When the mail came, my wife and I may as well have been reading two different cards. She saw an invitation to a wedding in Goa, India; what I read was: "Please join us for four days of feasting on some of South Asia's most unique cuisine." And so we took off, preparing our minds and stomachs for four days of non-stop eating and celebrating.
'India' on Serious Eats
What if you were given the chance to revisit the place that shaped your entire perception of food? North End Grill chef and Top Chef Masters winner Floyd Cardoz did just that, returning to Goa, India, where he visited his great-grandmother every summer before emigrating to the United States 25 years ago. Here, he shares both his snapshots and his impressions of India's rapidly evolving food culture today.
According to the Indian broadsheet DNA, Domino's Pizza is ramping up to open 100 new stores in India by next spring, bringing their total to 700.
Rather than go head to head with the marketing machines of the big boys, the Parle group sold Thums Up to Coca-Cola in 1990. The labels of the two colas might seem similar, but Coca-Cola Classic and Thums Up do actually have quite distinct flavor profiles.
In Delhi, India, you may walk down the street and be offered a piping hot sweet jalebi dripping with hot sugar syrup, or be enticed by the intoxicating aroma of curries cooking in a back alley dhaba. Wherever you turn in this bustling city, there is a feast for your senses and your belly.
Each day in Mumbai, a group of men called Dabbawallas transport 175,000 homemade lunches from Indian homes to their family members' offices. They carry the tiffens ("lunch containers") on their heads, on bicycles, on trains and even across the tracks to get to the offices where husbands and sons of the ladies who prepared the food are awaiting lunch. Despite the various modes of transport, the lunches always arrive on time.
"Soil possesses such importance, that without it, life is impossible. In one spoon of soil, there are billions of lives," says farmer/philosopher Bhaskar Save in this video. We spent two days with him in India, being inspired by his beautiful philosophy. He believes farming should be done with non-violence. That means no tilling, no pesticides, no meat.
On our recent trip to India (side note: you've seen this, right?), we got a wake-up call from environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva on the reality of these issues and how they can impact farmers to the point of suicide.
If you follow The Perennial Plate, you know we're travelling the world filming stories of people who produce their own food. And now, just back from India, we will cook bhel puri, the popular street food.
India is a huge country where every state, city, and village has its own unique food, culture, and people. How do you condense it all into a 3-minute video? Watch and see.
My knowledge of alcohol from India has so far been limited to Kingfisher beer, which quells the spice from Vindaloo at my local Indian restaurant, and Amrut Fusion, a tasty whiskey made with Indian and Scottish barley. But my lack of knowledge isn't because I don't venture out from sips I'm already familiar with. As I learned from the seminar on Indian spirits at last week's Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, it's because only half of local Indian spirits find their way out of the states they're produced, let alone to the United States.
In Rajasthan, as in so many parts of India, variety makes the meal. Thalis rule, and the large silver plate will often have several little portions of stews made from legumes, vegetables, and grains; bread; a sweet treat; and occasionally a meat dish, such as mutton or chicken.
If you read a lot of Indian novels, you'll know that people sometimes use "veg" and "nonveg" as shorthand for "tame" and "sexy," respectively. But as we ate our way across Mumbai, through Rajasthan, and into central India, we discovered that when it came to food, the opposite was true. The vegetarian fare we ate was so much better, so much fresher, and so much more interesting than the nonvegetarian offerings. Here are some highlights from a month of eating around India: chaat, pakoras, samosas, papad, and more.
As we traveled north from Mumbai through Rajasthan, then east to Varanasi, we tried to drink as many lassis and eat as many mithai ("sweet" in Hindi) as possible. Here are our snapshots of a few of the delicious highlights.
Though the tea-growing lands of India are (for better or worse) synonymous with household teabag brands nowadays, tea is still a relative newcomer to that fertile part of East Asia. Darjeeling tea, which has found a foothold in both the highest- and lowest-brows of the tea-drinking market, only began to spring from the Himalayan soils of West Bengal, India, in the later half of the 1800s, at the hand—yup—of a seed-smuggler just back from a trip to China.
From the most tea-producing region in the most tea-producing country in the world comes Assam tea, a sultry, malty black tea among India's most famous. Discovered in the early 1800s growing wild in the tropically warm and wet Assam region at the edge of the eastern Himalayan mountains, this indigenous tea is versatile enough to have been planted throughout Asia, proving extremely prolific, easy to grow, and able to be harvested frequently.
Most breakfast foods in South India are eaten hot and are pretty filling — to get your day off to a good start. They're high in carbohydrates, like most breakfast foods in the world, but are usually savory rather than sweet. They're all delicious, and many of them are pretty healthy, too. Here are some of the most common.
In India, school lunches are usually provided by loving mothers, not school cafeterias! In fact, this love of home-cooked food has given rise to a unique type of food-service worker, known as the dabbawalla, or literally, "person with a box." What might one of these boxes hold for Indian schoolchildren? Find out!
One of the most highly-populated regions on the planet, India has more than 400 million people living in poverty. This low standard of living presents many day-to-day difficulties to families, but one of the most pressing national issues is hunger. An inefficient government-sponsored food distribution program does little for the families who need assistance most. How to address this problem has become a topic of major political debate. At the center of reform-minded discussion is the president of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi.
A man in India eats rocks and bricks. Yeah, not so food-related, but pretty impressive—if it's real. (I have my doubts.)...