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Hello fellow Rockwellians, Greetings from India, more specifically Bangalore, the high tech capitol (you know, where all those jobs are being outsourced to!)

It has been quite the adventure. 22 hour trip to Madras, with a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt, thankfully the restaurant serving german sausage and half liters of beer was open at 8am! Up early the next day and a short commuter plane to Bangalore. I'm in country for my housemate's brother's wedding.

The eating and drinking have been a bit dodgy, can't drink the water, be careful what you eat, liquor and beer kind of sucks (one place was charging $95 of a bottle of Kendall Jackson 2002 Zin!)

we have been mostly eating in high end places, the first night pool side at the Windsor Sheraton and afghan kabobs. The next night at a restaurant called 13th Floor, which has a patio on the 13th floor on a highrise building, nice lounge overlooking the city for drinks afterwards. The next night at a hotel called the Taj West End. we have struck out to a couple local places. The best eating so far was at a small restaurant in a city called Mysore. The fruit and veg market at Mysore was fantastic, lots of little alleyways and vendors all over the place.

Been sick for the last couple days so been subsisting off crackers and ramen noodles...I think right now, all of us would kill for some pizza!

I'll update this post with links, pictures etc. when I get back to the states...heading home Thursday night.

Tweaked

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My wife and I recently returned from two weeks in India. For archival purposes, I thought I would post some notes on where we ate. I thought ahead enough to write down the names of most of the places at which we ate, but the details are largely subject to the vicissitudes of my memory, addled by jet lag and culture shock.

(Throughout, I will be largely unable to describe the locations of these restaurants, as all Indian cities are, by law, impossibly confusing and chaotically organized. If you find yourself in one of these cities, though, I'm sure you could be directed to any of these places.)

(I can't remember many of the things we ate. But almost all meals were accompanied by naan (often garlic naan) and/or chapatis, and dal (lentils). Most meals ended with kulfi (dense ice cream) and/or gulab jamun (fried balls of dough in a very sugary syrup).)

Delhi

We spent six days in Delhi, escorted by my wife's cousin, a local. Thankfully, this permitted us to eat several meals outside the compounds of hotels and in truly local establishments. Foreigners are usually advised to beware of street food and restaurants that may use unfiltered water, so we appreciated having a guide sensitive to the needs of our delicate digestive tracts.

We had one dinner at Terrace at the Top, an outdoor restaurant perched at the top of a relatively new and stylish shopping complex. There were seven of us, with three vegetarians, and we ate a large number of things family-style. I can't for the life of me remember anything specific though. It was here, however, that I learned that no one in India (or at least in Delhi) has ever heard of Taj Mahal beer, a mainstay of American Indian restaurants. So it was Kingfisher for me. As in many Indian restaurants, there was live music (sitar and keyboard). A small, cute boy danced around the place for tips.

The next day, for lunch, we ate at Basil & Thyme, a "continental" (i.e., non-Indian) restaurant in a spendy but cute shopping district. I had an okay mushroom risotto, but was mainly left with the impression that I should focus on Indian food. Here I had my first "fresh lime soda," which is lime juice, soda water, and sugar syrup. Very tasty, and it became a staple of the remainder of our trip.

Chinese food is very big in India, and I was told by those in the know that I would find it far superior to Chinese food in the U.S. Our first (but not last) Chinese experience in India was at Taipan, on the top floor of the Oberoi hotel. This time there were ten of us, and we caused some friction in our relationship with the hostess when we showed up unannounced and somehow misunderstood their ability to seat us. (Suffice it to say I was not handling these negotiations.) Eventually, though, we were seated a huge, round table with a lazy susan. Two appetizers that were new to me stand out as exceptional: Lotus stem and crispy spinach. The crispy spinach was an airy, light mass of thin spinach strands, like they had been dried and then fried. The main courses were excellent too.

Our next meal was the outdoor buffet at the Imperial Hotel, called 1911. It was a very beautiful space, abutting a quiet and lovely garden. The buffet was extensive and accompanied by a main course from the menu. I had saag paneer (cottage cheese), which was delicious. Desserts were arrayed on a long table for self-service, and I have rarely seen such an extensive and pretty spread.

Our next couple of meals were outside hotel environs and in more truly local places. We had lunch at a South Indian place called Sagar, where I had my first exposure to idli, little solid discs of white rice consumed with various gravies. My wife and I split a gigantic potato-stuffed dosa as well, which stands out as one of the best dosas I've had -- crisp and light, not overly greasy.

For dinner, we found ourselves at Pindi, a North Indian place with a menu similar to what you would find at an Indian restaurant here. I remember the butter chicken as exceptional.

(Let me flag one regret: We did not eat at Bukhara, in the Maurya Sheraton Hotel. It is considered a true destination restaurant. Someone named it one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, and someone else called it the best restaurant in Asia. You are compelled at Bukhara to eat with your hands -- they literally do not stock silverware (or so I have been told). We had plans to eat dinner there, but they fell through due to the some scheduling difficulties.)

Agra

We spent most of one day in Agra, site of the Taj Mahal. (Which, by the way, absolutely demolished my expectations. I was prepared to look at it and say, "Eh, doesn't quite live up to centuries of hype." But it did.) We only had one meal, at a local restaurant called Priya, recommended by our tour guide. All I remember is that we had Indian food and the (large) place was virtually empty.

