New Delhi Belly

Both Sharleen and I were most nervous about eating in India.  We packed Pepto, Immodium, and Azithromycin.  In addition we had read article after article that made the following suggestions:

  1. Eat where it is crowded.  This means lots of food turnover so the food is fresher.  It also means lots of business so it’s less likely people are getting sick there.
  2. Don’t eat street food.  Cleanliness standards may not be up to snuff.
  3. Don’t eat yogurts or chutneys.  Yogurt may require refrigeration and many street vendors may not have it.  How long has that yogurt been sitting out?
  4. Deep fried food is probably ok.  It has most likely killed all the bacteria.
  5. Don’t eat fresh chutneys or sauces.  Where has the water come from to clean those vegetables.
  6. Don’t eat fruit juices or raw fruit:  Where has the water come from?
  7. Don’t eat street meat.  Has it been refrigerated?  How long has it been sitting out until cooked?
  8. Be wary of spicy food.  Aside from being too hot to handle, some of the spices may not be familiar to your system and may reek havoc with your digestion.

So we went out our first day in New Delhi, starving after 12 hours of travel with little food.  We walked by an ally and saw steam and heard the clanking of plates.  We went down and found Sona Cafe.  The owner greeted us and despite not being open yet took our order.

Three stoves were setup on a table.  Rats ran under the table, while one rat lie trapped in a cage.  Macaque monkeys ran through the tree above occasionally going over the ally on the power cords.  Plates were being washed with water from a spigot coming out of the wall.  We didn’t care what we ordered. 2 Chais, 1 black tea, 3 paratha, 1 paratha with potatoes.  They rolled the dough on the table top and prepared the tea.  The greasy paratha was put on a local newspaper to absorb the oil.  No one else was eating there.

It was so delicious we ordered 3 more paratha with potato and vegetarian gravy in tin. We paid and walked away very sated.

We came across another street vendor selling samosa with potato and vegetable.  We couldn’t walk away and ordered more food.  He seasoned with with Marsala seasoning sprinkled from a used tobacco container sporting the label: “This product kills”.

We couldn’t pass up these samosas!  Notice the two men up top in their kitchen preparing food.  In Old Dehli every nook and cranny is utilized.
We stopped here too for aloo paratha.
We stopped here too to have some tandoori naan.  Hunks of dough are flattened then put inside a large urn heated from the bottom.  As the metal cooks the dough, they reach in and grab it and wrap it in newspaper.  So we got physical sustenance from the naan and mental sustenance from all the news!
Sharleen had some chicken korma.
Kylie did not want to wait for the picture.  She just dug right into the chicken biryani.  (Just keep your hands and feet away from her mouth and you’ll be fine)

In our first few hours in India, we had broken four of our rules and redefined Dehli Belly – full of wonderfully cooked and prepared street food.

Sona Cafe

Cafe Sona’s kitchen was in the alleyway.
Sona Cafe’s kitchen during our evening meal.  Now sporting their new menu sign.

We had the good fortune of bumping into Sumer on our way to the Ghandi Museum.  He was delivering tea and breakfast to local conference.  He saw Kylie, called us over and twisted our arm to have some more Chai.  Oddly enough it turns out we were in the same airport in Bangkok and he insisted he remembered seeing us because Kylie reminded him of his own daughter.  Regardless, his hospitality was amazing.  We headed back to his place for a Christmas Dinner.  I had two plates of basamati rice with mixed sampler of Dahl, Chick Pea curry, Tomato curry, and another curry I don’t remember.  It was delicious, and I before I could say I was full, more food appeared on my plate.  I overate! He taught Alyssa how to make Chai, and kept Kyli and Alyssa occupied with patty cake – Indian style.  He undercharged us for the heaping masses of food we ate, and we had to fight him to take extra payment.

After the first 168 hours, no belly explosions!

Seating at Cafe Sona.  Literally street food.
One of Cafe Sona’s chef’s preparing aloo paratha.  A pinch of potato and spices are put in a piece of dough, rolled on the surface, then cooked on a hot plate.
My curry sampler at Sona Cafe.



  1. I love this post so much! It reminds me of my time in Delhi – leaving from Danny’s room at your mom’s house – with pockets stuffed with your mom’s gingerbread men (anatomically correct!). I remember being soooo hungry our second day in India, and still scared to eat there, and I found one of her cookies in my bag. NOTHING ever tasted so good 🙂 I love hearing about your adventures! Thanks for sharing them with us.


    • Hi Julie, thank you for the comment. I remember that. I also remembered that while in Dehli! I also remember you talking about your experience when you returned. It helped motivate my precautions….most of which I threw into the wind when I saw all the great food!


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