Saturday, December 12, 2009

Delights in India

As we were on packaged tour, we usually had our meals at hotels' restaurants & served buffet and they were usually catered to pro-Chinese taste. However, we did have some local dishes.
During my India trip 5 years ago, we had Poori almost every meal & this round, Naan was the main staple food. Always accompanying Naan is Dal, the bean paste sort of curry, and also Paneer Butter Masala (The beancurd like cube is their "Indian Toufu", Paneer, it's cheesy and you would already feel fattening when you bite it but I think I grew to like it). I think the picture showed my 1st meal in India at hotel India, Varanasi. On the plate left of the "Indian Toufu" was Mixed vegetable with curry flavour and to cater to the chinese, we also had Sweet & sour vegetables.
It was my 1st time trying plain Naan, and I think it tasted something like the thicker version of plain Roti Prata and I preferred it with a slight burnt texture with the accompanying side dishes' gravy.
Oh, had always heard that the Indians have a sweet tooth, indeed, their mango pudding dessert, sweet! & I love it!:-)
This Indian style of salad consisting of cucumber, tomato & carrot, white carrot, onions and green chilli padi was also a frequent starter in our meals.
Below is a "local buffet" that we had at a temple after offering food to the local Venerables. White carrot pieces, local rice, stir-fry Chinese noodles (appearing in almost every meal & I think it had become a local staple food too), curry chick peas and mixed vege, mainly cauliflower, which I do like.:-)
Well, next was Indian & Chinese style of sumptuous breakfast at Hotel Mahamaya, Bodhgaya, (located conveniently within walking distance, just across the street to the Mahabodhi Mahavihara Bodhgaya Temple) that I would strongly recommend to stay/dine at. You can feel the professionalism of their chef in cooking either authentic Indian cuisine or Chinese dishes.

My long missed Poori after 5 years:P, and with the fresh tomatoes, cucumber & crispy cashew nuts, I managed to recreat a sumptuous chinese style porridge. (haha, they even have the mock gluten type of meat) After eating so many places' Poori & Naan, I think theirs were more well-done. I like their Authentic Masala Potato which I must have been too hungry & tired that day that I forgot to take a picture of it.
We stayed there for a few nites and their staff have to cater to our irregular eating hours , could be 5am in the morning or 10pm and what we had one nite, soup noodles! So touching we were to have the hot soup for a late dinner and cold weather! :-)
What is this? Our packed lunch of Chapati on our coach journey, doesn't look appetising but in fact tasted great with filling of potato in it. It's very filling and I am full with just half the portion.

Another recommendable hotel is Hotel Lotus Nikko at Kushinagar which has spacious rooms (real hugh) and their international buffet spread is also commendable but my favourite is still their Indian crackers or papadums with a slight spice taste and the hearty mango pudding. ;-)

Our rare encounter with local hawker selling local snacks at foot of Vulture Peak, mostly flour -like fried stuff & similar to curry puff snacks. And left white stuff is Chinese noodles at a local hawker stall!
What a great influence of Chinese culture!

I think below was lunch from another restaurant of Hotel Lotus Nikko at Sravasti.
In my fading memory, nice Tempura of mini corn, carrot, brinjal etc and nice winter-melon soup and nice papaya fruits being served.

Then, another nice dinner at Hotel Kanha Continental at Kanpur (with modern & comfortable room) on our way to Sankassa. Their red colored pasta (abit of sweet flavoured, not purely tomato-sauced but with abit of Indian flavour) as well as the Naan with the Dal tasted good.
International breakfast: Chinese porridge, Western vegetarian sandwich and Indian Chapati.

Finally, we had something more of the local delights and more spicy food at the Sri Lanka temple at Sankassa. Not sure if it is Indian or Sri Lankan delights but certainly nice. The Briyani-type of rice and brown rice (I believe the brown rice is more Sri Lankan) and the Dal, Curry and Potato dishes were real hot & spicy compared to past meals and the few of us who can take spicy food really enjoyed the meal.

Then, the memorial place of the restaurant of Hotel The Grand at Agra, which had been turned to our battlefield to pack our luggage to Sanchi for train ride.
Nice Paneer with Chinese noodles & Naan for dinner and my breakfast of Corn-flake porridge, baked beans, Indian style Hashbrown and hugh fresh steamed cabbage (smallest is folded palm-sized). :-)
And later, at the Shatabdi Express, train ride from Agra to Bhopal to transit to Sanchi, which is to be considered a luxury train express, we were served several meals onboard the 6 hours.:P
Breakfast of Chapati & Brown Bread with Mango Juice
Tea-break of Tomato soup & Bread-stick
Lunch of Naan & rice with 2 sauces
Finally, dessert of Vanilla ice-cream.
Fortunately, it's only a one-way ride or else we would had grown fat from the frequent meals served. We couldn't finish everything so we actually packed what we did not take to offer to the needy based on our past experience.:P
But that above train meals really helped us to last for our Late dinner at Sanchi Guest House.

