The best meals of 2018 – Where and what I ate

It’s becoming a sort of ritual now…to round up the year with the best meals I have eaten and 2018 has been especially kind. It’s the year I really traveled for food and created itineraries for those who love to travel for food (I consult with Cox and Kings and created itineraries for their product Tour To Feast). 2018 was the year of learning about food of different communities and going absolutely hyper local.

So here they are…my most memorable meals of 2018.

deena kaka’s hing ki kachori, varanasi

Varanasi’s very own Soup Nazi, Deena Kaka runs this small kachori shop near Chowk area. The shop is literally on a footpath where people patiently wait while he fries the kachori. You can’t ask him to hurry up, you have to wait patiently and wait in the line or else you don’t get any kachori. . . Deena Kaka opens the shop for just 3 hours in the evening, fries 3 batches of kachoris and goes home. The price of one kachori is Rs 5 which hasn’t been increased in years. He doesn’t do it for money anymore, it’s purely for the love of food. And the love shows in his kachoris which are stuffed with aloo and fried in desi ghee. The air around the shop is thick with the aromas of hing which makes his kachoris stand out. He serves them with black gram and chutney. This plate of kachoris is the best food I have eaten in Varanasi.

Also Read: Varanasi – The city that runs on high vibration

Deena Kaka ki hing ki kachauri, Varanasi

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Will Travel For Food – Where has it taken me…

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)

Sangye Tashi

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Varanasi – The city that runs on high vibration

“Ye sheher nahi hai shakhsiyat hai.” (It’s not a city, it’s a personality.)

Said my host Saurav as I sat in the beautiful haveli of the father of modern Hindi literature Bhartendu Harishchandra. It’s my second visit to the city – just a few months after my first – and I am still trying to grab the pulse of Varanasi (or Kashi or Banaras), the oldest living city in the world. We sit under a beautifully lit gazebo in Bhartendu Bhawan discussing the city’s culture, its love for literature and performing arts and the famous Banarasi thaath (the lavish lifestyle, not literally but figuratively). The caretaker of the house makes baati chokha (rustic meal of Eastern UP) as Saurav recites Andher Nagri Chaupat Raja, Bhartendu’s famous satire. I am transported to an era that’s forgotten; it can’t get better than this. Continue reading