Udaipur

After Delhi and Agra, we spent a day and night in Udaipur, a smaller city known for its magnificent palaces perched on hills around a beautiful lake. Let me advise this: If you find yourself in the vicinity, and if money is no object, treat yourself to a stay at the Oberoi Udaivilas, which I now classify as the nicest hotel in which I have ever stayed. (You will pay very dearly for this experience though; thus, only one night for us.) Because our stay was short and we lacked a local escort, the only special meal we had was at one of the restaurants at the Oberoi Udaivilas: I think it is called Chandni. We ate outside on a terrace under a tent, by candelight and to the sitar strains of local Rajasthani musicians. We were also treated to some impressive Rajasthani dancers. I had a very spicy lamb dish whose name I can't recall, but whose taste I do. (It was similar to, and may have been, roganjosh, but I think it was called something else.) Delicious kulfi for dessert. As is true elsewhere at the Udaivilas, the restaurant had service and all details down pat.

Goa

Next up, two days in Goa, a small state on the Arabian Sea known for its beautiful beaches. Now, I need to explain something. My wife is Indian by descent. I am not Indian, but I am well-accustomed to Indian food. We were accompanied on the whole trip by my wife's father and sister, both of whom are Indian by descent. Despite the protections one might expect as a result of genetics and culinary habit, we were all experiencing some digestive distress (in varying degrees) by this time. Add to this the fact that my wife is just emerging from the first trimester of pregnancy, which has been a period of great physical trial and tribulation.

I say all of that by way of justification: I and my wife ate like rabbits in Goa. Which is quite unfortunate, because Goa is well-known for its spicy seafood dishes, which is right up my alley under normal circumstances. We had only one meal at a Goan restaurant, at which I limited myself to a couple fried fritters (with contents I can't recall) and a Portuguese soup. (Goa was, until I think 1961, a Portuguese territory or protectorate or something.) Now that we had ventured toward the South of India, however, vindaloo entered the picture. My wife's sister ordered lamb vindaloo, which was the worst mistake she made on the trip. Not because it was bad -- she said it was very good, and I don't doubt her. But it was, apparently, brutally hot. Her digestive system, already pretty irked by what it was being subjected to, rebelled and never fully recovered.

Bombay

Ah, Bombay (aka Mumbai). By far the most "American" of the cities we visited. Fewer cows on the road; taller buildings; sidewalks on which people actually walked. I had stopped noting even the names of restaurants we visited by this time, but I can recall a couple.

Our first dinner was at a seafood restaurant called Trishna. Trishna is apparently known as one of the best seafood restaurants in Bombay and is frequented by Bollywood celebrities and the like. So I was prepared for a hoity-toity or uber-hip experience. Not so. It was a charming and small, but packed. (I guess some locals bemoan the increased "touristiness" of Trishna, but it was locals who brought us there, and primarily locals we saw around us.) Six of us, plus a toddler, jammed into a booth. (Sidenote: In India, it is apparently acceptable to let your toddler run around a restaurant unaccompanied by an adult. The toddler with us did that. He even found himself behind the bar at one point. The staff just squeezed his cheeks and smiled.) The standout dish was a peppery fried pomfret (a local fish that was new to me).

We had a lunch at Status, a vegetarian restaurant not far from Nariman Point and the Gateway to India (popular, touristy areas you would likely visit). The door to Status is a big sleek metal contraption that led me to believe I would be entering a super-stylish club-type scene. But it was low-key and casual on the inside. It was my first experience ordering "thali"-style. We were each given a big metal platter with six small bowls on arrayed on its perimeter. The waiter put a stack of chapatis in the middle and filled the bowls with various gravies and curries. When the level in any bowl grows low, the waiter magically appears to refill it. It took me a while to figure out that I would gorge myself to death unless I actively told them to stop. Unfortunately, after I had nearly reached the point of engorgement, I learned that the chapati stage was only the first stage, and the rice course came next. The rice course repeated the same general pattern, but with rice instead of chapatis. I was utterly and uncomfortably stuffed when we emerged. That is, however, my habit when presented with unending supplies of delicious food.

We had a few meals at the homes of relatives, which were interesting. Indians adopted the British love for ketchup, it appears. One cousin served us little toasts with a creamed corn concoction on top -- and then offered to dump ketchup all over them. She had learned that I am Italian by descent, and thought she was offering me Italian food. I declined the ketchup, but the toasts with corn were good.

Hope some of the above helps a future traveller navigate through Indian dining.

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The fresh lime soda is a excellent refreshing drink.

Did you by chance have any coconuts from a road side stand. Guy with a machete chops of the top, you drink the milk, then they smash it open and scoop out the meat inside for you to chomp on. delicious.

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For the last couple days, I've been having an odd problem that made it impossible for me to look at this board from home. This prompted an email to Don, which further made me realize that I've been idle for a long time and am itching to write a bit about what I've been eating lately. Many thanks to Don for fixing whatever problem randomly popped up!

The problem was probably related to where "home" is now. After not-insignificant tumult and a lot of moving around the last few years, I've landed in Mumbai, also known as Bombay, where I live with my wife (of almost 2 years!). We've been here almost a year now.

My time's short right now, so I'll say: there's a lot to eat here, good and bad, and very different. We've traveled to about half the Indian states and are having quite an experience, living and eating at places ridiculously high end and as low end as you can get, and we've still got a year left. India is a gastric nightmare and a food-lover's dream, and sometimes the two are only a few hours apart (usually the latter comes first -- sorry, it's been a while since I've written and am forgetting my parallelism).

I promise, more writing about actual restaurants to come. Hi again everyone! If you've got special India requests, please send them my way.

K

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Welcome back indeed! I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about Chinese restaurants in India. I was astonished by all the food I had there (even the McDonalds, which was forced on me not once but TWICE by an American travelling companion), but I remember being fascinated by the Chinese food. But this was early in my travel days, and early in my food obsession days, so I don't remember any specifics.

I look forward to reading about your food adventures! Immodium's on me if you come back to town! :D

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My experiences with street food here has generally been positive. Luck? Maybe. Or perhaps I've developed a good resistance after many, many years of traveling to south Asia. I have been brushing my teeth with tap water twice daily.

