Written by Arkaprabha Das.
India is a country full of diverse cultures and this diversity has also found quite an eminent place in the culinary choices of its people. As you move from one state to another you will experience an entire change in the landscapes, customs, dialects of the people and most importantly in their traditional dishes. Therefore, for any traveller gourmet discovery when in India becomes a different unforgettable journey on its own apart from the journey of absorbing its huge galore of heritage. Every local dish you taste has its own legacy and emotions attached to it. Here are the most unique food experiences that you will get in India which will always remain attached to your travel memories.
1. Royal Dining Experience at Jaipur
Jaipur is renowned all over the world for its royal heritage, culture and experiences. It is not just a place that portrays the history of India but it also hosts amazing memorable experiences that will make you feel one with the lifestyle that the Maharajas and Maharanis led. A royal dining experience awaits you at the Pink City where you can indulge in the Rajasthani cuisine, experience the exemplary views of the historic forts and palaces and enjoy the local traditional cultural elements.
For the best royal dining experience head to ‘Choupal’ a famous restaurant located in Choki Dhani in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Here you will be served traditional Rajasthani thalis and everyone sits down on ground mats to eat. You can also take a tour of the village and watch live puppet shows, magic shows, traditional dance and music performances. Apart from ‘Choupal’, you can also choose to dine in at Aragosta Restaurant and Kesar Kyari Barbeque at Choki Dhani.
Recommended Place – Choupal, Choki Dhani.
Location– Sukhdeopura Nohara, Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Cost– Entry fees to the village for adults is INR 700 and for children, it is INR 400.
2. Lunch in a Traditional Backwater Houseboat in Kerala
Keralan backwater houseboats are locally known as “kettuvallam”. These houseboats are made by using jackwood planks which are tied together using a coir rope and then is coated with black resin.
These houseboats are fully furnished crafts and will take you around the backwaters of Kerala which is a network of lakes, canals and lagoons. When you board the houseboat, a chef will accompany you and would prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner whichever you opt for. The other mandatory elements which will be included when you hire a houseboat are tea and coffee, welcome drinks, fruit basket and other essentials.
The food is served on a banana leaf and is fresh. You can either book an overnight trip or hire the boat for a few hours. The food served usually consists of grilled fish, rice, chapatis, banana fries, onion pakoras and pickles. The food combined with the view of the backwaters of Kerala is what sets apart this experience from all other dining experiences.
Although the tariffs of the houseboats usually vary according to the size of the boat you hire and the hours you would like to spend in the boat but you can consider it to remain between INR 7500- 23000.
3. Gorging on the Biggest Thalis of India
Thali refers to a meal where a minimum of 10 to 15 dishes is served. The reason behind these dishes is to offers six different flavours namely bitter, sour, sweet, salt, spicy and astringent. Therefore a thali is a full meal which will serve all the areas of your taste buds and will also provide you with all the necessary nutrition.
Every region of India has its own variant of the thali. There are Rajasthani thali, Bengali thali, Goa thali, Bhojpuri thali and many more. Many restaurants have come up with the idea of the biggest thalis you can ever have a meal from. Therefore in order to indulge in a never-ending food experience grab a ride to one of these eateries and make sure that you enter with an empty appetite which is ready to be filled.
Some of the biggest thalis that you should include in your bucket list are ‘Khali Bali Thali’, ‘Bahubali Thali’, ‘Kesariya Thali’, ‘Dara Singh Thali’ and ‘Chhappan Bhog Thali’.
4. Taking a Tour of the Street Foods
India is a land of foodies and not only the restaurants in India but even the streets here behold the attention of food lovers and sometimes even more than the attention given to the restaurants. Every city has its own street food experience to offer and marking the best street food option among the huge galore of choices is almost an impossible activity so its better to indulge in all.
The cities that are best known for their street food are Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Hyderabad, Amritsar and many more. Some of the must-try street food dishes can be listed out as Chhole Bhature, Aloo Tikki, Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji, Pani Puri, Aloo Puri, Samosa, Jalebi and the list goes on.
Every city is known for a specific dish, while Pav Bhaji and Vada Pav are a must-try in Mumbai, Cholle Bhatture and Parathas are unmissable in Delhi and Telebhaja, Luchi Aloo will smother your tastebuds with flavours in Kolkata.
