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20 reasons to fall in love with India

Monica Bhide

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Twenty reasons to fall in love with India all over again


I was thinking about how to describe the trip I had this time without making a total bore of myself and by offering something that you could use. I hope that this list I have made up will be of interest to you and make you want to do what I love to do – go and visit and marvel.

This started out to be a list as my engineering mind analyzed the situation and wondered about the best way to do this. Then my practical side became conscious and I decided to just write and worry about numbers later. (For those of you who do, let me know how many reasons I did come up with).

For those of you who know me, this first one is expected. Visiting family and eating my mothers home cooking was the number one reason to visit home. She cooked each day and three times a day, all my favorites. To say that I was spoiled is the understatement of the new year. Add to this my fathers additions and I was in gastronomic heaven for a whole month. I am adding a pic, I was too relaxed and too much on vacation mode to shoot all the time, of her scrumptious kadhi. Typical of most north Indian households, this is a Sunday favorite. Prepared with yogurt, chick pea flour and then tempered with mustard seeds, Kadhi is a comfort food for me. The little dumplings you see are traditionally made by frying chickpea batter, here my father added spinach fritters, cauliflower fritters and of course tiny onion fritters. Very nice – perfect on steamed white rice.


This time, we found all kinds of greens and made saag ( a term for greens). We found radish greens, mustard greens and so many others and the results were a creamy bright green curry that I ate with nothing else.

Okay so lets go back to the top and start with the beginning of my trip. It started in Mumbai where I was on assignment with some national mags and newspapers and it is also home to my hubby. We had a grand time eating out and enjoyed so much of what Mumbai had to offer. I was determined to try new places this time and I did. See this chicken – it is made in a Bengali place in Mumbai.


Or how about those potatoes on the stick – Sea Lounge in The Taj.


Okay so I slipped in one or two of my old favorite places. When you go to Mumbai go sit in the window seat at this lounge and allow the spirit of the city to embrace your soul. We went a few times and one of the times got lucky enough to sit the area that has large rattan couches and a rustic ceiling fan. We sipped honey sweetened ayruvedic teas and ate club sandwiches, ah life. Club sandwiches are I think one of the most popular snacks at five star hotel coffee shops in India – sandwiches made with fried eggs, cheese, cucumbers, -- what is there not to like. The Sea Lounge also offers an amazing high tea buffet and I took some shots of the decadent desserts. Little kids found this really fun to eat (read play with) and a very accommodating staff just smiled. We were there at the time of Diwali and the whole place had a wonderful energy about it.

I also tried the new Tiffin at the Oberoi’s. The name of the place is misleading. You think you will get South Indian food or Indian food – Tiffin? But nope, you do get a bit of this and that but mainly it is a sushi bar. Hmmmmm. And it was expensive as heck.

I love McDonalds. Well there you have it. I really like the Aloo Tikki burger and for those who are wondering how quickly they can post here about how terrible that sounds, save it. Don’t knock it before you try it. If you have tried it and still hate it, well I don’t want to hear about it. LOL. I loved it – and my son was so excited about all the toys and the quiz book he got about cricket. They really are trying to so hard to cater to an Indian audience and the prices are great – cheap cheap cheap.


Of course what can you have to wash down a burger but a lovely glass of sugarcane juice. Now it is possible to drink it and not die of some God awful disease, see earlier when street vendors sold the juices, the machines are not only unclean but everything in sight was juiced along with the sugarcane – like, ahem, flies! Not anymore, check out this dandy little machine that uses fresh, WASHED sugarcane pieces to prepare the juice.


What else could I want to do other than shop at the Indian American dollar store after my drink. The store is stocked with American goodies and is very popular with the Indian crowd. Also next to is was this cool sign – India was celebrating Diwali and this cool sign had firecrackers on it.. my little one loved it.


One of the highlights of my trip was being in the kitchen with Chef Imtiaz Qureshi, he is amazing – he is the executive chef at Dum Phukt (ITC hotels India) and is the one who fed Pres Clinton when he was in India few years ago. Yes the man is a genius but I will save the details for another time.

Chef Qureshi


Grand Maratha in Mumbai


I met the Chef at the Grand Maratha in Mumbai, isn’t the coffeeshop just grand? We were seated right by some women who were harping on about how great Indian chef and cookbook author Sanjeev Kapoor is. They are a “kitty party” group, or more aptly called the “ladies who lunch.” They are right about Kapoor, he is amazing. I spent a lot of time with him and learned about his philosophy on cooking and life in general. Witty and full of life, I truly enjoyed my conversation with him.

Also visited the ITC's brand new hotel in Parel, Mumbai - it was still under construction gallery_6825_0_10300.jpg

and enjoyed their buffet --



Back to food – well everywhere I went there were stalls selling American corn for Indian tastes. I must say it was quite good. Cooked corn with lemon juice and tangy spices, very nice. If anyone wants a recipe, shout out and I will post it.

We also ate TOAST – yes TOAST. Hmmm.. very good – my husband just shakes his head sometimes at what I make him do. And ate some golas - think granita


Ate a lot of Mumbai’s treasured fried fish and had some great south Indian coffee.



I was able to spend some time with eG’s own Vikram Doctor who had a good laugh as he tried to watch me unsuccessfully cross a crowded street. Man that stuff takes practice.

We went to Mumbai’s Crawford Market and I took in the scene – you can get what you need here, fruits, veggies, dry fruits, cookies and one man even sells stuff to make candies. Vikram is a walking encyclopedia of Mumbai and I wished he would never stop talking.