But if you want real Mumbai street food and are a little on the squeamish side, your best bet is Elco Pani Puri Center on Hill Road, in the tony suburb of Bandra (and rather conveniently a five minute walk from my house).

The legend goes that Elco evolved from an immensely popular streetfood stand to multiple stands, then to a storefront, and eventually all the way to the three floor restaurant it is now. There are still genuine Elco stands scattered in front of the store, but if the inescapable Mumbai heat is getting to you there are two air conditioned floors where you can sit and enjoy the same menu, with a slight mark up.

We go to Elco whenever we have guests or a new arrival around. They make street food with "safe" ingredients, and all of the chaats taste authentic. The titular Pani Puri is accompanied by two distilled "pani" dips, one tamarind water and the other a spicy, cumin and black pepper spiked version. I like the latter and my wife likes the former, but frankly the main reason people have this snack here is because the water's safe, not because it's particularly good.

Better are the other snacks, like the bhel puri with flat, fried gram chips, yogurt, potato, and pomegranate seeds. I also love the tavaa alu (potato) chat. If you're a cilantro-phobe or asafoetida-phobe, avoid.

Elco also has a killer selection of dosas, including an interpretation of the mysore masala dosa that's more tangy than spicy and an XXL dosa I managed to finish by myself a few months ago. Woodlands and Udupi are good, but they probably won't make a dosa that's 3 feet long. Dosas here come with a bowl of sambar that's sometimes a bit too sweet for me, and two coconut chutneys, one mild and one spicy.

Elco isn't mindblowing and isn't fancy. When they try to get inventive they end up making things like the baffling "Chinese Cheese Dosa" (it's stuffed with chow mein noodles and it's kind of gross). But it is hands down the most reliable place to get an extremely large variety of honest, cheap vegetarian Indian food, especially if you're vacationing and are worried about sanitary issues. You can walk out stuffed after spending less than $5 for two people.

For a more high-profile mention of this Bandra institution, and an OK writeup of Bombay street food, check out the NY Times article.

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Just got back from a quick juant to Bangalore India. Since we were there for a wedding we did most of our eating at wedding related events...Indian wedding food does not suck! The day of the wedding we ate at the wedding hall three times (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and all three meals were excellent. Breakfast and lunch were south indian veggie served tiffin style. Lots of little dollops. The dinner was served buffet style and again southern indian veggie and again excellent. we even asked around, saying that in America wedding/event food is the butt of many a joke, but that we thought the food here was excellent and even the Indians agreed that it was good.

we hit a couple of restaurants:

Royal Afghan at the ITC Windsor Hotel. An outdoor restaurant situated poolside. Excellent food here, kabobs galore...great prawns, paneer, lamb.

Shiro in the UB City Mall. Apparently this place has made a huge splash on the Bangalore dining scene and it is a beautiful restaurant and lounge. We ate outside on the terrace and the setting was hip modern pan-Asian...the sushi, not so much. Yes we dined on sushi in south central India...and survived! But the fish was definitely on its last flipper. tuna was grey. the rest pretty flavorless. The selection of dumplings and other apps were enjoyable...esp the crunchy spicy avocado roll.

Coconut Grove Church Street, next to MG Road. Closed for lunch so we had some snacks on the outdoor beer patio. Two beers on tap and a menu of belgiums. Mishmash of western and india snack food. we enjoyed two selections off the "roll" section (think mini-wraps), a paneer and veggie wrap and a lamb wrap. Hit the spot after some shopping on MG Road.

However the best eating experience was the insanely fresh mangos bought in the Devaraja Market in Mysore...mind blowingly good!

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Does anyone have any recent recommendations for Delhi and/or Agra? I'll be in Delhi the last week of October for business, and plan on making the obligatory trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal the last weekend I'm there. Any "can't miss" tips would be greatly appreciated!

Dan

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Just back from a 10-day business trip to New Delhi, and thought I would post a brief report on my food experiences there in case anyone happens to find themselves in India's capital anytime soon.

First off, let me just say that generally we ate really well there. There were certainly some misses, but on average the restaurant food we had was very high quality, with two meals in particular in my mind ranking higher than any Indian food I've had in the States or UK.

Karim's in Old Delhi. This was my favorite. Maybe the food didn't quite reach the standards of Bukhara (see below), but for the money Karim's can't be beat. I stuck with the fork tender, exquisitely spiced mutton and chicken kabobs, but there are plenty of curries on the menu if that's your preference. Half the fun of this place is finding it...it's in Old Delhi, tucked in an alley behind a bustling (read "sea of humanity") street by the main mosque there. I'll see if I can upload a picture later.

Bukhara in the ITC Maurya Hotel in New Delhi. This is the place everyone tells you to go when you visit Delhi. It's extraordinarily expensive by Indian standards, expect to pay at least US$50 or so per person. Kabobs are the specialty here, along with the rich dal makhani, and I found both to be excellent. Two kabobs in particular stuck out, one a highly spiced minced meat kabob, and the other a very subtly-spiced, bone-in chicken kabob. Minor annoyance - even with reservations we were kept waiting for an hour before we were seated.

My third favorite meal there was at a South Indian joint called Naivedyam we went to for lunch one day in Gurgaon, a sprawling suburb south of Delhi packed with MNCs and brand-new gleaming office buildings. Really excellent South Indian food, much better than anything I've had here at Udupi Palace, Woodlands, or Amma's in Georgetown. Perhaps the most helpful thing I learned at this lunch is that it's expected you'll break up your dosa as soon as it hits the table to give your neighbors some more elbow room! As soon as they were served, all of our Indian hosts broke theirs into three big pieces...good to know this is acceptable practice!