Many major cities in India also host food walks where tourists signing up for the walks can take a tour along with a guide of the best food joints of every specific street food which were set up many many years ago and is known for a certain kind of variety in their food offerings.
5. Guru Ka Langar at the Golden Temple, Amritsar
Guru Ka Langar at The Golden Temple is a massive community feast prepared in the kitchen of the temple and feeds around 40,000 people every day. Here everyone comes together to sit down and share food.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a billionaire or a beggar, everyone is treated equally in the premises of The Golden Temple and also served equally by volunteers with equal respect. To sit at the Langar amidst people from different communities and walks of life along with the feeling that every human soul in this world is equal is a major experience to have in a lifetime.
The food served here is free of cost, simple and the most satisfying. It contains an unlimited serving of dal, roti and rice. Kada Prasad is the temple prasad served after devotees have visited the temple and it tastes so mouth-watering that it is ensured that you will keep coming back for more.
6. Dining at a Highway Dhaba
Dining at a Dhaba is a very different experience than eating at a regular restaurant or cafe. Dhabas provide a homely ambience where you can sit in a comfortable manner by crossing your legs up on the ‘Khatiya’ and enjoy your meal. Although there are many modern-day dhabas finding their place amidst the hustle-bustle of a city where the style of sitting might be similar to a restaurant but the real charm of a typical Dhaba is only found in its traditional style. You will also often find the traditional dhabas located amidst a beautiful natural surrounding providing the best view of that place.
The culinary experience is unbeatable and is unparallel to any five-star restaurant. The food is never-ending and full of desi ghee and makhan. If you plan any road trips especially along the highways from any city in Punjab to Delhi, you are sure to stumble upon a desi dhaba. The foods are lip-smacking and also doesn’t make a hole in your pocket. Starting from dal, naan, rumali roti, malai lassi, chicken tandoori, every kind of North Indian cuisine dish is available at any Dhaba.
A few of the best Dhabas in India are, ‘Puran Singh ka Mashoor Vishal Dhaba’, ‘Kinara Dhaba’, ‘Sunny Da Dhaba’, ‘Giani Da Dhaba’, ‘Haveli’.
7. Chinese Fishing Nets and Fish Fry at Kochi
One of the most photographed regions in Kerela is the Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi which were introduced by a Chinese explorer and was initiated on the shores of Kochi during 13th century AD. Based on the principles of balance these nets are 10 meters high and spreads over 20 meters. They are made of teak wood and bamboo poles and are attached to the beaches. The whole phenomenon of descending the nets in the water and then lifting it up is a sight to see.
The most interesting part remains after the fish is caught. It is then when you can head to your chosen fisherman, look at the fishes caught and choose the fish you would like to have. They will not only provide you with the fish but also cook it for you all according to your own taste preferences.
8. Dining at Lake Pichola, Udaipur
A romantic evening spent with a loved one amidst the beautiful view of the Lake Pichola along with extravagant food, just like the Kings did is another great experience to have in the city of Udaipur.
Jharokha is among the two restaurants in Udaipur where you can hire a boat and view the beautifully lit of City Palace as your boat driver takes you all around the lake and food of your choice is served to you. After having your meal you can sit back and enjoy the scenes of a beautiful sunset that makes the Lake Palace look even more heavenly and breathtaking.
Jagmandir Island Palace is also a great option to indulge in a similar dining experience at Lake Pichola, Udaipur. It is a palace that has been built on an island at this lake and is also known as the “Lake Garden Palace”. This place hosts stunning gardens, courtyards, stylish dining restaurants and cafes. Many weddings are held at this palace which is based on a royal theme for which the place might be booked quite often but when it is open for the public nothing can be better than the experience offered here.
Recommended Place– Jharokha and Jagmandir Island Palace
Location– Jharokha- Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001, Jagmandir Island Palace- Pichola, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001
Cost for two people– Jharokha- INR 3400
9. Visiting Sheroes Hangout, Agra and Lucknow
This cafe was started by the acid attack survivors in India in order to help victims of acid attacks find back courage and purpose in life.
This project was inaugurated by Bollywood singer Sona Mohapatra and hairstylist Sapna Bhavnani on December 10, 2014.
This cafe which first had its outlet in Agra trained acid attack survivors and helped them become independent. At this cafe, the victims of one of the most brutal crimes lift their heads up in pride and walk through the lanes of life without covering their faces with a veil. This place is not only about its food but also hosts social awareness programs, book launches and debates. This one of a kind cafe in India also has an outlet in Lucknow.
