MAZWO on Tour: India
After just over a month in India, it has come the time to write about my culinary experiences here in the self proclaimed ‘Capital of Curry’.
We began our tour in Fort Kochi, a place popular with cruise ships and travellers staying for a couple of days. It was here that we had our Indian cookery course at Casa Linda and tasted southern Indian cooking at its best. Their specialities are fish curries, the most famous being the keralan kind, with a huge range of fresh spices on offer. The most used spices are turmeric, though it’s usually only used for colour, cumin, curry powder and leaves, garam masala, mustard seeds, cardamom and whole black peppercorns to name but a few. I was amazed at how fresh and aromatic they were, chefs only using a quarter of a teaspoon at a time because they’re so strong.
Our journey up to Goa brought with it more European food. Due to the hundreds of travellers which embark on the beautiful coast line, there’s a big demand for Italian food in particular, Dominos seeming to be a popular haunt amongst travellers sadly, along with numerous health food cafes. As so much of the Indian population are vegetarian, there are lots of vegetable options in restaurants, but vegans and raw foodies need to watch out and don’t eat the salad! Leaves are washed in the water here unless stated otherwise on the menu so you need to be careful or you could get really ill.
Alongside the Italian restaurants are also a lot of Tibetan restaurants. The new foods which we’ve tried have been ‘Momos’, a Chinese dumpling filled with chicken, prawns or veg, and the best ones are steamed and then fried on one side. They also traditionally come with a broth. We’ve also tried ‘thupka’ which is a traditional tibetan dish of noodles in a spicy broth with vegetables and meat.
Biryanis are also popular here, some being served with a boiled egg and others being served “naked”, simply a fried rice. They don’t come with a gravy which we’re used to at home, but instead are packed full with whole cardamom seeds and star anise. One really interesting thing I’ve seen as well is the use of fried onion on the top of curries. We ordered a chicken dopiazza which comes with the sweet yet strong flavour of fried onions on top. Delicious, and something I’ve never seen in a recipe from home.
It’s a shame that there are only two “Indian” restaurants listed in our local vicinity. Most places have fallen into the trap of satisfying the tastebuds of westerners than giving people a true taste of Indian food. Due to the fact that we want to experience the ‘true’ taste of India, we visited an amazing Indian run restaurant the other day, tasting the most delicious chicken tandoori I’ve ever had. I much prefer the rotis to naan breads, rotis being much flatter and like a pastry, the naans being a lot chewier and ‘bready’ than ones at home. I also tried a new curry which I’d never heard of before called ‘Kolhapuri’, which was a delicious blend of spices in a tomato sauce with whole chillies thrown in for good measure.
One of our favourite restaurants that we’ve visited though is a Chinese restaurant and the flavours are out of this world. The owner refuses to use MSG in their food, and noodles are made fresh every morning. I had the delightful ‘Hakka Noodles’ which are noodles mixed with chicken, spring onion, pepper, mushroom and light spices. This place has given us a taste for southeast Asian food definitely, and we can’t wait to arrive in Bangkok this weekend!