Finally, kudos to Continental Airlines for partnering with Jyoti to serve some surprisingly decent food on the direct Newark to Delhi flight I took on my way over there. Though the meals on the way back home were terrible.

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If you find yourself hungry in the suburb of Gurgaon, just south of New Delhi, you could do a lot worse than stopping by the South Indian restaurant Zambar on the top floor of the Ambiance mall. The place goes well beyond dosas and other common South Indian fare to specialize in dishes of the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

I've been there three times now and fish dishes have never disappointed. Order appams with the "wetter" preparations to soak up the sauce.

In the picture below I've got a very mild, but complexly flavored coconut-milk based curry with a fish for the Tamil Nadu region whose name I'm blanking on. The dish on the right is made by quartering idlis, coating them in a potent molagapodi (or "gunpowder") spice, and frying them with lentils and curry leaves until the latter two become crispy. Has anyone seen a preparation similar to this in the US? It was totally new to me and absolutely wonderful.

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We are going to a friend's wedding in Punjab, India in November (Malout area).  I want to use this trip to see kind of what I would want to see in India if I never went back.  We have a friend who lives in Mumbai, and will fly into Delhi for the wedding where our friend is arranging everything from there.  He might also plan a trip for people who want to see the Taj Mahal afterwards.  My question, and I see there are not a lot of posts here, but what did you see in India that you think one should see in India?  And if you have been there recently, where should we eat?  I know Anthony Bourdain has a Punjab episode and a couple other India episodes.  We can probably take a fair amount of time off for this trip.  We also will have a friend with us whose wife has no interest in joining.  Also any guide recommendations would be appreciated, we would love to find some people to take us around most places as there is a significant language barrier until we join up with the groom in Delhi.  

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In New Delhi

- tea at the imperial hotel

-wander the streets of Hauz Khas village

-Humayuns tomb

-sound and light show at the Red Fort

-dinner at Bhukara

-Delhi Hut if you are interested in the crafts bazaar

-a walk in Lodhi Gardens

-my favorite restaurant is at the manor hotel called the Indian Accent

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I second Bhukara.  World class restaurant.  Make reservations.  Would also highly recommend a visit to Karim's (the original one in Old Delhi).  Note that these two places could not be more different from one another.

Delhi Hut, or Dilli Haat, is a pretty cool place to go shopping for gifts because the stalls there are organized by region, so you can browse through traditional crafts from each of the different parts of the country.  Same thing for the restaurants inside the compound.

You really should visit the Taj Mahal.  You can do it as a day trip from Delhi, though it would make for a very long day.  But it's really, really worth doing if you've only got one trip to India.  I had high expectations going in, which were far exceeded seeing it in person.  Just amazing.

I also really enjoyed my time in Jaipur.  There are some cool old palaces in the hills ringing the city, and the old city itself is interesting to walk around.  If I remember correctly, it was about a 4 or 5 hour drive from Delhi.

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In New Delhi

- tea at the imperial hotel

-wander the streets of Hauz Khas village

-Humayuns tomb

-sound and light show at the Red Fort

-dinner at Bhukara

-Delhi Hut if you are interested in the crafts bazaar

-a walk in Lodhi Gardens

-my favorite restaurant is at the manor hotel called the Indian Accent

I would only add visiting Chandi Chowk in the older part of Delhi for shopping.

Most of the upscale hotels have high quality restaurants these days. Our last trip to India in Delhi, we stayed at the Leela Palace and had great seafood and Thai food. The Thai was better than anything we had here in DC and we found out the chefs were actually Thai.

I never made it to Bhukara, but have had friends who've said the quality has decreased over the past decade. Additionally, usually the best places that are known for certain specialities are local places in smaller neighborhoods not the more upscale venues. Check out Sanjeev Kapoor's website and click the cuisine link. He lists the different kind of dishes (recipes) for each region and that might help as an introduction to what region's cuisine you want to search out.

My one main suggestion would be to rough it more in the beginning of the trip, if possible, than go upscale towards the end. Traveling in India can be tiring for people who have never been there before as the sights, sounds and smell can overwhelm the senses. By the end, you want to have a more relaxing day in quieter environment.

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Posting from Mumbai....I'm spending two nights at the Leela Mumbai, before going to my final destination about 175 kilometers inland.  Despite being exhausted from the long flight, I went to the 24-hour coffee shop--Citrus--and had Malabar fish curry at 3 AM.  It was delicious, as was the garlic naan.  This afternoon I went back for the lunch buffet.  There was an Asian section, Italian section, and an Indian section (including dosas to order), as well as several items that could be grilled to order, plus soups, desserts, and a sushi bar.  It was all good...especially the Indian dishes.  I've always believed that Chef Sudhir Seth at Passage to India makes the best naan in DC and the naan here is about as good...and very similar.  Thin, crispy--but not fall apart crispy--and perfectly singed.  (No pillowy naan for this guy!)  Last night it was garlic naan, this afternoon just plain.  The buffet isn't cheap--I spent close to $50, including a Kingfisher, taxes, etc.  Is that too much for a buffet?  Probably, but I left satisfied and wasn't really unhappy with the bill.  There had to be five or six cooks working--one doing the grills, another making dosas, another making Thai dishes, etc.  Buffets like this are dangerous to the waistline...how do you walk away without trying as much of it as possible?

The Leela has four restaurants--Chinese/Thai, Indian, Italian, and the 24-hour coffee shop.  The buffets are in the coffee shop.  There is a breakfast buffet with north and south Indian choices and there is also a dinner buffet.  But tonight I'm eating at Jamavar, the Indian restaurant.  The Leela is an excellent hotel.  At one time, a room ran in the $250-300+ per night range, but lately good deals are available through hotels.com.  It could be that there are so many upscale hotels now that the prices have become more competitive.  Mine was $130, a real steal for a place of this quality.  