10. Rooftop Dining Experience at Jama Masjid
This experience includes a stunning, quiet and calm view of old Delhi while sitting on the terrace of one of the largest mosques in India, Jama Masjid built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Here you will be offered typical authentic Delhi cuisine which consists of khameeri rotis and kebabs along with loads of kindness. A quiet evening on the rooftop of Jama Masjid looking over the bustling Delhi often carries one’s thoughts to many of the unanswered questions about life and the unnoticed pace at which we trudge it.
11. Sipping on Darjeeling and Assam Tea
Tea in India is a form of social bonding and Indians are very particular about the procedure of making tea and the ingredients to include. Tea time in every household is the time when the entire family comes together to enjoy the perfect family time. In almost every street in India, you will find a chaiwallah ready to set your day right.
Breaktime is synonymous for chai time for all the working professionals. Masala chai, a variant of tea is prepared using cardamom and ginger which not only clears your mind but also takes care of the body’s immune system.
Among all the sought after varieties of tea leaves, Darjeeling and Assam tea have been standing out for decades. These two places are full of large tea estates and are among the world’s largest tea producers. Enjoy the view of the mountains while sipping on the best varieties of chai at Darjeeling and Assam and also get to know about the process of making tea and the stories related to tea plantations.
12. Cooking Classes at Kerala and Goa
In order to take a glimpse of how the local cuisines are made and what it actually consists of you can take private cooking classes in Kochi, Kerala and also in Goa. Both Kerala and Goa in India have been influenced by Asian and European food cultures.
In the southern region of India, you will find a huge influence of Coconut due to its abundant availability. Fish is also one of the staple forms of food.
During the cooking classes, you will not only learn many things about the different cooking techniques, Indian spices, how to properly use them and in what quantities but you will also get to know about the history and what effect it has had on the local traditional dishes. You can enrol for many types of cooking classes like Ayurvedic cooking class, private classes with a local family, Malayali, Keralan and Konkan cuisine cooking classes etc.
13. Indulging in Mithais (Indian Sweets)
Sweets are an essential part of every Indian household and festivals. Preparing a platter full of sweets is a must during any festival be it small or big and during the various occasion. When you enter a house in India, you will find that guests are often offered sweets or it would surely find a place on the dessert table after a meal.
Just like street food and traditional recipes, even sweets vary from place to place in India.
While people in Delhi boast about ‘pethas’, ‘kajar ka halwa’ and ‘jalebis, people in Kolkata will tell you about the extravagant flavours of ‘rosogolla’, ‘misti doi’ and ‘sandesh’. Therefore, while you are in India, enjoy all the varieties of sweet dishes until you get tired of satiating your sweet tooth cravings.
14. Dining Under the Stars at Leh
Ever wished to ride a bike through the roads of Leh during the day and then sit by a beautiful blue lake under a tent and eat hot momos, thukpas, mountain style hot masala Maggi along with some tea while watching the beautiful night sky lit up by a million stars? If yes then your next destination should definitely be the wonderful mountains of Leh.
15. Experiencing Awadhi Cuisine at Lucknow
During the 18th century the Nawabs of Awadh first came to Lucknow from Persia and hence started the grandeur of Awadhi cuisine in the ‘City of Nawabs’. Awadhi cuisine is an amalgamation of Central Asia, Middle East and North Indian food. The dishes prepared are majorly meat-based and consists of the flavours of cardamom, saffron and other spices.
Lucknow can easily called as a meat lovers paradise as it offers a huge variety of kebabs ranging from Boti Kebab, Tunday Kebab, Galouti Kebab, Shami Kebab, Patili-ke-Kebab, Ghutwa Kebab, Gola Kebab and many more. Apart from Kebabs, dishes like Lucknawi Biriyani, Handi Chicken, Gulabi Chai, Lucknawai Chaat, Kulfi Falooda, Malai Ghewar and Makhan Malai are must try dishes in Lucknow.
Feature Image Credit- Nextgen Traveller.
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Arkaprabha Das is the Founder & Editorial Chief at The Strong Traveller. He has always been a man of many caps. Apart from being an MBA professional, he is a freelance writer and possesses the mind & heart of a true entrepreneur! You can always reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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