Holidays are for lying in hammocks, climbing peaks, snorkelling, sunbathing, reading books, hitting on (or hitting) locals, whatever floats your boat. Eating, however, is the pinnacle of holidaying for most Bad Sounds writers. So, we got to thinking, why not compile a list of places we recommend to those of you who dare to leave the safety of Europe and North America and actually venture where you don’t know the local language. If you do, and you are starving, then look no further than here.
High up on the list of culinary debauchery is the explosive, diverse and fresh taste of Asian food. Partly chosen first due to two of Bad Sounds writers having spent most of their childhoods in Asia, but also because those who haven’t still bloody love it.
Blessed with the ability to send some people to heaven with one bite, or others straight to the bathroom after swallowing their last bite, Indian food straddles so many combinations, flavours, cooking methods, geographical boundaries that its impossible to reduce it down (pun intended) to just one cuisine. From the luscious biriyanis of the north, to the kathi rolls of the east, the thukpa and momos in Sikkim, the mughlai dishes, the chapattis in punjab, the dosas and iddli in the south and the fresh fish delicacies of Goa and Kerala, India dizzies your senses with the fresh, ground and fermented spices used to infuse their concoctions.
Ironically enough, a vast majority of the best Indian food, is not actually found IN India. Based on varying facts, but mostly coming down to quality of product, the meat dishes are usually more tender and delicious outside of the country (barring home-cooking here of course). Also, in Indian restaurants very often men are drafted in to cook, who have no formal training and tend to either over-cook, over-salt or over-do most tasks given to them. This isn’t to say, of course, that you can’t enjoy an immense meal in India: you can.
Here are some of our favourite places in India, and some others around the world that have taken the flame and ran with it.
Gulatis. After 4 decades of fattening up even the staunchest critic, you have to raise your hands and pat the chefs on the back for creating some truly divine Butter Chicken, Naan and Raita. This place is king in Delhi.
Metropolis Restaurant. Stuck in the cacaphony and brute insanity of Paharganj, Metropolis is a sanctuary with its nicely decked out rooftop restaurant and slightly darker downstairs seating. The reason people come here is for the food. The service is top notch too. Blow a little extra of your daily budget to sample their Murgh Kali Mirch Tikka, and their dhal that has been simmering over a woodfire for 12 hours. Sublime, to say the least.
Anands: Stuck in a poor alleyway with a shoddy blind covering the kitchen which doesn’t look as clean as it perhaps should be, Anands nonetheless crams in its army of believers here for the amazing Butter Chicken, Dhal Makhani to die for and fresh Romali Roti’s. For vegetarians there is a plethora of delicious alternatives. Our fave review from online: “We get all punjabi dishes here. Weelky once my self and my hubby ill go n enjoy tasting the food……Too tasty can go with family and enjoy here.”
Soul Fry: In Pali Market, a neighbourhood of Bandra (a location most tourists don’t venture to) is the small, cosy, hidden bar-cum-restaurant of Soul Fry. Goan in flavour, European in decor, and with a fully stocked bar and quirky interiors, this place is very popular with the hipsters in Mumbai, along with the few Firangis who have sought it out. The Bombil is to die for, the Chicken Cafreal, Prawn Rechado and the paper-thin Romalis make this place a restaurant worth visiting every weekend. If you decide to venture out there, do make reservations or you’ll be stuck in the stifling outdoor seating area which takes more than a dozen cold beers to make you feel cool again.
Food Inn: Located just 30 meters down from the famous foreigner hangouts, Leopold’s and Cafe Mondigars, is the locally loved Food Inn. Specialising in Butter Chicken, but able to tempt you with an extensive menu, this is one for the late nights after you’ve downed your share of Kingfisher at Mondys and laughed at some hippies walking barefoot around Mumbai without a care for their health.
Santoor: Up some stairs in Makers Arcade, in Cuff Parade, Santoor is perfect for Friday nights when their drinks list will bring just as much enjoyment as the virtually endless amount of sumptuous food you can pack into your willing mouth.
Tenzin Dickey Tibetan: Absolutely THE must-go place in Leh. Tenzin is the picture of cheer and his food is amazing. Momos to die for, and soups that will warm the darkest of hearts! Absolutely recommended.
Chinatown: You can’t beat the Momo’s and Thukpa at Chinatown in Vagator (ok, not strictly Indian Food, but well worth a visit).
Alcove in Vagator does good Indian fare set on a gorgeous balcony with a stupendous view. The chicken tikka is sumptuous.
The Plantain Leaf in Calangute has excellent South Indian cuisine. Dosa’s to die for.
Ooty, Tamil Nadu:
Chandans has some of the best vegetarian food in India. Sublime Gobi Masala, naan and basically everything we tried was stunning. Excellent service to boot.
In essence the thing about India is trying everything. Just steer clear of the deep fried treats that have been lying next to exhaust spewed streets for hours collecting dust, you are more than likely to enjoy them going down more than going out. But walk the streets, talk to locals, ask for a specific dish that you want and people will show you the way. India is not about one particular restaurant doing everything well, they have places they go for Dosa, places that are amazing for Samosas, Thali’s, Birjani, etc. The best thing to do is just keep eating your way around that magical country, because you will have more good food than bad.
For those who are not planning on hitting the South just yet, here are some tips for restaurants outside India that blew our minds:
London: Nazmins Indian Restaurant in Earlsfield. Voted one of the best Indian Restaurants in the U.K. I cannot agree more. Eaten there perhaps 5 times and loved every single minute. Their Rogan Josh, Chicken Madras and Dhal are exceptional. And its very reasonable.
New York: There can only be one place, Jackson Diner in Jackson Heights, Queens. Sublime Indian food to suit every budget. The Lamb curry with spinach (Gosht Palak) is worth the subway ride over.
Hong Kong: The supreme leader, the God of cuisine, the Lord of spices: Butt’s Fast Food stands tall amongst all other wannabe’s in Hong Kong’s crowded restaurant scene. A humble, tiny storefront on the ground flood of Chungking Mansions, this place has finger-licking good Chicken Karahi, Rotis and awesome Samosas. Literally one of the cheapest meals you could get in Hong Kong, and one of the best ever!
Penang, Malaysia: Sri Anand Bhawan. Hands down the best place to fill your stomach in Penang. They also serve beer although it takes 20 minutes to arrive!
Oslo: Dehli Tandoori. A decent option in the capital for those without an endless budget.
New Anarkali. Another mid-priced restaurant that does what it does well.
And if after all of that you can’t be arsed to go eat out, then just do what we do: http://www.desicookbook.com/recipelist.aspx