10 Tips for Eating In India
If you're travelling to India, you're in for some of the best meals of your life. The challenge? Trying authentic food whilst avoiding 'Delhi Belly', eating with your hand, learning what foods are and knowing what to order! Here's some tips to get you started!
1. EAT WHERE IT’S BUSY
A busy place is a good place. Keep a keen eye out for where the locals are eating, where local families are eating, what’s packed out at lunch and dinner and ask around to see where people like to eat. Why? BUSY signals taste and deliciousness, but more importantly it signals good food-safety and hygiene standards. Being busy also means that they have a faster flow of produce going in and out of the kitchen, so you’re more likely to eat a hot delicious dosa that was made 5 minutes ago instead of one that’s been pre-prepared and sitting out for a while.
2. DON’T EAT RAW FRUIT AND VEG THAT CAN’T BE PEELED
As a general rule of thumb its best to stay away from raw fruit and veg that you can’t skin completely. This means not ordering leafy salads that might have been washed in tap water in the kitchen. Stay with cooked food where you can - it’s just safer. So rice, curries and breads are all yes yes yes. Eating salad in fancier/touristy/more expensive places is generally fine. Say no to pre-cut fruit as delicious as it often looks – you don’t know how long it’s been sitting out there! If they can cut a fresh piece for you, great. Also drinking coconuts on the side of the road are safe.
3. EAT WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND.
Get into the habit of eating with your hand! It’s fun and according to Ayurveda, it makes the food taste better – something to do with the tastebuds and fingertips having a connection. If you want to try it, which I highly recommend, eat with your RIGHT hand and right hand only, because lefty is used for wiping your ass. It’s quite a skill to be able to eat rice with your hand – a kind of scoop with your 4 fingers and push with your thumb action, so its not a bad idea if you want to practice before coming to India. Head to an Indian eatery and try ripping roti or dosa with one hand! Rolling is the key! Don’t be afraid to get a bit messy and do mix different things together for new flavour combos – it makes eating such a joy! Pinch to make things stick together, use a bit of bread to scoop up curry and rice, crush pappadums on your food – you are the king/queen of the plate. You got this.
4. GET FAMILIAR WITH THE WASH ROOM
Get into the habit of washing your hands before and after every meal and you could save days of serious vomiting and/or endless diarrhoea. India is a dusty place and you never know what germs are landing on your hands. Most restaurants will have a washroom or a basin for you to clean your hands before and after your meal. Don’t be scared! Use it! That’s what its there for. I also carry hand sanitiser around with me everywhere just in case.
5. IF IN DOUBT, DON’T DRINK THE WATER
Again, a rule of thumb. Just don’t drink the water unless you know its safe, and ask for no ice. Fancier restaurants will serve filtered water on the tables and the ice will be manufactured in a safe place, but you should always ask if you’re not sure.
6. INDIA LIKES IT SWEET
Indians tend to have a very sweet palette - almost sickly sweet. They tend to add sugar or sugar syrup to everything including fruit juices, even if freshly squeezed. Lemon or lime soda is a hit here, but asking for the sugar on the side is always a good idea and you can pour in your desired amount of sweetener.
7. INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO INDIAN ‘CHINESE’
Okay, so you know how there’s Westernised Chinese food? Like.. ‘Chinese’ food that Chinese people don’t actually eat, dishes like ‘Honey Chicken’ or ‘General Tso’s Chicken’. Well in India, there’s a whole bunch of ‘Chinese’ dishes too! It’s kind of amazing how dishes have been tweaked to suit the Indian palette, and the dishes on offer are pretty standard across all of India. Give them a go because you won’t actually be able to eat them anywhere else! ‘Gobi 65’ is an example of an ‘Chinese’ dish in India.
8. EAT VEGAN
Don’t want to get sick? EAT VEGAN! Seriously, it’s pretty damn easy to eat vegan in India and it’ll probably save you a few days on the toilet. Meat, eggs, dairy are all things MANY have recommended to go without in India, as refrigeration is just NOT A THING in a lot of places! This country is FAMOUS for vegetarian food so don’t even worry, you KNOW it’s going to be delicious.
9. TAKE PROBIOTICS WITH YOU
It’s been 5 weeks in Mother India and we haven’t gotten sick ONCE. Touch wood. We have another 2 months to go, but I reckon these probiotics have helped a lot. I take one with food every 2-3 days, just to keep things movin’ inside me, and to boost the ol’ gut health a bit! It helps you digest some of those real heavy meals, especially all the breads in North India I’ve found!
10. SHOULD I EAT STREETFOOD?
You’re in India! It would be a RIGHT SHAME if you didn’t try the streetfood! BUT be wary! Again, keep an eye out for the busiest stalls. ALSO, it is a good idea to give yourself a few days to get used to food in India in general, before throwing your gut into the deep end.