Salad ingredients on left and here, other than their so-called Chinese noodles which I think has become part of their staple food just like Naan, they served more authentic local dishes like the Paneer & Dal. Also, another new sweet dessert, roundish, water-chestnut look and has sweet potato texture that tasted real sweet!:P
Our next nite train ride back to Agra was less pampered unlike our 1st ride, we had a late packed dinner: Fried rice with an appetising gravy like what's been used for the chilli crab in Singapore. Also, the dessert without dipping in the sauce was less sweet & more edible. It's a pity the meal was not pure vegetarian and I had to be careful to avoid the spring onions, hence could not enjoy the food as heartily.

I would had tried the vegetarian burger outside the street at Taj Mahal but the food kiosk did not operate when I was there. It did look interesting & meaty. Final meal at a stop-over restaurant before we rushed for our departing flight from New Delhi to Sri Lanka. A bowl of warm soup was always appreciated, could not recall what is this new brown dish and final goodbye to the hugh cabbage and the Indian Chinese noodles which I wonder could be found in Singapore's Indian restaurant.
And I think I will always miss their packet thick Mango Juice drink which came with almost every meal. See the seal? Unlike our local drink with a tiny poking area for the straw, the straw insertion area is much greater & easier to insert the straw. Something for local drink producer to consider to innovate.:-)


Sunny said...

So, did we gain weight from the trip?
No, I think most of the tour-mates would had lost weight. In fact my room-mate & I conicidentally lost 2kg each from the trip.
It's actually quite irregular eating hours for us as we could be eating dinner after 10pm and considering India is 2.5hrs behind Spore time, we are eating heavy "supper" at 12.30pm Spore time. :P So, we wld have lost much of our appetite by then.

My appetite seems to have gotten smaller from the trip & hopefully that maintains.:-)

jingjing said...

Hi, we would like to go on such tours too. May I know where did you guys get your tour package from??

The Hungry Ang Mo said...

Great post Sunny!

Just to clarify, paneer tastes like cheese because it is cheese! Not tofu! Haha, although it looks very similar in texture and visually! It is indeed cheese!

I've actually made fresh paneer with my girlfriend, not too difficult to make! But it's difficult to get the texture perfect.

I would have loved to try that masala! I'll have to book a trip to India in the future, one of the countries that i have still never visited!

Keep up the good work!


Sunny said...

Hi Luke,
Thanks, noted, it really looked very much like beancurb/toufu cubes or the chinese fermented beancurb cubes.:-)
Since you like Indian food so much, you shd really make a trip down to their origin place. They have a rich culture and many wonderful places worth visiting.
Best Time to visit would be Nov/Dec winter period of India which is not too cold though.

Hi JingJing,
What we went through was a Pilgrimage tour and best to go on such tours to the holy places with temple-organised group with Venerables. More meaningful as they will lead in prayers and in addition, usually some charity related work which would make the trips more meaningful.
There are also some tour agencies like the LG World-Travel Planners ( who would always organise such tours with arrangement of Venerables to accompany the group. Good source to notify of such tours would be Buddhist magazines such as "Fo You" which you could find updates by various Buddhist organisations of their activities.

My recent trip was with Mahakaruna Buddhist Society led by Ven. Dr.K.Gunaratana who would always incorporate some charity acts into his tour itinerary. He is in fact organising another special trip to Sri Lanka from 24Dec to 31st Dec09? If anyone is interested, you may contact the society at tel: 6745 1803 for more details.
Hope above info is useful and you have a great blog on saving the animals.:-)

I know one temple is recently organising a one-day trip to visit life-protection farm/s in JB. You may be interested in that.:-)

a veg*n @ Blog*Spot said...

It is always easier to request to have something familiar for meal in a package tour :)
India does have Chinese Cuisine but it had evolved into a unique and India style. Is it any big difference?
Some of the Indian Vegetarian or non-vegetarian in Little India does offer Indian Style Chinese Cuisine, not too sure it is tone-down to suit the local tastes or just has become Singapore style.
Good post! I must fall in love with Indian Food become I embark on the trip to India (unless no choice case) ... Or else, it will be very miserable for me :p
Cheers :)

Sunny said...

Haha, there shd be no worries abt adapting, you could always find the Stir-fry Chinese noodles that is also available at local hawker stalls.
Didn't get to try their Indian Mee Goreng which may be a South India dish.:P