Written by Chally Korn, (University of Tampa), Student Correspondent UW in India: Delhi, Summer 2019
My sixth week in Delhi has come to a close. I am in the seventh inning stretch right now, highlighting how little time I have left to try as much traditional food as possible. This blog post will focus on the food, the flavors and the finesse of my favorite part of each day: meal time.
Thanks to CET, students are placed in home stays throughout Delhi where they are able to interact with the local families and integrate into society in a very traditional way. Part of the experience is the home cooked meals. Meals are popular conversation topics among students each day, “What did you have for breakfast? Did you get paratha?! Was it aloo and onion?” One of the things that I am amused by is the variety of Indian food available. There is a significant difference between South Indian, Bengali and North Indian cuisines. Each style of Indian food typically consists of similar bases such as rice, dal, and a bread of some sort like roti, naan or chapati, however each style throws in their own special twist that makes their food subjectively “better” than the others.
Let’s start with the basics, bread types. Naan, the most popularly mentioned carb. This bread is always available to order out and is made on a tandoor. The naan is larger and has an inconsistent landscape of thickness, decreasing from the center outwards. Often, there is a slight crunch around the edges, so if you are the type to crave the gooey texture eat quick before they cool! Naan is typically served in a basket with 3 or 4 triangular slices. Butter naan is traditional and comes out shiny, glistening under the lights. Garlic naan can be identified by the little chunks of garlic decorating the surface. Of course, the variety is endless but I’ve observed these two ordered most frequently.
Next is chapati, or if you prefer the alter ego, Roti. My personal favorite. A tawa baby bread. Chapati is served with dal and has about a 6.5in circumference. This bread type has a much more spongey texture than the naan. If you have eaten a pita, it is similar in texture. This whole wheat staple food is leavened, unlike it’s friend Naan. My host mom is a professional and this has been my favorite thing to eat during my dinner meals at home. Completely complimentary.
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s talk about paratha. Such a friendly food, eager to fill your belly at breakfast or lunch. A paratha is a doughy thinly fried meal that originates from the tawa. My favorite breakfast consists of an aloo (potato) and onion paratha. The thickness and stuffed goodness pairs nicely with a cool dalhi (yogurt) and maybe a pickled mango shmear, if you’re into that kind of thing. Paratha could be considered a long-lost Indian cousin of the traditional American pancake. Lunch provides is own specialty with paratha, offering up endless varieties to choose from. If you’re a foodie like I am, many of your adventures abroad will be inspired by where you can get the best food. This hunt leads me to Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk. Here there is a narrow lane called the, “Paratha Wala Gailee.” The paratha here is served accompanied by a large thali (large plate of sauces and curries to dip and scoop up with paratha) and is more heavily fried than my other experiences with paratha. I tried a banana paratha, layered paratha, koya (sweet and cinnamon) paratha, paneer (Indian style cheese, and no it is certainly not the traditional cottage cheese you might have heard it referred to as) paratha, green chili paratha, and a condensed milk paratha. I have yet to be unsatisfied after consuming this fantastic food.
My final point, I want to shine some light onto the lychee fruit. This spikey ball fruit comes from a tree and is harvested during the summer. Upon first glance, it looks inedible. The rough, light pink shell protects an almost translucent center. Peeling the fruit is simple and doesn’t require cleaning out the residue from underneath your finger nails like an orange does. After undressing the lychee, you will be left with a slimy opaque fruit in your hands.
Beware of the large seed resting in the center as you bite down. The juice is refreshing and sweet at first, slightly bitter. I enjoy eating them as a mid-morning or post breakfast snack because it complements the freshness of the start of a new day. The flavor reminds me of a grape, but the texture is completely its own. The meat of the fruit doesn’t cling to the singular center seed, so consuming them is satisfying from start to finish. There is certainly a technique, easily mastered if you’re eating as many lychees as I am. I recommend keeping a bowl or waste bin nearby as you scarf up the tasty little tots, so disposal of the seeds and skin is mindless. Until we meet again, stay hungry.
Cover photo caption: Condensed Milk oozing from the hot Paratha dusted with Cinnamon