I must admit I am going through an Indian phase right now. Yes, almost anything and everything Indian fascinates me with an eager beaver like gusto, especially if food and culture related. I’ve watched some movies like 3 Idiots, apparently the highest grossing Bollywood film in the history of India, and The Mistress of Spices, a movie adaptation (not sure if it is a Hollywood or UK produced movie. Can anyone tell which?) of the book of the same title. I am now in the middle of reading Delirious Delhi, a story of a New York expat’s experience in India’s crazy capital. I’ve been in touch with a number of Indian food bloggers based in Dubai and learned a lot of about their cuisine through their posts. But somehow I’ve never found the brazen courage or the opportunity to go beyond the usual orders of Biryani and Chicken Tikka Masala.
And a few days ago, I was so blessed to have been given chance to partake in an educational Indian food outing around Dubai’s Little India, Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai. I found myself on a fierce quest to push my Indian cuisine limits and take a deeper dive into the culture, which has bewitched me for quite some time now.
We were a strange gaggle of food lovers that night: a Filipino girl (That’s me!), two English ladies (Sally of My Custard Pie and her sister), a Sri Lankan woman (Farwin from Love & Other Spices), and two Indian foodies (Vineet and Raji of Vegetarian Tastebuds) led by our bubbly, tireless, impassioned leader Arva from I Live in a Frying Pan and her kind-hearted nutritionist mother, Nafeesa. Yes, I believe that this food outing was nutritionist certified We hopped through a total of seven (7) restaurants, filling our curious tummies with North Indian treats. No plate was left ignored as I managed to eat everything that was set in front of me with much gusto, taking seconds or thirds or as much as my expanding stomach could permit.
And here are some of my favorite Indian treats of the night:
Aloo Kulcha Chole
This carb-filled, ghee-shined crispy, flaky tandoor oven baked treat is definitely not for people on a diet (FYI I reserved my carb allowance for the day specifically for this food outing). It honestly reminded me of the freshly baked parmesan bread from Italianni’s, an Italian food chain back home, because of the grated parmesan cheese-like effect given by the glossy finishing of chaat masala and ghee. This potato filled bread (carb-on-carb action going on here!) is best downed with a rich chole, chick pea curry dipping sauce, onion pickles (surely to be eaten with caution if on a date), and a tall-glass of thick lassi (yogurt drink) with a hint of rose water.
A popular Indian streetfood, dahi puri is literally a mouthful. Meant to be eaten whole with a single “O” of your mouth, this crispy flour sphere, lightly poked to form a hole, filled with spiced potato bits and peas, spicy water and tamarind sauce, then topped with cold yoghurt, crispy noodles and a sprinkle of coriander leaves, will leave fireworks on your palate. Taste creamy yoghurt followed by savory crunch of the puri (round flour shells), then the spice explosions from potato, peas and the peppery water, to be mellowed down by the sweetness of the tamarind sauce. Each mouthful will leave you wanting for more. I would’ve finished a second or even a third or fourth dahi puri if there weren’t five restaurants ahead of us.
This snack reminded me of a variation of the ubiquitous Filipino treat, the puto (rice cake). But don’t be deceived by it’s looks because, unlike it’s Filipino lookalike, this is a filling block of savory carbohydrates topped with crispy noodle bits, a spicy sweet tamarind sauce and a sprinkle of fresh coriander leaves.
This drink almost stole the entire show that night. Preparing this savory dairy (thinned yoghurt / buttermilk) digestive, which worked wonders to our almost full food tanks, was a magic show filled the pizzaz of rainbow colored spices: golden liquified ghee, pink salt, mustard garlic ginger paste, brown toasted ground cumin (plus another spice which slipped my memory), bright green chilies, coriander leaves and crushed mint leaves, and the rise of aromatic mystical smoke from burnt herbs and spices that enveloped the cold stainless steel glass with flavor. It was a performance that will forever be etched in my food memory.
I’ve eaten Kulfi (Indian ice cream) back in the Philippines, but I’ve never had the chance to enjoy one in an earthen pot! I think cooking the Kulfi in that wee pot properly seals in the flavors of saffron, cashew, pistachios and milk. Plus, it is a great way to present a frozen treat, don’t you agree?
Those breathtaking (I could barely breathe from all the food that we ate) Indian treats left me wanting to learn even more. Take note, we only conquered North India that night, so a South Indian food outing is very much in order. Can you just imagine how I am so looking forward to it?
Namaste Arva and her nutritionist mum Nafeesa and Raji for taking us through the path of North Indian food enlightenment! Namaste also to brave food companions: Sally, Anna, Farwin, and Vineet!
Delirious about delicious,
P.S. I do not claim to be a North Indian food expert, so please feel free to correct me in my food descriptions. Don’t worry because I am a very eager student of world cuisine, at least Indian cuisine as of the moment