Wish that I had more time to explore Mumbai, especially the street food options Kanishka mentioned.  I'm going to Ahmednagar district in Maharastra state, where there are no restaurants of distinction that I'm aware of...but I have many friends there and if anything turns up, I'll share.

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So... I survived, but barely.  Depending on how much energy I have I will try to lay out some of the trip for you all.  Suffice it to say, it would make a great comedy movie.

Delhi

We landed and took the metro from the airport which was clean and safe, a great way to go from the airport to the New Delhi train stop.  Our friend whose marriage we were going for booked a hotel because well it was Punjabi owned off Gupta Road.  Note- never stay at a place because it is owned by a Punjabi or a place on Gupta Road.  The hotel workers slept in the hallways, there were bugs, gross bedding.  India will be enough of an experience, stay somewhere nice.  There are plenty of nice American or International chains. Seriously, whenever you are able indulge in the luxuries of a clean bathroom and hot water.  That night we went to a Spanish/Mediterranean restaurant in a nice resort called Sevilla.  It was fine, at this point I think we actually wanted Indian food, but I can't complain the restaurant was really nice and I had great homemade tagliatelle noodles.  I was tuckered out, but MK went out locally from our hotel, judging by the stories, I am kind of glad I stayed behind even if it meant sleeping in my travel sheets, really afraid of the bugs that were probably in the room and the bed.  A few of our crew ended up drunk on the roof with some of the hotel staff.  As a note, the pollution in Delhi is really serious, MK who never uses his inhaler at home needed it a number of times.

The next day we saw the Red Fort and some other sites, which were really cool, we just ate at a small restaurant near the hotel which was fine.  That night we went to Indian Accent and this was by far the best meal we had the whole trip.  Totally worth the commute out there if you are staying in the city.  We got tasting menus and it was all really good.  Seriously the food was amazing.  Everyone was happy the vegetarians the non-vegetarians.  Thank you so much Kavita, this meal was so great.  We had our own room and it was just fun.

The next day we hopped on a train to Punjab.  We couldn't get first class tickets and man this was a bad experience.  Not only were the seats hard and you had to fight to even get a seat, our car was particularly crowded because everyone wanted to come and star and beg from the white people.  JB's father had warned him not to take a train with us all.  While going to Punjab in cars or a coach is also a really long time frame, you can stop, use restrooms at nicer places and have more personal space and between waiting for the train, the hassle of getting all the bags on and off and then the experience, we should have done that.

We arrived in Malout and were driven to our village which was about 10 km away from Pakistan, don't worry though we were right beside all the huge missile silos and military complexs.  We were supposed to stay at JB's Aunts or neighbors both of which I were told were nicer than where we stayed.  Accommodations were rustic to put it gently.  We stayed on traditional rope beds, toilets were akin to camping at a State Park, with little to no hot water.  The electrical grid was dicey.  More than that in Northern India in November they burn all the fields, so no matter what time of day you can't see the sky and there is smoke in the air and in your clothes.  The groom asked why they told him to get married in November that he asked to have the wedding when they weren't burning the fields and they said we told your mother any month but November.  His parents were apologizing to us about the home.  His siblings didn't come up as early as us because they didn't want to get sick.  Every night there was a DJ or loud music and partying, which reverberated the concrete which made the little lizards in the room which normally wouldn't bother me- go nuts.  We were here for a week.

We ate mostly chicken curry, paranthas, rice and a couple different types of dal and some type of potatoes, be it aloo gobi or a variation. One day we went to Abhor to get wedding suits for the groom and bridal party, we spent so much money they got us pizza, that was very interesting, very doughy with a very sweet tomato sauce and paneer cheese.  We only had one friend that survived, he seemed to follow the pickle your insides with whiskey at all times method.  We got street food one night and some samosas the next day in Malout, which were tasty, but around the time I started getting really sick.  Who knows what caused it- the food preparation even at the home we were staying was nauseating.  I am glad I didn't see exactly how bad it was until after I was sick and stopped eating, it could have also been the street food.  Anyway a couple days of extreme sickness and the wedding ceremony, which was a nightmare our side with the groom was 4 hours late almost didn't get married, everyone got sick on the bus ride with either GI problems or vomiting.

I tried to tough it out but I was so sick that MK ended up having to hire a driver to take me back to Delhi before the wedding reception which was the second day after the ceremony.  We were all pretty much done for by this time. Those that stayed got even sicker than they were before, one of our friends saw a "doctor".  Punjab was a tough place, especially the way we did it.

MK booked rooms for us and one person traveling with us who was from the states but spoke hindi and punjabi at the Mantra, a hotel in South Delhi right near Indian Accent in Friends Colony West.  This place was great.  A little outside the city, but really nice and a good price.  Soft beds, clean rooms, great amounts of hot water.  We got a suite which was like heaven.  After one day where I was pretty much dead to the world sleeping and a meal of chicken nuggets and gatorade in the hotel we ventured out by tuk tuk with our traveling companion and a friend of hers in Delhi.  We saw a few of the major temples which were nice to see.  We also saw the India Gate.  That night we had temple food at the major Sikh temple in Delhi, which was very good food.

