and rose water.
After not drinking for a month during yoga teacher training, I wasn’t as in the mood for a beer as I usually am, but I couldn’t let the trip go by without having the country’s Kingfisher Beer. It’s a lager, which is my favorite, and it went down easily, especially when paired with Indian food. We drank a few of them while hanging out in the cafes of Hampi while listening to music.
Food is the key and heart of culture. It can tell more about a country and what’s its been through than anything else, and for me, it’s one of the most important reasons why I travel. Goa’s history is a bit different than the other places I’ve visited in India and its proximity to the ocean changes the cuisine a bit. All of these factors make me even more excited for the new food I’ll be able to add to this list after another three weeks in the country.
To follow along on my food tour experience of Goa, you can follow the hashtag #Escape2Goa, and find me at all the usual spots on social media. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments below!