Shila Garg May 24th, 2008
I have been meaning to write about each meal during this trip, but have not been able to do that. Instead, I am writing a cumulative entry for the past eight days or so. We have had some fabulous meals and in some very unexpected places. Meals at some modest restaurants have been great! I have been surprised at how well our group has been doing with eating practically three Indian meals a day. At times, it has been too much Indian food for me (I have been craving some Mexican food lately), but the Wooster professors have mastered tearing up pieces of Naan to scoop up the dhal and sabjis. In fact, they have gotten to the point of comfortably ordering out of a menu, with no help from me. We did slip once and ate at McDonalds, purely for the ‘fastness’ of it! The Indian McDonalds is very vegetarian friendly, with three major veggie items in the menu.
India has been great for the four vegetarians in the group, with us feeling like we are no longer the minorities. We have never had to ask if there is chicken or beef broth in any of the foods, nor have we been asked if we eat chicken or seafood. In fact, in Haridwar and Rishikesh, you can not buy any meat or alcohol. These two are Hindu holy places and are filled with tens of thousands of pilgrims, who come to take a dip in the river Ganga (aka Ganges) year around.Most places we have stayed have included breakfast buffets. These have common items such as cereals, eggs and croissants; but more importantly, freshly made dosa, idli, sambar, vada, uppuma along with parathas and other north Indian breakfast items. In fact, these spreads have been large enough to be mistaken for an Indian lunch buffet.
Lunches and dinners have been mostly Indian buffet meals; and the best one we had was at Hotel Shangri La with a ‘chaat’ station, which served a variety of ‘fun’ Indian foods, such as the little puris filled pieces of potato and pani (spiced tamarind water) to be popped into the mouth in one go. We also had a wonderful gourmet meal in Haridwar at Hotel Havei Hariganga, on the banks of Ganges. At Rishikesh, we stopped at Tulsi Ayurvedic Café, which looked and felt like a remnant of the Beatles era. The place had tables and benches where you had to sit down with crossed legs. The place had a stage and a guitar for anyone who wanted to contribute to the entertainment, while eating the mediocre food.Today, we are heading down to Chennai, where I hope our palates will be pleased. So far, the food has not been hot enough for Lee and me. Restaurants take a look at our group and assume that we can only handle mild dishes. Most buffets are flavorful, but fairly mild, even though one can add achars and sauces to spice things up.