I should think most people know that I don’t go to India for the food… I suppose I don’t go anywhere in the world to enjoy food, – well Italy might be a possible exception. In India I mostly survive on butter naan, rice, the odd soup and Western food chains.
I came to India for the first time in 2002, we flew to Panaji (state of Goa) and we were staying at the Hotel Majestic – in the middle of nowhere really. The hotel was new, it was not a very interesting place to be (booked by Asbjørn’s project I believe), but very modern and pleasant with its kidney shaped pool! There was a big dining room on the first floor, and every meal was included in the price. Of course I didn’t dear to try any of the many dishes lined up on the buffet. But I made one very important discovery; the naan bread. And the butter naan bread in particular! And of course, there is always the rice when the going gets tough….
It didn’t take many days before people around me tired of the same food every day. Also, the food was exceptionally spicy. I stuck to my choice….
After almost a week, we suddenly found there was some kind of a restaurant downstairs, I guess we had written it off as a bar, simply. But since there were some entertainment going on one evening, we sat down by a table and discovered a menu. A MENU. We hadn’t seen one for a whole week, and what’s more: Here we had pasta, and nothing less than Spaghetti Napolitana; spaghetti with plain tomatoe sauce. I don’t know if it was the absence of Western food or the chef or what, but it tasted delicious!
Naan bread is in fact very simple food; yeast, water, egg, yoghurt, flour… I often wonder what makes it so good and tasty, the ingredients don’t count for gourmet food. But I guess it is the Tandoor oven that does the trick. Soft and crisp at the same time, butter spread all over. There’s only one word; Yummy!
The most unhealthy, the butter naan, is definately the best one. Garlic nan, uhhmm, for those who like garlic a lot. In my opinion, not a must. I have tried naan bread in Norway, but I don’t anymore. The naan bread always tastes fantastic in India – so why go for a lesser experience at home!
I can’t remember where and when I first tasted the Butter Paneer Masala, but when I explained the dish for Indian friends they immediately understood what I had eaten. It’s chunks of cottage cheese (paneer) in a red masala. Of course I wasn’t able to enjoy it fully in the start. I simply left out the paneer…. I sort of didn’t like the texture… it felt swampy. But the masala is heavenly. It’s very rich (feels very fattening), and one portion + some rice is plenty for me – as a dinner. The dish is made of things I love; tomatoes, onions, tomatoe pure, chilli – and other spices (butter and cream -sigh -).
At last I can enter a restaurant in India og order food with some dignity! And I know where to go first when I arrive in Mumbai in November; The Delhi Darbar in Colaba. They serve fantastic Butter Paneer Masala! Along with some rice and naan bread it should keep me going for 24 hours.
Even this dish tastes very good at Indian Tandoori restaurant in Stavanger!
Although I’m now fully able to enjoy at least one Indian dish, I won’t let Pizza Hut down…. because if you’re in need of quick food, and if you might be a little home sick when it comes to food – pizza from Pizza Hut is a very good choice in India. But be sure to order the ones with chilli….!