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Monica Bhide

Railway food

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Travel by Indian rail? What did you enjoy at the stations or on the train? Come reminisce

One of my favs was omlettes on a train from Delhi to Chandigarh.... :wub:


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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On an overnight ride from Benares to Delhi, I can't remember the stop. It was before dawn and there was a few minutes before departure. I got off the train and had the most wonderful chai served in a clay cup. It was a little chilly out and it warmed me to my core. I still think about that cup of tea today....

I liked eating all the little things that the hawkers at different stops jump on to sell.

Moongphalli,moongphalli, moongphalli! I like the taste of the black salt with the roasty-ness of the peanuts and the way it is wrapped up in a piece of paper so small...like a secret note. A sort of love letter to my taste buds.

I purchased a little leaf cup of some sort of sprouted dal chat through the window of a moving train as it left the station..I think I remember not getting my change because the the guy selling the stuff couldn't keep up!

And of course, bread omlette


Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking

edhamann@hotmail.com

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When I was a child, we used to travel from Delhi to Mangalore for 3 days on the Jayanthi Janata. I used to look forward to the journey almost as much as I would to seeing my beloved Nani. I don't remember much about the food that we bought off the platforms, except the kulhads and the leaf-plates (what are they called? can't remember their name). What I do remember is, the food we took ourselves for the journey and the food we got in exchange from our fellow passengers. My mum would always take pooris, pickle, aloo ki bhaji and coconut burfi. We once ate a dry raw jackfruit curry that our fellow passenger gave us. It was so delicous that my mum took the recipe and would make it for every subsequent train journey. Sadly, she lost the recipe when we moved, and I haven't asked her even for an approximation because, well, I don't get raw jackfruit here.

I long to go back on those 3-days long train journeys if only to sample other people's ghar ka khana.

Suman

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:biggrin:

seems like everyone remembers their packed food with

great nostalgia, but not the plates suppled by Indian Railways

:biggrin:

Though actually Southern Railway Veg thaalis are not at all bad.....

We used to travel a LOT by train: 3 day journey between

whatever North Indian posting my father had (several)

and Madras or Bangalore (location of grandparents).

My mother had the tiffin packing down to a science.

First day: parathas.

Second day: idlis

Third day: thayir saadam

This was the order of potential spoilage...

Plus snacks like murukku etc.

Anyone old enough to remember filling water in suraahis

and jumping out frantically at stations in between to refill?

Waaay before plastic bottle and Bisleri era.....

Another vivid memory:

how the calls of "chaai chaai chaai" from the platform would change

to calls of "kaapi kaapi kaapi" by the third day;

that meant we had crossed from North to South India;

and reverse order on the way home....

And how the platform food changed from North to South and vice versa.

I think each station had its specialties.

Pethas in Agra;

Pedas in Mathura;

Aloo Poori in Bina Junction;

Biryani in Andhra,

etc.

Raj Suman: leaf plates called donnai in the South and pattal in the North?

How I wish I could recreate this fun with my kids, but this the era

of either planes, or a/c sleepers where everything is sealed and

you can't hang out of the windows getting soot in your eyes......

Milagai

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Hi Milagai,

You recreated almost all my memories for me with this post. Every summer we;d travel from Bombay to Palghat (good ol' Jayanti Janata). Mom would pack idlis and theplas and a tiffin carrier with tamarind rice and another one with curd rice and pickle. Besides there would always be a medley of pakodam and chivda and such to keep us screaming kids happy. Endless debates between us kids on which berth we'd each get to sleep on. I used to feel a sense of adventure as I got off at some sma station where the train wasnt going to stop for long and ran back to my compartment when the siren (?) went off announcing that the train was about to depart.

I do remember the transition in terms of food and tea versus coffee as we crossed over from the west to the south. My parents still insist on traveling what they call "junta" class when we travel to kerala (their argument being "we've done this all our lives, why should we change our ways now!"). So this december, I am due for another long and nostalgic train ride to palghat for the annual festival in our village temple. Now thats another food saga I will come back to relate :).

*sigh* I love trains!

-w@w

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Travel by Indian rail? What did you enjoy at the stations or on the train? Come reminisce

Traveling from Cochin to Palghat took only a few hours but we always looked forward to eating thin rava dosas and uzunnu (medu) vadas with coconut chutney at Trissur railway station. Those dosas were always thin and crispy at the edge, and were spiced with plenty of fresh coriander leaves, curry leaves and hot green peppers. And the vadas were crispy on the outside and moist in the center.

e for another long and nostalgic train ride to palghat for the annual festival in our village temple.Now thats another food saga I will come back to relate

Hi w@w:

Please do tell us about the food saga after you return.


Ammini Ramachandran

www.Peppertrail.com

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Good topic Monica,

Growing up as a kid, for almost 10 years we went from Delhi to Lucknow on Lucknow Mail almost every summer vacation as I had lots of aunts/cousins there. The best items bought at the station was mostly snacks, like Chai and Pakoras and those big Papads (white ones) in a big 5 foot tokri over the vendors head.

For food, it was always home cooked but eaten in train. Believe me, the food tastes different and better. Whether it was paronthas with zeera aloo or Puris with aloo. Add mango achaar and hari mirch and it becomes divine. Agra petha was established standard for dessert.

Of course, add a sada or meetha paan at the next station without question, after all we were going to LKO.

Much later, travelling while in college, there was an additional thing that will be bought from the vendors on the station or in the train, and will be enjoyed after a satisfying meal. A Wills Navy cut or Four Square Kings (Remember the ad, Live Life Kingsize).

Disclaimer: I have reformed now and in no way promoting the use of of these products.

