A few days ago I was invited by my friend and teacher Prof. Kurush Dalal to speak to a class of Travel and Tourism Management students. I was to speak to them about Culinary Travel giving them a writer’s perspective and how to write about food and travel. I don’t know how to teach people to write, but what I know is to tell people the experiences to look for so that they have enough stories to write about. So, as I made the presentation (yes, I HAD to the bit I despise the most!) it started shaping up into what I would do as a culinary travel writer; I spoke about things that I when p keep in mind when planning my trips, stories that I go looking for and the ones that find me instinctively. Places culinary travel has taken me to…
To a humble kitchen in McLeodganj, Himachal Pradesh
After quitting my job in 2016, my first trip was to this dreamy little town in Himachal Pradesh. My only plan here was to eat at the pretty cafes and tiny restaurants and pack-in as many meals as possible in 2 days (also read – Where to eat in McLeodganj). I had another agenda too…to take a cooking/baking class. There are a few Tibetan chefs around and I had read somewhere about Sangye’s Kitchen, a modest little kitchen in the heart of the town. I signed-up for his class to learn Tibetan breads. On that evening, while he taught me to bake using the most baking equipments he had (a gas stove and a pan), Sangye taught me the first lesson of, “start where you are, use what you have.” (also read: Baking bread and learning life’s lessons at Sangye’s Kitchen)
In the heart of Versova’s Koli village
Who says you have to travel to far away lands for food? Sometimes you find great food in the hidden corners of the city like this Koli meal I ate in the heart of Versova’s Koli village. Kolis are the original inhabitants of Mumbai and are fisherfolks by profession. Their food, which largely consists of seafood, is hardly found at a restaurant. This meal was courtesy Authenticook, a startup that’s bringing home chefs and the regional food of India to the centrestage. (also read: A real Koli meal in Versova’s Koli village with Authenticook).
To a home in Kyoto for a home-cooked meal
I am constantly looking for cooking classes and home-dining experiences when I travel. I believe that the best way to learn about a region’s culture is through its kitchens. In Kyoto I learnt a lot about the traditional home-style cooking from my host Keiko, a 40 something retired English teacher. Her kitchen, a perfect example of minimalistic living. (also read: Obanzai Ryori – My introduction to Kyoto’s home-style cooking).
To a potato farm in Meghalaya
Two years ago I traveled to Meghalaya with Chalo Hoppo (a travel startup in North East India) and on our way back from Laitlum Canyon, we saw a small potato farm with a local family busy harvesting the produce. We stopped for a bit and just watched the family (from 90 year old grandmother to 3 year old grandson) busy working, playing or just chattering away. The kids were munching down roasted potatoes which were freshly dug out from the ground.
To eat the staff meal at a tiny restaurant in Bangkok
In Bangkok, I signed-up for a food walk in Bangrak, the old part of the town. We stopped at a small restaurant to try food from the north east Thailand. The owner of the restaurant was setting up lunch for the staff, a typical home style meal of rice cooked in shrimp paste, pork, pork sausage, omelette, shrimps, shallots, long beans, raw mango and green chilli. Everything on the plate is mixed together and eaten. We too got to sample a bit if this meal and it became the highlight of the walk.
To an old haveli in Varanasi loaded with literature and History
My most memorable trip this year has been to a city which was on my bucketlist since a few years now. It’s strange that despite growing up in Uttar Pradesh and spending 18 years there, I never really visited Varanasi. Apart from being in awe of the city, what took the experience a several notches higher was the bati-chokha meal I ate at the old haveli of Bhartendu Harishchandra, the father of modern Hindi literature. Having studied about his life in school, this was a surreal experience for me. (also read: The city that runs on high vibration)
To a quaint house in Goa to bake a sourdough
There’s a point in every traveler’s life that brings in a shift. For me that point was a trip to Goa last year; a trip I solely planned to learn to bake sourdough with Sujit Sumitran. He is a master baker, a coach and a person who’s focus and determination I absolutely admire. In those two days in his beautiful Portuguese house, I learnt a lot more than just baking bread. (also read: Sourdough in the land of poi).