When walking down a typical high street in Britain, it is inevitable you will eventually come to pass by an Indian Restaurant. After frequently visiting such establishments on many a crewdate in Oxford, I thought I knew what I was expecting when I embarked on a trip to visit India. I was wrong, and am I more than happy to admit it because what I discovered while travelling there was better than anything I could have imagined and better than anything Jamals ever rustled up.
From the moment I stepped foot in India, the vibrant colours of the fresh fruits and vegetables echoed the enthusiasm of the locals to share the knowledge accumulated over generations. The dishes were not the product of a Michelin star chef, nor were they crafted with the precision and scientific knowledge of Heston Blumenthal but when you tasted them for the first time they were able to ignite taste buds and wake your mouth up to flavours only ever described by cookery books.
Rural India’s idea of fast food puts ours to shame, not only do they make us look lazy by relying on microwaves or popping to the nearest fast food joint, the expanse of flavours they are able to combine in a meal is unrivalled. In the time you can get a Big Mac, you can get a fresh doshi made out of simple ingredients from the cupboard. The Asian equivalent to a French crepe or an English pancake, the doshi is a versatile snack that can be filled with savoury rice or sweet sugar; perfect for any occasion. The doshi itself is made from rice batter and black lentil and it contains no salt sugar or saturated fats – perfect for a guilt free snack.
As is commonplace for most travellers in a new country like India for the first time, I underestimated the warnings of ‘spicy’. The dish India is most well-known for is its curry and I urge any visitor to try a whole range, however the best advice I can give to future travellers is this, when they say mild, then mean medium, when they say medium, they mean hot and when they say hot you should be prepared for a spice explosion that will leave you unable to taste anything else for weeks to come.
If you really want to fully understand a new country and its culture, wherever you are I would recommend nothing more than throwing away your culinary preconceptions and embracing the cuisine of the locals.