Monday, January 14, 2013


I have had a few people ask me about the food I have been eating, so I’m going to do my best to describe a little bit about what I have been eating. It is very hard to get the ingredient list of each meal, as some of the spices are not common or the names are not easily translated.  The other complication is that some of the dishes are called something different in the North, and it may be a North Indian who is telling me about the food so the same meal may be described to me in a few different ways. I will do my best to describe it.
Biriyani from one of the college campus canteens. The yogurt sauce is the white one, the other sauce is a mystery to me.
Biriyani: This is a traditional Tamil meal consisting of rice and spices. I have had Veg Biriyani most often, but Chicken Biriyani is also offered. This dish is seasoned with cloves, chilies, garlic, ginger, coriander, and onions. It is mixed with tomatoes and other vegetables (carrots, peas, cauliflower) however the rice remains dominant. Along with this dish is served a plain (rather runny) yogurt with shaved purple onions tossed in it. To eat, you pour the yogurt over the biriyani and mix together, scope into the tips of the fingers on your right hand and, using your thumbnail, “flick” the food bolus into your mouth. Tada!

Paratha. I have grown to really enjoy these. It looks someone flaky and pastry like (especially in this photo) but it is more "rubbery" than it looks.
Paratha: (Sorry, no photo at this point) Paratha is a traditional pan fried dough that is made from wheat flour. The dough is shaped into long finger-sized ropes and wound into a neat little coil. This coiled up pile of dough is then rolled flat and pan fried into a pancake-shape. You tear the paratha apart and as you do so, it comes off in “layers” due to the “coiling” before cooking. It is a rubbery sort of texture with mild flavor. You dip the paratha into the dal (mashed lentils) or samba sauce that it is served with.
Chili paratha!!! One of my favorite dishes. It is a little spicy, but not too bad.
Chili Paratha: Chilly paratha is simply a paratha that has been cut into stripes and fried up in chili sauce with spices and vegetables (carrots, green onion, peas, green peppers and potatoes). This is also served with an onion yogurt side dish. You eat it much the same way you would eat biriyani. 

Chicken tika. This what my meal on my second International Student's Wednesday Night Out. Delicious!
Chicken Tika: This is (I believe) and Northern Indian dish. It is pretty tasty, and can be found in the US. It is a drier meat (without "gravy"), but can be ordered as chicken tika masala if you prefer to have more sauce for your naan or rice. A fresh lime squeezed over it and dipped in the mint sauce makes this a wonderful meal with intense flavors. The spices are both sweet and hot (not sweet and sour).

Masala Dosai (pronounced dough-sah) the chutney is the pale side dish, the samba is the stuff in the dish.
 Masala Dosai: Dosai can be described in a few different ways: a rice pancake, rice crepe, rice wrap. In short, it is a rice batter/dough that is cooked up like a large pancake. Masala dosai has potatoes and onions inside. The seasonings used for the Masala dosai are turmeric, garlic, onion and some other mystery spice. To eat the dosai you pull it apart with your fingers (right hand only, of course) and dip it into a “chutney” and then into “samba.” I haven’t really figured out what the chutney and samba are yet. 
Egg dosai with a mango milkshake in the background. Solid meal.
Egg dosai: An egg dosai is the same as described above, but without the potato filling and an egg is mixed into the rice batter. The egg dosai has a “wet sponge” texture to it, but is very delicious. I think the egg dosai I had has some spices in it as well.
Tea. I love this tea. So much. 
Fresh papaya juice!
Fresh squeezed pineapple juice.
Fresh grape juice.
Beverages: tea is the national drink, and it is a one-and-done kind of beverage. I guess there are different flavors of teas at the fancy shops, but mostly when you order tea, you know what you are getting. Most places make the tea by brewing a very very strong tea and pouring it into warmed milk with lots of sugar. I have learned not to stir or swirl my tea so that it is not too sweet. If you let it sit too long, a film will form on the top (I’m guessing from the denaturing of the milk proteins from the heat, but I could be wrong) which is a little funky. You just A.) peel it off, or B.) drink quick and let it go down fast. The coffee is made in a similar way: strong brew poured into warm, sweet milk. It is AMAZING! They serve the tea and coffee in these tiny little 4-6 oz. paper cups. It makes me smile when I think about the US drinking their 16-24 oz. cups of coffee. You can get tea or coffee for about ten cents. It is fantastic and SO DELICIOUS!

There are a number of juices available as well. The common juices are grape, mango, pineapple, lime, and orange; though others are available. You can get them at any of the canteens around campus and the hospital. They are made by blending up the fruit and adding a little water. Very true to taste. My favorites are the mango and pineapple.

Water and soda are also available. Boring. 

Mango ice cream.

Aaron from Australia enjoying his mango ice cream.
Desserts: By and large, the desserts here are not that impressive. I feel like someone forgot to tell India that dessert is supposed to be good. You can get chocolate and cakes, but they are either exactly what you would find in the US (chocolate bars) or dry and crumbly (cakes). They do have ice cream which tastes a little but custard-like and is usually a little softer than what you find in the US. Mango ice cream can be found at the college canteen and is very delicious! 

More posts on food will come as I try new things. Today is the national holiday Pongal to celebrate the first harvest of the year. I understand there is a pudding-like dish made today called Pongal. I might see if I can go track some down. 


  1. Thank you for this, Em! It looks great! I want to try every one! Especially that egg deal. Bring home some recipes!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. It is really all for you. Honest. I just posted another food post. I have connections to someone who will give me cooking lessons. I will try to come home with recipes. No promises. The problem I find is that everyone I ask about the dishes gives me a different recipe. I think there is some vernacular confusion-- same thing, different terms. Also, some of the spices and ingredients they have not been able to translate for me. I suggest you come to India to visit me and try the food yourself. :)

  2. The food looks amazing! Of course I think all day meeting casseroles are good.