From Mumbai we went to Bangalore and spent a few days there. The city is bursting at the seams with construction and hellish traffic. In fact I wrote a letter to the editor at a major paper on how bad my dream city has become, we will see if they publish it. Eating out was never an issue but I loved this new place in the Leela called I think Chai Bar. NICE – all kinds of teas and coffees served in wonderful cups. My hubbys' cup was glass with a little silver monkey tail for a handle. My tea was served in a terracotta cup. This was the kind of place you did not want to leave. They have made it right alongside a bookstore and so we spent a lot of time here sipping tea and eating.


For a celebration dinner we went with friends to Amravathi, an old favorite of mine from college days. They serve food on banana leaves. I had forgotten how spicy the food was but not for long . I loved their fried chicken 65 – it was to die for. The main meal was rice, pappads, lentils and pickles along with the chicken and chili prawns. Ah… I miss it now.

Bangalore had another treasure, I got to spend time with Episure from eG and he gave me the most wonderful gift. A pouch of liquid coffee concentrate. Man that stuff was good, now I am trying to figure out how to order it.

I found two other things I loved there – bread flavored with curry leaves and locally made cheese flavored with cumin, I think there was one with green chilies too although for the life of me I cannot remember.

There is a new place for kulfies now in Blore, on MG Road right opp KC DAs (the name will come to me in the middle of the night) and we had the most luscious kulfies there. Just that is worth going back for.

From Bangalore it was onto Delhi and Mom’s cooking. To be honest with you it is hard to eat out when I go to my moms because I miss her cooking so much. I was happy to see pics of my cousins wedding. I am posting her pic here for no reason other than she is so amazingly gorgeous and adorable at 23.


Dad and I went to the fish market run by some Bengali folks and it is a fish market out there! It was so much fun. I did recognize some stuff, but there was stuff I had never seen before.—somethings that looked like long black eels. And we found a pomfret – almost perfect. Of course there was a guy with a fish that big or bigger (see pics) and we now know what JUMBO prawn really means.



Mom made a mean fish curry with loads of tomatoes and red chilies and served it with fresh chappaties doused with homemade ghee.

We went around town and I took some random snapshots for you to give you a feel of the city.


cheap toys on the street --


Then Dad and I decided to walk outside and show you want I encounter on a walk – say three blocks around the house

First we see the guy selling fruits, then the guy selling peanuts, then my favorite ice-cream guy. And then this strange man selling bananas.






Then we get to the main market and you can see where my family gets their daily produce from.





Black carrots -- gallery_6825_0_43675.jpg



I loved the hanging corn!


Right opposite is a 7-11 type store that sells Pringles and Oreos.

Best way to bribe me is buy me a paan - an Indian mouth freshner. it is an acquired taste and by God I am glad I acquired it :laugh:


The places I really enjoyed in Delhi this time were – Khaja Chowk a lovely eatery that has made the term street food an art form. Indian reading this will appreciate that their seating is backseats of the old ambassador cars and their stools are made of steel baltis or buckets and are topped of with tires from three wheelers. And the food is amazing. Try their mouth watering piranhas or their tapas type fritters. I also love mutton and they do a good job of it. We also ate at a place that served North Indian Punjabi food straight up – for the record good North Indian food is hard to find – this place was really awesome. Think of it this way, this is a place I would take my mom to. It is called Punjabi Tadka. Eat the mutton and chicken curry here and you will thank me, trust me on that.

When in Delhi, you have to eat at Haldirams or pig out there like we did. We went to their sprawling place just outside of Delhi. Haldirams is the Indian version of western fast food – we were in a large group and were able to sample a lot of their stuff. My favorite was their chole bhatura ( chickpeas with a fried bread).

Said a sad goodbye to Delhi by paying my respects at the local Sikh Temple Bangla Saheb.



So how many reasons did you count?

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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I keep losing count, but that's a lot more than 20 reasons. No fair.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I wan't counting reasons, but I'll go back and do that shortly. In the meantime, wow. So many vibrant colours!

I love that chicken in the first pic, could you tell us more about it? It looks so amazing.

Your cousin is indeed gorgeous, but I'm afraid I had to wince at the nose ring. It just looks kinda painful, but she is beautiful in that picture!

Somehow when I think of India, I just don't visualize McDonalds. :biggrin:

Wonderful Monica, just wonderful. I think I've got 17 reasons so far.



Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Incredible post, Monica! There certainly appears to be more than 20 reasons.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I've been wanting to visit India for ages. Your photos just further emphasize why I want to visit. The markets look fantastic.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Oh my God, that was fabulous, and I promptly forgot about counting the reasons. I'm definitely printing this to keep in my India trip file.

I wish I looked like your cousin.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.


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Wow, Monica, thank you for sharing such a varied range of experiences! I am in Delhi on my first trip to India and am looking forward to trying out some of your tips. If you don't mind my asking, what is the name of the market where your family buys veggies?

Edited to add: I've seen the same corn trend here at a couple of the local markets! Corn kernels in a cup?! Also lots of popcorn vendors around the city.

Edited by gingerpeach (log)
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I hope that this list I have made up will be of interest to you and make you want to do what I love to do – go and visit and marvel.

Great story Monica. Definitely makes me feel like visiting India even more: I have a collegue who's an India fan and she's been fascinating me with her description of the places, people and food too.

Just a question, since I understand from your post that you have a son: is it doable to travel through India (or let's say, a particular region) with a young kid? Or am I being a wimpy European just because I'm even asking :biggrin: ?

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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