Slug: Food Buzz
10 best road trips in India to experience authentic cuisines on-the-go
Pick a map of India. Paste it on a wall and throw some darts at it. Anywhere you hit, you are guaranteed to enjoy a plethora of mind-blowing culinary experiences! Any trip across India has much to offer in terms of unique micro-cultures, reflected in the lifestyle, dressing sense, interactions and most importantly, food. Amazing spices, styles of preparation, stories of origin and even the correct way to eat a meal, eating food is no less than a meditative process in India. So, let’s hop onto the wheels of imagination and do a quick trip through the vast land, with our tongues salivating for the flavour of the road -
One of the world’s highest motorable passes, the Khardung-la Pass lying to the north of Leh and connecting the region with Shyok and Nubra valleys is often considered to be one of nature’s most beautiful pathways. Enjoying a meal of Yak cheese pizza with Yak milk tea, watching the sun set over a vast valley with a few Bactrian camels enjoying an evening stroll, is an experience which should be on everyone’s bucket list.
2. Manali-Leh Highway:
Spanning a length of 479 km, it is probably the most picturised and popular hill terrain highway in India, made immortal by Bollywood. From Kareena Kapoor in ‘Jab we Met’ to Abhay Deol in ‘Dev D’, the snowy glory of this winding road has been well captured. However, one misses to see a full-blown local meal captured on screen, with steamy thukpa, thenthuk, skyu, paba, and butter-salt tea or a bit of chang (rice beer) to wash it all down. One would even be ready to accept a bad story and over-the-top acting if the film shows such a sumptuous meal!
From the cold and empty roads of the mountains, let’s quickly jump into the mad frolic and sweltering heat (almost for the entire year!) of the national capital, the lover’s capital, and arguably, the non-vegetarian foodie’s capital as well. Starting from the chole-bhature, raj-kachori and butter chicken to the petha, agre ki chaat, dalmoth tand moving on to the Awadhi biryani, galauti and tunday kebabs, the hallowed lanes and alleyways of these cities are filled with the legacy of an intricate relationship between food and the Mughal sultanate. Your taste buds will go on an overdrive!
When it comes to food, the East cannot be kept out of the game for long. The cradle of Indian culture and civilisation, from Nalanda to Taxila, the Bihar-Orissa-Kolkata routes are a hotbed of a variety of dishes and flavours. Litti-chokha, Mahgu’s mutton kebabs or the sweets of chandrakala and pithe-puli, these delicacies are a combination of austerity and affluence of flavours. Once you enter Kolkata, the City of Joy, however, you realise that you might seriously be engulfed by food, rather than the other way around! With food joints sprouting in each corner and each of them with a distinct taste and flavour, Kolkata is indubitably the ultimate foodie’s paradise.
5. Mumbai-Pune Expressway:
A staple weekend get-away for huffing and puffing jobbers of Pune and Mumbai, a road trip to Lonavala is an equal ‘taste trip’ as well! The sights and smells of colourful ‘jams’, chikkis, custards and pickles available here are an experience to savour. Giving them able company are the staple favourites of every Maharashtrian, the tried and tested vada-pav, dabeli and missal vada.
6. Chennai to Pondicherry:
They take their food seriously down south. So, passing along one of the most beautiful sea-fenced roads, it isn’t surprising to come across the most scintillating filter coffee or masala dosas like you have never had them. Being an erstwhile French Colony, Pondicherry also has some great restaurants to enjoy authentic French cuisine with a beer and a shimmering sea to give you company.
7. Jaipur to Jaisalmer:
Rajasthan has an unparalleled variety of dishes, starting from that universally acknowledged dal baati churma which makes your lips smack and your stomachs quiver as you see that container full of desi ghee. Then comes the red-chilly soaked laal maas, which will leave you licking the masala off your fingers! The entire trip from Jaipur to Jaisalmer, with numerous known-and-unknown forts and flavours to keep you company, is great for a person looking for unique experiences!
8. Guwahati to Tawang:
Starting from the capital and largest city of Assam, Guwahati, to the administrative headquarters of Arunachal Pradesh with a population of about 5000, this entire road trip is all about contrasts. The beautiful scenery that permeates amidst bustling towns and the food that travels from the Bengali influences in Assam to the more chilly, fermented cheese and farm-animals based dishes in Arunachal provide a vivid canvas for the taste buds. For the adventurous foodies, Arunachal is the home of Bhut Jolokia aka King chilly or ghost chilly, which won the 2007 Guinness World Record as the world’s hottest chilli pepper at more than 1 million Scoville Heat units! To put things into perspective, your regular Tabasco sauce is at a paltry 2500 SHU.
9. Shillong to Cherrapunji:
The Scotland of the East and the rainiest city in India are some of the unique destinations which trigger the minds of the curious wanderers. Imagine how it would be like to stay in a place where for 3 months in a year, all you have is an almost perennial rain accompanied by stormy weather? Though outdoor activities might be difficult, but surely hot steaming food is a welcome sight. Sohra Pulao, doh nei long consisting of cooked pork chunks and jadoh snam, which is a dish for the brave-hearted, containing rice and a smattering of pig’s blood are some of the popular dishes in Cherrapunji. In Shillong, the cuisine however is far more conventional, with a preference for fish, such as in Doh Kha Sdieh and a lot of focus on pickles!
10. Goa to Bangalore:
Last but not the least, this trip of 700 kms from the party capital of India to its Silicon Valley will let you enjoy every bit of the ‘work hard, party harder’ movement. The transition from Konkani, Malabari and Portuguese cuisine with its dependence on fish, beef, pork and a host of seafood found abundantly in Goa to the more Dravidian stuff in Bangalore with balanced flavours in Mysore Masala Dosa, Coorg Pandi Curry (Pork Curry) and the famous Mysore Pak sweet imitate the carefree attitude of the holiday destination with the responsible and disciplined workaholic life in Bengaluru!
- Aurvind Lama, CEO and co-founder, Travelyaari.