I’m not one to rhapsodize about food; it’s not my forte, and it’s a secondary consideration: I’ll go see some sights, then eat something. But since most of my day was spent either napping or eating, I’ll talk about food.
As promised, I had a Gujarati thali at the Prince Hotel. The restaurant was packed, and rightly so -- it’s an all-you-can-eat for only 100 Rs. Whereas most Indian buffets in America consist of last night’s tandoori chicken served in a different sauce, this came piping hot. It reminded me somewhat of dim sum, with each server carrying a different item (12 in all). But instead of picking and choosing what you want and paying separately for each, the servers here took the initiative and scooped the items into the stainless steel bowls ringing my tray. Maybe I just looked that hungry.
So along with the vegetable items (okra, potato, cabbage, bean), I received two soups (one dal-based, one yogurt-based), a vegetable pastry (much like a Jamaican patty), breads and a flat, sesamed noodle roll. Slightly overwhelming, and it wasn’t soon before I had to keep waving the servers away. The boy with the jalabi seemed disappointed, so I took more than I should have; their sweetness made my teeth ache. The saffron-flavored custard was more up my alley; I could have eaten it for days.
But, truth is, I only have 6 days. I told myself that I wouldn’t eat at the same restaurant twice, no matter how much I liked it. This hasn’t been the case, however. I stopped into Delhi’s Banana Leaf a second time for its pizza-sized uttapam and its fresh watermelon juice (when ordered, they pull a whole watermelon from the refrigerator and hack off pieces to feed into the juicer). In Darjeeling, I ate at Kunga -- a Tibetan restaurant -- thrice, a different configuration of momos each time.
Based on the suggestion of a commenter, I tried the bhel puri at Anandos, and if I hadn’t filled up on a bottle of Thums [sic] Up cola, I would have finished it. Puffed rice, onions, tomatoes and pomegranate seeds in a spicy tamarind sauce -- the combination of mouth textures (crisp, squishing, crackling, bursting) makes each bite unique.
If I were to become a vegetarian, I would do it in India, no doubt. The Indians’ knack for concocting meatless meals beats the American reliance on iceberg lettuce salads. Of course, that said, when I get back to America, I’m going to have a steak the size of a small child and deplete the ocean’s breeding stocks through sushi.