There are many reasons to put India on your list of must-visit destinations – from the majesty of the Taj Mahal to the pristine beaches of Goa, as well as its rich spiritual history and countless colourful festivals. India has plenty to offer the curious traveller. If you’re not a meat-eater, you’ve got one more reason: India has the highest proportion of vegetarians in the world, estimated at as many as four in ten of the population. Naturally, having this many vegetarians to feed means India boasts some of the world’s finest vegetarian cuisine!
Most Indian restaurants clearly mark themselves as being either vegetarian, non-vegetarian or “pure vegetarian” (vegan), and a similar system is employed on food labelling supermarkets and shops. A green dot in a green square means a product is pure vegetarian, while a brown dot in a brown square indicates that animal products were used. And if you’re using the railways (highly likely on a visit to India!), you can expect to have a wide array of veggie fare to choose from on your journey.
Restaurants in India are cheap and plentiful: nearly every street in the larger cities has a few eateries to explore, not to mention dozens of roadside vendors. It’s usually best to stick to the restaurants and avoiding snacking from the roadside stalls, as these aren’t known for their hygiene. Small restaurants, known as dhabas, can usually be found next to petrol stations and serve excellent local food that will be different from city to city – in fact, part of the fun of travelling to India is seeing just how much the cuisine can change in just a few miles.
Some of the mainstay dishes to taste are thali and dhosa, both common in south India. The former is an all-you-can-eat vegetarian feast, comprising curries, pickles, vegetables, yoghurt, papadums and more – great if you’ve been on foot all day and just want to tuck in to a big plate of food. Meanwhile, dhosa is the Indian version of the pancake, make from rice batter and black lentils. It’s usually filled with spicy veg and served with chutney and pickle dips.
If you really want to make cuisine a central part of your stay in India, make sure you go during festival time. Some of the best-known Indian festivals are Diwali, Lohri and Ganesh Chaturthi, but there are literally hundreds – India has such a diverse array of cultures and religions that you’ve got a good chance of seeing celebrations of one kind or another everywhere you go. Food is a central part of the festivities, so make sure you sample the local crackers and sweets.
Finally, don’t forget that quite a few of the smaller, family-run eateries in India offer cookery classes to tourists at lunchtime, where you’ll typically learn to make a couple of dishes in an hour. Take the opportunity to learn from the masters, and bring home a new skill that you can use to make delicious vegetarian food for your friends back home!
This article has been provided by HRS, one of the leading sources for hotels on the web. For more information, go to http://www.hrs.com/uk/.