From the bustling streets of Mumbai to the snow-capped Himalayas, the tranquil backwaters of Kerala to the tea estates of Darjeeling, India’s varied landscapes offer a wealth of tantalizing cuisine shaped by the climate and natural resources. Given its abundant variety and enchanting quality, it’s no wonder why India is a bucket-list destination for so many travellers and foodies alike. Here is OROKO Travel‘s guide to India.
Famed chef, Rick Stein, spoke fondly of his travels to India, stating that ‘when Indians talk of food, they talk of their life.’ The country’s history and cuisine are intertwined, with recipes and cooking methods passed on from generation to generation. To explore India’s cuisine is to explore the heart and soul of the culture.
To help guide readers through one of the most fascinating culinary countries in the world, the team at OROKO Travel, Ireland’s leading experts in tailored luxury holidays, have compiled a list of some of their must-visit foodie hotspots in India. Read on to delve into this destination of unimaginable beauty, where aromatic spices and bold combinations encapsulate a rich culture and history that is unlike anywhere else.
What would a culinary guide to India be without mention of its alluring capital, New Delhi? The second largest metropolis in the world is home to vibrant streets lined with hawkers and enticing treats, along with one of India’s most famous restaurants, Moti Mahal; birthplace of classics like rich butter chicken and dal makhani.
OROKO Managing Director, Brendan Breen, describes Delhi as a place where the past and present are embraced in cohesion; “Historic temples, mosques, and shrines stand still amongst the wonderous chaos of city life, where every corner of the Indian Subcontinent come to meet.”
Take a rickshaw ride through the bustling Chandi Chowk, one of the oldest markets in Delhi, bursting with colour and spices. Old-Delhi is a street-food haven, filled with age-old restaurants showcasing culinary delights from the past. Tuck into succulent kebabs grilled over charcoal and dahi bhalla (lentil fritters dunked in yoghurt and topped with sweet and spicy chutneys). For an extra special sweet treat, Brendan suggests trying out jalebi, a popular orange sweet composed of fried batter steeped in syrup. Wherever you choose to go in Delhi, electrifying eats are sure to follow.
Amritsar, being home to the magnificent Golden Temple, one of Sikhism religion’s most spiritually significant gurudwaras, is a must stop on any bespoke holiday to India’s holy cities, but this destination is also a great gateway to experiencing the traditional tastes of Punjab. Indulge in an exciting food walking tour where you will learn how to prepare local delicacies like lassi and nutri-rice. Travel Specialist, Fiona, states that food tours are a wonderful way to gain local insight into the best places to eat, along with providing a greater understanding of the area.
When in Amritsar, one can also pay a visit to Sadda Pind, a living museum of a traditional Punjabi village, depicting dining and cultural activities.
Regarding what dishes to try on your travels, Amritsari kulchas top the list. Characteristically cooked on a tandoor, crisp but soft leavened breads are stuffed with the likes of potato, paneer, cauliflower, and spices, and are served with desi ghee and butter. For the ultimate gastronomical experience, its recommended to pair kulchas with pickles and raita.
Heading south, we arrive in Mumbai, defined by Rick Stein as a place that ‘inspires you to cook.’ Opulent and unyielding skyscrapers tower over buzzing streets, teeming with life. Colourful market stalls dawn fresh produce and renowned street-food favourites like pav bhaji. Butter is of the essence in this quintessential Mumbai street-food dish, where chopped onions, mashed potatoes and marrowfat peas marry masala mix, chilli, and fresh coriander; all to be scooped up with freshly baked bread.
Housed on the shoreline, Mumbai’s vibrant fish markets dawn the freshest catch. Being the most populous city in the whole of India, it’s worth noting that in Mumbai one can find fish curries from around the country, be it Mangalore, Maharashtra, Goa, you name it. Food is engrained in the city’s identity, and a trip to Mumbai allows visitors to authentically experience the wealth of cuisine that India has to offer.
On a privately guided tour of the city, journey to treasures like the Gateway of India and Kala Ghoda, an art district known for its large collection of museums, heritage buildings and modern art galleries. The tour ends with a stop at Badshah to try some falooda, a cooling drink made of vermicelli, sweet basil seeds and rose syrup.
Living up to its reputation as ‘God’s Own Country,’ Kerala is a paradise of natural splendour and makes for the perfection conclusion to this guide. The wonderous state on India’s tropical Malabar Coast, sits between the Western Ghats, whose fruitful slopes house tea, coffee, and spice plantations, and the Arabian Sea. Having visited over forty countries and countless regions, OROKO Sales Manager, Aisling O’Carroll, speaks of how Kerala still sticks out as one of her most favourite destinations, regarding the area as the perfect soft introduction to India and its cuisine.
Kerala’s landscape is fruitful, and the dishes here take full advantage of the abundant produce. Known to have the best cardamom and peppers in the world, Kerala is a spice haven, but is also renowned for its seafood and distinctly milder spice levels. Coconut features heavily as an ingredient, given its plentiful existence in these coastal areas, and the region’s famed karimeen fish is commonly cooked in its oil. When in Kerala, it is customary practice to eat meals with your hands, feeding not only the body, but the mind and spirit. On what to try, Aisling recommends sampling Kerala prawn curry, a standout from her travels.
In Kumarakom, a village on Vembanad Lake, journeying aboard a houseboat and cruising the centuries-old backwaters, is a great way to experience the daily life and vibrancy that exists here, from secluded villages to the crowded towns that line the riverbanks. This experience is completed with a traditional lunch of Keralan cuisine and is truly one to remember. The OROKO team also recommends a guided tour of Philipkutty’s Farm, set on a reclaimed island. Learn about their sustainable practices and enjoy the picturesque outdoors.
A culinary holiday to Kerala can also be coupled with visits to its national parks and sanctuaries like Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, home to Asian elephant, deer, and tiger, or a scenic trek to Kolukkumalai, one of the highest tea growing estates in the world.
The options on luxury culinary holidays to India are limitless, and OROKO Travel is here to guide you every step of the way. For more information on luxury holidays to India, visit the OROKO website or speak to their team, and discover how a bespoke itinerary can be tailored to meet your every need.
OROKO is Ireland’s only dedicated luxury tailored travel business. A team of luxury travel agents passionate about the world who create experiential, personalised luxury holidays from Ireland. Having travelled far and wide to discover the world’s culinary hotspots, OROKO will tailor gastronomic experiences all over the world, from the food markets of Lisbon and Porto to the neon-lit streets of Tokyo and Osaka.
Visit www.orokotravel.ie or call 01-2600240