The next day we headed to Agra with our traveling companions.  The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort and baby Taj were all amazing and definitely worth seeing.  Note if you are traveling there after Dec 10, the new really fast train from Delhi should be running which should get you to Agra in about an hour.  It wasn't open yet, but was super close to being open.  We took a hired car and the interstate there and back was pretty nice.  I bought souvenirs here, I have to say I find having to haggle over so much really stressful, it's just not the environment for me, so I didn't buy a whole lot in India, some pretty fabric to get made into Christmas presents and a few souvenirs in Agra.  We ate at a restaurant our tour guide led us to which had Rajastani food and chinese food, it was fine.  I can't recall the name.  The food was good, especially for what I am sure was a tourist trap. We had some chicken dish that is hard to describe, kind of like ground chicken meatballs in a mild sauce.  Our traveling companion had made some vegetarian dishes that we also ate, chicpeas and dal, with naan, it was all quite good.  We also got some Chinese stir fried noodles just for a little variety.  We were too stuffed to get dinner plus all of our stomachs were kind of still on the fritz or we would have gone back to Indian Accent for their really good soup.

Anyway over a week of really bad stomach issues later, I am still trying to get on the right side of things.  Oh and the air pollution gave me a really bad sinus infection.  And Matt twisted his ankle pretty badly.  India definitely won this round.  Not sure there will be another, although everyone told us that Southern India is much nicer.  Punjab definitely kicked our American butts, even the Indians from the USA were really sick.  I have to say I think Northern India may be one of the toughest environments for Western travelers, especially if you don't do it in a really high end way.  If you are going to do this, I think you need to plan really well.  And note that in many cases we were the only white people these people had ever seen, the school girls would run up to me for autographs and wanted to touch my skin and hair.  Everyone took pictures and stared at us all the time.  I was glad that I had brought conservative clothes because there was enough attention to us just because we had light skin.

On a positive note our friend is married, we are alive, and we went on to Dubai, which was a crazy extreme in the other direction.  And MK looked hilarious in a turban and gold sparkly shoes.

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Looking for general travel tips for Delhi.  Very specific situation: a dear relative is in hospital there and may be there for a long time (details are not important), and she is alone.  I'm thinking of going for maybe a week to be with her, maybe advocate for her if she needs it.  Am not thrilled at the thought of traveling there on my own.  Am especially worried because I have a GI condition and my gut does not handle big changes well (last international trip was to Fiji, where I came down with an unpleasant case of, um, traveler's tummy).  Because of this last, IF I go I will stay in a high end hotel and only eat there and only drink bottled water, I guess.

How hard is it for a woman to be there and get around on her own?  Again, not looking for places to eat or things to see/do or big adventures.  Just want to be safe/healthy/comfortable and maybe come home with my cousin in tow.

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My wife is from Delhi and I've been there several times.  Yours is a pretty easy request.  If you stay in a high end hotel (they call them "5-star hotels"), the food will be as hygienic as you can get in India.  Many of those hotel restaurants are among the best you will find.  The hotels tend to be in south Delhi, near the diplomatic enclave and the wealthy areas.  I assume your cousin is in a very good hospital so I expect it is in this area too.

Regarding transportation.  Stick to metered taxis and make sure the cabbie turns on the meter.  Again, at the high end hotel, the ornately dressed guys out front will make sure the cabbies do this.  All the cabbies will know where the 5-star hotels are.  However, it's possible they won't know where the hospital is, so make sure the hotel guy gives directions (I never failed to be amazed at how often we had to give the cabbies directions).

An alternative to the taxi would be to hire a car for the day or week (make sure it is an AC car).  The hotel can help you find a good company.  The person acts as your chauffeur so it's simpler and it gives you the flexibility of going on side trips without the hassle of finding a cab.

With your goals and where you're likely to be, I don't think you'll have any trouble.  Tip the hotel guys well (in $, it won't be much) and they'll take good care of you.

Good luck and I hope your cousin gets well.

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Looking for general travel tips for Delhi.  Very specific situation: a dear relative is in hospital there and may be there for a long time (details are not important), and she is alone.  I'm thinking of going for maybe a week to be with her, maybe advocate for her if she needs it.  Am not thrilled at the thought of traveling there on my own.  Am especially worried because I have a GI condition and my gut does not handle big changes well (last international trip was to Fiji, where I came down with an unpleasant case of, um, traveler's tummy).  Because of this last, IF I go I will stay in a high end hotel and only eat there and only drink bottled water, I guess.

How hard is it for a woman to be there and get around on her own?  Again, not looking for places to eat or things to see/do or big adventures.  Just want to be safe/healthy/comfortable and maybe come home with my cousin in tow.

If you stay at a nice hotel- as noted above, and have the hotel get you taxis and negotiate or tell you what to pay before you get in the taxi (some have to use a meter then make sure they use it) they tried to cheat us left and right on that.  I would try to find a nice hotel as close to the hotel as possible because traffic really is just awful.  And many cab drivers don't know their way around and stop for directions, so closer is better if you can do that reasonably with a nice hotel.

Make sure the bottle water is a brand you trust.  Or get a really good filter and just filter it just to make sure, but the hotels use filtered water if they are a nice hotel so you can shower, etc and will sell good filtered water.  Not in Delhi but in Punjab the bottled watered could be just tap water sealed in bottles and sold so our friend ordered and shipped water there.  But Delhi will be better, Punjab is a whole other beast.

Nicer restaurants your hotel would recommend will use it too, you can eat outside your hotel, I would just stick to places in other nice hotels or recommended as nice by your hotel.  There is very little English spoken outside the hotels-service industry people so for cabs/etc our Indian friends arranged stuff, you can have the hotel do it.  Once at a restaurant etc you should be ok.  Just remember you hold the power.

When you stay in the nice parts of town it won't be so bad as a woman especially if you dress conservatively.  I would be careful about walking at night, but going to and from hotel to hospital or restaurant and back you should be fine.  It was so dirty I mostly wore pants and short or long sleeved shirts anyway.  I had a scarf which I loved to cover up, get less attention, but also when there were smells or dust or I wanted to see a temple.