Now, of course, the railway catering is much different. Last year, when we visited India we travelled from Delhi to Ludhiana on Shatabdi and the catered food was almost like Shaadi ka khana. Very rich, creamy but tasty. Since then, my daughter when she has the hankering for shahi paneer asks for "Woh train wala paneer".

cheers!

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I am due for another long and nostalgic train ride to palghat for the annual festival in our village temple. Now thats another food saga I will come back to relate :).

*sigh* I love trains!

-w@w

You will surely need to share this!


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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“I found myself remembering, with the love of a real patriot, a journey that I had made across India. My first American sweetheart, Will, and I were traveling by train; this must be ten or eleven years ago now. What an incredibly diverse landscape India has. We had given up our First Class Air Conditioned seats to go Second Class Unreserved. Will, as aristocratic as an American can be, wanted to experience the "real India", like Gandhi. So, there we were, two well dressed men of obvious wealth, sitting on a train so crowded with poor farmers that it was practically bursting at the seams. We were both a little scared of being attacked or ostracized in some way for our wealth and difference but, in truth, we found ourselves to be the center of this incredible love and attention!”

“We had our own individual berths but we gave up one because there were so many people who had no place to sit. The chaat vendors were moving in and out of the train at every station, selling to the passengers. Normally I would have bought something but all of these horrendously poor families in our car were offering us food. After a lot of complaining (I had never done this kind of thing before) I finally agreed to taste my first bite of food given by a stranger. Will was far more adventurous: perhaps that’s part of the freedom of being an American. But once I had rid myself of my initial fear, I couldn’t get enough of those delicious bites. They didn’t taste like anything I’d ever eaten before. In any event, we couldn’t say no: it would have been taken as snobbery. In the end, we were bursting with food that we had been given by every family sitting with us in that section of the car. I didn’t want the trip to end. I wanted to savor every dish – to understand deeply what made such humble, simple food so tasty and rich. These were dishes made by families with very few resources. Their foods weren’t laced in fat; they’re not garnished to the n'th degree. With few ingredients and even fewer spices, these people had made every dish a celebration. So in some ways, I find this fourth of July to be my own day of peace with the India I never love when I’m living in its lap.”

Above is from http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=9302&hl= and it has some other great stuff. Will cut and paste. I did search for trains and India. Some good stuff came up. also recipes.

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From same discussion:

I once made a 24hr journey from Bombay to Calcutta on the Gitanjili Express ( named for the sublime poem of Tagore )

I, in a moment of madness, thought that it might be a "romantic" way to see Mother India to travel in class 3. I booked three months in advance only to find that when I went to collect my ticket, that my booking was to be on the waiting list!! The first class cabin was however almost empty and was only £50. So, I soon ditched the idea of romance and went for what comfort was on offer. Not much by those of us softened by getting on a plane and turning right, but by the standards of other classes, absolutely luxurious.

During the journey I befriended a young couple from Bombay who were going to live in Calcutta and they were kind enough to feed me the whole way there. The food was of a bewildering variety and had been made for them by various sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers all of whom had come to the station to wave off their children with much wailing and tears and invocations to Ganesh.

Everythime I thought that they had run out, the young woman would produce some incredible new dish for me to try and by the end of the journey, I must have sampled about 30 dishes.

I recall most of the dishes vividly

Cauliflower Pakora

Samosa

Fish tandoori Rolls

Pickled Carrots

Turmeric rice balls

Home made paneer

Lime Pickles

Hot and sour sweet Pea Aubergine

and

Sweets, including Gulab Jamun, dhoi, Shrikand ( which the well prepared couple kept between ice packs in a freezer bag )

The one dish that really lives with though is one I have never been able to get close to recreating. It was a dish of chickpeas in a rich and fiery gravy which had fenugreek and chilli and a number of other things. it was topped with a yoghurt and sprinkled with Chaat mix. It was indescribably good and I would love any ideas for somehting similar

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“I found myself remembering, with the love of a real patriot, a journey that I had made across India. My first American sweetheart, Will, and I were traveling by train; this must be ten or eleven years ago now. What an incredibly diverse landscape India has. We had given up our First Class Air Conditioned seats to go Second Class Unreserved. Will, as aristocratic as an American can be, wanted to experience the "real India", like Gandhi. So, there we were, two well dressed men of obvious wealth, sitting on a train so crowded with poor farmers that it was practically bursting at the seams. We were both a little scared of being attacked or ostracized in some way for our wealth and difference but, in truth, we found ourselves to be the center of this incredible love and attention!”

“We had our own individual berths but we gave up one because there were so many people who had no place to sit. The chaat vendors were moving in and out of the train at every station, selling to the passengers. Normally I would have bought something but all of these horrendously poor families in our car were offering us food. After a lot of complaining (I had never done this kind of thing before) I finally agreed to taste my first bite of food given by a stranger. Will was far more adventurous: perhaps that’s part of the freedom of being an American. But once I had rid myself of my initial fear, I couldn’t get enough of those delicious bites. They didn’t taste like anything I’d ever eaten before. In any event, we couldn’t say no: it would have been taken as snobbery. In the end, we were bursting with food that we had been given by every family sitting with us in that section of the car. I didn’t want the trip to end. I wanted to savor every dish – to understand deeply what made such humble, simple food so tasty and rich. These were dishes made by families with very few resources. Their foods weren’t laced in fat; they’re not garnished to the n'th degree. With few ingredients and even fewer spices, these people had made every dish a celebration. So in some ways, I find this fourth of July to be my own day of peace with the India I never love when I’m living in its lap.”

Above is from http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=9302&hl= and it has some other great stuff. Will cut and paste.  I did search for trains and India. Some good stuff came up. also recipes.

Who is the author of this piece? Interesting experience :smile:


Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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Monica, it is from the discussion I give link to.

One quote is from Suvir Saran and the other from Simon Majumdar.

Suvir, could you please tell us where you give this story from?

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