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Jun 18, 2006 04:49 PM

India (Dehli-Pune-Chenai)-First time recs?

  • j

This will be my first trip to India, where I will be spending about three days each in Pune-Dehli and Chenai.
I have no great knowledge of Indin cuisine-for me Tamarind in London or Dawat in New York are wonderful-and will be avoiding street food and similar adventures.
Cost is not an issue.
So, what would you recommend for a first time visitor?

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    1. re: howler

      And here is my report on that Pune meal that howler recommended a restaurant for...


      1. re: Julie

        I am not a vegetarian but for the first time I am actually looking forward to an all vegetarian meal.
        Thank you for the response and-any other tips?

        1. re: JEH

          I'm not a vegetarian either, but I eat mostly vegetarian food in India. It's not that the meat is bad, but the vegetarian options are just so amazingly interesting that you really want to try them.

          You are lucky to be spending time in the South. My very first trip to India involved staying for several weeks at my friends' parents' house in Chennai. I got totally addicted to South Indian home cooking and now I have to eat curd rice (rice mixed w/plain yogurt) with every meal. Vegetarian food is much more prevalent in the south, too--there are a lot of places that are "pure veg," i.e. no meat.

          1. re: Julie

            I am not a very adventuresome traveller-in China, I only drink bottled water and avoid street food-so, what should I do in India, which from what I hear can be pretty rough.
            Also, what do you think of the restaurant scene in Dehli.
            Thank you for the time you have taken so far.

            1. re: JEH

              if you are scared (and this is from someone who has had a) cholera b) typhoid c) innumerable upset stomachs) then

              a) avoid raw vegetables

              b) embrace cooked food

              heat kills most things foul (and fair, in all honesty). don't eat street food, don't eat raw veggies, so avoid fruit juices, avoid salads, avoid ice etc.

              but ragda patties .... arrrrgh you aint lived till you've eaten ragda patties with tamarind chutney. try and score a sanitized version in delhi .. this is one of gods own dishes. seriously.

              1. re: howler

                I have not had either cholera or typhoid, but I have certainly had my share of gastrological distress over my many years of traveling in developing countries (though nothing that ever required a trip to a doctor, or even a course of Cipro). Interestingly, India does not even come close to the top of the list on that score. As howler notes, avoid raw veggies and fresh juices if you feel you must--but I don't. You might want to go easy on meat, too, which again is really simple to do since so much vegetarian food is available. I find that meals with meat in them have a higher probability of making me sick than veg meals.

                As I have said before in answer to previous questions on this topic, what you need to realize is that no matter what you do, no matter how careful you are, you're probably going to get some kind of stomach pain anyway--maybe a little, maybe more if you are not used to food with a lot of spices--but it'll be there. Go armed with the knowledge of how to rehydrate yourself (see the CDC website, among others) and what foods to eat when you are recovering. Whatever you get will go away in a day or two, and then you can start eating again. The great part is that the more you travel, the less frequently you'll have to worry about this, because your stomach really does acclimate after a while.

                As for Delhi, I can't be too helpful there. I have been to a lot of places (incl. the famous Bukhara, many times) but none of them really stand out in my mind. Bukhara is good, but super heavy food--tons of meat, northern cuisine. It's not my favorite.

        2. re: Julie

          julie - i just saw the post asking for jaipur recs .. sorry i missed that one - did you go? anywhere special you ate?

          1. re: howler

            No, I was trapped in the conference hotel again (ITC Sheraton). :-( I got out and about on my first day in town, walked around and bought some sweets (my teeth are still aching from that!) But it was one of those work-work-work things. The better part of that trip was the 3 days I spent in Pakistan beforehand. Really interesting, although again, my handlers kept taking me to one hotel restaurant after another, even though I was begging to get out in the real world. Sigh. I had one good meal on my last night in Karachi, and wouldn't you know, that was the one that made me sick!

            No idea where next year's conference will be. I am secretly happy that the Indian market took a huge dive last month, because it might mean that less people are expected, which also means that we might get to go to a city that's not Bombay or Delhi.

      2. p
        Peter Cherches

        Chenai has some of the best restaurants I've been to in India. Dakshin serves vegetarian dishes from all over South India. Raintrees serves Chettinad food, the spicy, Tamil non-veg cuisine of the Chettiyars. Both are in high-end hotels. Breakfasts in South India are great too. Try to get uppma (spicy, couscous-like cream of wheat cereal) and idiappam (string hoppers of thin rice noodle). Also great are South Indian coffee and various tropical fruits and juices. Try to get mosambi (sweet lime) juice, which you'll never find outside of India.


        1. South Indian vegetarian food is wonderful--try the "meals" served on thalis at lunch or dinner, or dosais, utthapams, idlys and vadais served for breakfast or tea. In Chennai, there are places like Saravana Bhavan and Woodlands restaurants that are clean and air-conditioned. They are a step down from 4-star hotel dining, but very nice. There's a good Woodlands around the corner from Pothy's, which is a must-experience silk store. If you get tired of Indian food, there's a good pan-Asian restaurant in the Connemara Hotel that has killer Thai food.