Go to your doctor and get your shots if you don't have them and have them give you stomach medicine/mallaria pills before you go.  I definitely had a hard time because I am allergic to Arithamiacin which is the most effective GI drug.  The people who had that did better than me. Also just take any stomach medicine, including lots of immodium you think you might want.  We got our shots and meds from a travel clinic in Arlington, Capitol Travel, they were great, just fyi.  I got sick when I left an area where I could control what I ate, when I ate, etc.  And no matter what Anthony Bourdain says if you are prone to stomach issues don't eat street food.

Good luck!

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Looking for general travel tips for Delhi. Very specific situation: a dear relative is in hospital there and may be there for a long time (details are not important), and she is alone. I'm thinking of going for maybe a week to be with her, maybe advocate for her if she needs it. Am not thrilled at the thought of traveling there on my own. Am especially worried because I have a GI condition and my gut does not handle big changes well (last international trip was to Fiji, where I came down with an unpleasant case of, um, traveler's tummy). Because of this last, IF I go I will stay in a high end hotel and only eat there and only drink bottled water, I guess.

How hard is it for a woman to be there and get around on her own? Again, not looking for places to eat or things to see/do or big adventures. Just want to be safe/healthy/comfortable and maybe come home with my cousin in tow.

What is the general vicinity of the hospital?

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I don't know the naming conventions and can't decipher the borders of neighborhoods/areas from google maps, but it's in "Pocket 1" - of what, I'm not sure.  Sector B?  It appears to be a few kilometers southeast of the airport.

Thanks for the suggestions.  This is the kind of detailed info that makes me feel a little more confident.  It's still totally up in the air if I'm even going, or when.  Fortunately two other people are queued up to go as soon as visas are issued, etc.  We don't know if she'll be out in days, weeks, or months.

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I don't know the naming conventions and can't decipher the borders of neighborhoods/areas from google maps, but it's in "Pocket 1" - of what, I'm not sure.  Sector B?  It appears to be a few kilometers southeast of the airport.

Thanks for the suggestions.  This is the kind of detailed info that makes me feel a little more confident.  It's still totally up in the air if I'm even going, or when.  Fortunately two other people are queued up to go as soon as visas are issued, etc.  We don't know if she'll be out in days, weeks, or months.

OOOHHHHH on the visa issue, they lost the stuff we sent for our visas like three times, make sure you send stuff to them via a traceable form (UPS or Fedex).  We kept having to give them the tracking number and say yes you do have everything, you signed for it, etc.

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I don't know the naming conventions and can't decipher the borders of neighborhoods/areas from google maps, but it's in "Pocket 1" - of what, I'm not sure.  Sector B?  It appears to be a few kilometers southeast of the airport.

Thanks for the suggestions.  This is the kind of detailed info that makes me feel a little more confident.  It's still totally up in the air if I'm even going, or when.  Fortunately two other people are queued up to go as soon as visas are issued, etc.  We don't know if she'll be out in days, weeks, or months.

Pocket 1 is east of city center, slightly south of the old part of New Delhi. The neighborhood right near to Pocket 1 is called Mayur Vihar.

It is important to get your vaccinations before traveling there. If you are only there for a week, try to not eat street food or food which has been fried outside, if possible. Also you may want to take some handkerchiefs for the pollution when going outside. There are plenty of western style restaurants or fast food places where food will be safe to eat if not named a little different. Also there are a few malls in the area.

As Ktmoomau mentioned using the cab service your hotel or the hospital recommends would be safe and shouldn't be a problem other than it may be slightly higher in price but with the present exchange rates that's a fairly small difference. 

Hotel prices are pretty good these days. You can stay at some of the best hotels in the city for $150 per night or more business traveler oriented ones for $50-60. All of these hotels will have front desk staff who speak English so that shouldn't be an issue. As SilverBullitt mentioned the hotels near the diplomatic enclave are high end for Delhi and if you stayed there the hotel's restaurants and spas are top notch.

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Thank you SilverBullitt, ktmoomau, and lion for the tips.  It's looking less and less likely that I'll be needed there, though it's still a possibility.  It will depend on how long she's there.  The first relative in the queue is leaving tonight and she has a background in public health and travels extensively in foreign countries; she can do a lot more for our cousin than I can.

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Thank you SilverBullitt, ktmoomau, and lion for the tips.  It's looking less and less likely that I'll be needed there, though it's still a possibility.  It will depend on how long she's there.  The first relative in the queue is leaving tonight and she has a background in public health and travels extensively in foreign countries; she can do a lot more for our cousin than I can.

Well I truly hope everything goes well for your relative!

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If you stay at a nice hotel- as noted above, and have the hotel get you taxis and negotiate or tell you what to pay before you get in the taxi (some have to use a meter then make sure they use it) they tried to cheat us left and right on that.  I would try to find a nice hotel as close to the hotel as possible because traffic really is just awful.  And many cab drivers don't know their way around and stop for directions, so closer is better if you can do that reasonably with a nice hotel.

Make sure the bottle water is a brand you trust.  Or get a really good filter and just filter it just to make sure, but the hotels use filtered water if they are a nice hotel so you can shower, etc and will sell good filtered water.  Not in Delhi but in Punjab the bottled watered could be just tap water sealed in bottles and sold so our friend ordered and shipped water there.  But Delhi will be better, Punjab is a whole other beast.

Nicer restaurants your hotel would recommend will use it too, you can eat outside your hotel, I would just stick to places in other nice hotels or recommended as nice by your hotel.  There is very little English spoken outside the hotels-service industry people so for cabs/etc our Indian friends arranged stuff, you can have the hotel do it.  Once at a restaurant etc you should be ok.  Just remember you hold the power.

