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:
- 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.
- Don’t eat street food. Cleanliness standards may not be up to snuff.
- 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?
- Deep fried food is probably ok. It has most likely killed all the bacteria.
- Don’t eat fresh chutneys or sauces. Where has the water come from to clean those vegetables.
- Don’t eat fruit juices or raw fruit: Where has the water come from?
- Don’t eat street meat. Has it been refrigerated? How long has it been sitting out until cooked?
- 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”.
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.
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!