Here at BookCulinaryVacations.com, we are unanimously huge fans of Indian food. So we were more than happy to have the opportunity to chat with Payal Biyani of Srihara Bed & Breakfast, a unique homestay offering authentic Indian cooking holidays in Jaipur, India, as we seek to find out more as to why Indian food is increasingly embraced and sought after by food lovers far and wide. Here’s a glimpse of our wonderful chat!
Food is often seen as a reflection as well as the heart of its nation's culture & heritage, do you believe this to be true of Indian food?
Yes, of course - food is indeed the first reflection of any culture & its heritage. Indian culture is so vast and the food is so diverse that when you visit multiple cities in India such as Kashmir, Kanyakumari, Rajasthan and Meghalaya it’s as if you are traveling to many different countries. The length and breadth of the country shows its vibrant food culture but simultaneously, there’s always unity found in each flavorful Indian dish.
In the past, I had noticed that travelers don’t put much focus on food when they travel but now, it appears that they have realized in order to get the full experience of a new country, trying out local cuisine is a must - this is certainly true of India!
More and more travelers are choosing to embrace local food & beverages during their stay in India
In your opinion, what is most distinctive characteristic of Indian food that makes it stand out from other popular world cuisines?
I believe the amount of spices and techniques used in Indian cooking is what makes it distinctive from the other popular world cuisines. Influences of various cultures of the world over the centuries have given birth to this unique set of delectable food that is full of color, flavors and textures. We use plenty of spices in our dishes and there is no other cuisine that depends so much on the cooking techniques as compared to Indian cuisine. Also, what I found to be quite unique about it is that it can be viewed as mostly Vegetarian.
Spices are crucial ingridients to authentic Indian cuisine
For those who have yet to try Indian food, are there any particular regional cuisine and/or dishes you would recommend?
I “belong” to the western region of the country, a dry region with extreme heat and scanty of rainfall. Hence our cuisine (of Rajasthan) is comprised mostly of lentils, multi-grains, dried vegetables, lots of chilies and of course Ghee clarified butter made from buffalo’s or cow’s milk.
A vegetarian dish which has become quite popular is Daal-Bati-Churma, which is basically slow cooked yellow lentils, served with dough balls roasted in ashes and dunked in Ghee later. The dish is humble yet rich in its ingredients, thus reflecting the spirit of Rajasthan. The non-vegetarian dish that is extremely popular is Laal-Maans the lamb curry simmered in red chilli curry. These two are the most popular dishes of Rajasthan.
Delicious local dishes can easily be found in the streets of Jaipur
Given the vast diversity of Indian food, how do the dishes that are unique to your region (Jaipur) differ?
Jaipur is mostly habited by people of the trader community, the Marwari community. They are business families who are known to be wealthy and very prosperous. They are also 100% vegetarians which means the food cooked in their kitchens must not contain a trace of meat or its by products (chicken, lamb, fish or eggs) and sometimes, even onion or garlic!
For the most part, the food that is prevalent in Jaipur reflects the taste buds and preferences of this community. The food here is less spicy as compared to other popular cuisines of the state of Rajasthan, like Jodhpur and Udaipur.
Apart from that, the city is renowned for its sweets and there is one thing that is unique of Jaipur and that is called a ‘Ghewar’. These are a work of art, fried tarts kind of dessert, dipped in sugar syrup. I feel a Ghewar depicts the real Jaipur - even its color is same as the color of the city (pink).
Discover the real India through its delectable food!
Should a traveler be interested in experiencing Jaipur like the locals do, other than its food, what other things should they be really in the lookout for?
Apart from visiting beautiful landmarks such as the Amer Fort, there are much that a traveler can do in Jaipur. Shopping is usually on the top of list of most travelers when visiting this city as it is a jewelry hub especially for silver, gems and diamond. Also, one cannot miss the blue pottery shops, the hand block printed quilts, the hand-woven carpets, the handmade shoes, the lac bangles, the colorful local attire. It’s the handicrafts of Jaipur that has given it the crown of “Handicrafts City of the World” by UNESCO.
Amer Fort, a strikingly beautiful palace in Jaipur which dates back to 1592
We also recommend a visit to the Elephant Village or taking an early morning Cycling tour of Jaipur with the cyclinjaipur group. Last but not least, cooking like a local has been a hot favorite of foreign tourists along with culinary city tour. There is truly something here for everyone and we invite you all to come experience the incredible sights and tastes of the real India with us!
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