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What to bring back from India + Northern India dining?

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I will be traveling to India in a few weeks for 2 months of spontaneous train hopping and adventuring particularly around Northern India (Delhi, Rishikesh, Leh, several places in Rajasthan and Gujarat, Agra, Varanasi, Bodhgaya, etc.) What wonderful ingredients/food items should I bring back? Preferably ones that aren't as easily available at local Indian grocers or anything that's more expensive to buy here in the U.S.? Also, any recommendations on memorable local places to eat would also be appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. there is surprisingly little that is not available here in Indian markets. Whole asafoetida and saffron (if you can find bona fide source) are what I brought back. Maybe I will use this post as an incentive to post up some info on my own much less extensive trip.

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    1. re: jen kalb

      I will be in Varanasi in a few weeks and I will be stocking up on the Iranian hing (asafoetida) from a shop in the Thatheri bazaar. Another thing to get there is the paan masala which is exclusive to Varanasi.

    2. Agree with jen kalb. You can get most things at a decent Indian grocery store (if you live near one). I stopped bringing back food items years ago.

      The one exception: tea. If you like tea, you should be able to find different varieties in Delhi , and Rajasthan. Tea is grown in the Northeastern part of India, and traded in Kolkata (Eastern India), but decent varieties should be available in Delhi.

      Eat as much fruit as you can, because it will taste better than any fruit available in US grocery stores. You might have missed the peak of mango season, but some varieties might still be available when you visit.

      Try Chinese food in India. Again very different from Chinese food in the US. Chinese immigrants moved to India over 200 years ago and their food is very popular. Unlike Chinese food in the US which has morphed to suit American palates (sadly, not in a good way) Indian Chinese food has adapted to Indian tastes. Try chilli chicken and hakka chow mein if you get the chance - staple items in most restaurants.

      In Delhi, go to Karim's for kababs. In the US, kababs are just a bunch of things skewered and grilled. In other countries, kababs are full of flavour, spices nuance and God only knows what else. Karim's is legendary though I have never been there myself.

      Have fun on your trip!