When you stay in the nice parts of town it won't be so bad as a woman especially if you dress conservatively.  I would be careful about walking at night, but going to and from hotel to hospital or restaurant and back you should be fine.  It was so dirty I mostly wore pants and short or long sleeved shirts anyway.  I had a scarf which I loved to cover up, get less attention, but also when there were smells or dust or I wanted to see a temple.

Go to your doctor and get your shots if you don't have them and have them give you stomach medicine/mallaria pills before you go.  I definitely had a hard time because I am allergic to Arithamiacin which is the most effective GI drug.  The people who had that did better than me. Also just take any stomach medicine, including lots of immodium you think you might want.  We got our shots and meds from a travel clinic in Arlington, Capitol Travel, they were great, just fyi.  I got sick when I left an area where I could control what I ate, when I ate, etc.  And no matter what Anthony Bourdain says if you are prone to stomach issues don't eat street food.

Good luck!

Just to be clear, filters won't get most of the bacteria you should be worried about. For that you will have to boil or use chlorine tablets.

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Just to be clear, filters won't get most of the bacteria you should be worried about. For that you will have to boil or use chlorine tablets.

It actually depends on the filter/purifier, THIS is the one I have.  Highly recommended.  Camelback All Clear.  Removes protozoa, bacteria and viruses.  Worth every penny as we have used it for a few trips now, expensive, but if you travel a lot worth it.

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I didn't know you had that kind of tech!

Well I was still on treatment for Lyme while I was in India and needed to drink lots of water on a daily basis for my meds.  I still got sick from food in Punjab, but let me tell you at that point $99 was the best money ever spent so that I avoided extreme dehydration for the rest of the trip.  I still think that if I want to make millions I am going to open a fat camp, that is just a trip to where we went in India, it will be  great fat camp, people get to sight see, etc.  Everyone one our trip lost at least 7 pounds.  

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Well I was still on treatment for Lyme while I was in India and needed to drink lots of water on a daily basis for my meds.  I still got sick from food in Punjab, but let me tell you at that point $99 was the best money ever spent so that I avoided extreme dehydration for the rest of the trip.  I still think that if I want to make millions I am going to open a fat camp, that is just a trip to where we went in India, it will be  great fat camp, people get to sight see, etc.  Everyone one our trip lost at least 7 pounds.     

HAHAHAHA...we had the same exact thought after traveling in India:  this would be a great place for a weight loss trip.  The Delhi Belly Diet.  

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Funny stuff!  I used to lose 10 pounds or so every time I spent a few weeks in India, but lately it's been the opposite...last year I gained 10 pounds from all the ghee and oil used in their cooking!  I'm now doing low carbs to lose the weight I gained from the last trip, before i go back next month.  Weight loss in India depends on how sick you get...Delhi Belly is not for the faint-hearted or the weak.  Given the miseries of severe Delhi belly, I'll take the weight gain!  

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Just returned from a few weeks in India.  I stayed at the Leela Mumbai upon arrival and at the Hyatt Regency on the way out.  The Leela continues to have a fabulous dinner buffet, well worth the $40 price tag.  Unfortunately, the formerly 24-hour coffee shop--Citrus--now closes at 11 PM, a huge inconvenience for travelers who arrive in the wee hours and are wanting something decent to eat.  The Leela must have a new Indian chef, because the Indian dishes were some of the best I've ever had...it was impossible not to go back for seconds and thirds.  After leaving Mumbai, I didn't eat anywhere of note, but did have a couple of nice meals at restaurants in Ahmednagar (in Maharashtra state, about 190 miles east of Mumbai)...one was Iris, a vegetarian Italian/Indian/Chinese restaurant that served decent pizza and some nice vegetarian dishes.  I am always careful to check with local westerners to see how safe a restaurant is before trying it.  In the case of the Iris, many westerners frequent the place and it has a good reputation for cleanliness.

I was very disappointed in the Hyatt...the food was as expensive as the Leela, but was less than mediocre.  I got a great deal on my room, but won't stay there again because of the food...I had an afternoon snack--some kind of crab/tomato soup--that was expensive and bland.  The evening buffet--my last meal in India--was not good at all.  The choices were limited and, with one or two exceptions, the food was inexplicably bland and flavorless.  After a few bites, I should have paid the check and walked down the road to the Leela for a really good meal.  Live and learn.... :).

The best news is that I once again managed a few weeks in India without getting sick.  I rented a motor scooter while there--that's as close as I'll get to taking my life in my own hands!--and was careful to wear a filtering mask when riding.  One thing to remember while on the road is that in India, the "big dog" always wins, so don't try to finesse a larger vehicle...Indian drivers play by their own rules and in the many years that I've been going, have never seen a single car pulled over for a driving infraction.  If you decide to rent a scooter or bike, it is imperative to wear some kind of mask to keep the dust out of your mouth and nose, lest you get a really bad respiratory infection.  The roads in the vicinity of where I stayed were terrible--pot holes everywhere and dust from the many trucks that use them.  But despite all this, I love India and will continue return, as long as these old bones allow....

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We spent Christmas/New Year primarily in Delhi.  Since we're Indian and my wife is from Delhi, the following list of places are those popular with the middle class and from my observation, less frequented by tourists.  All have good levels of hygiene and as long as you stay away from anything uncooked, your tummy should be fine.

CityWalk (Saket, which is south of Defence Colony) - This is a mall. Enclosed malls are very popular with the middle and upper classes as they were in the US maybe 40 yrs. ago. They are clean, safe, and air conditioned. They also have bars and young people will go dancing there. Anyway, CityWalk has a food court in a separate building called “Foodtalk.” India has many cuisines and this food court will give you the opportunity to try them in one place.  And these aren’t big chains- they are typically outposts of well-known restaurants. You go there, get a card (like SmartTrip), load money into it and buy food by swiping the card. Can’t escape the food court ambiance but the food is of high quality.

 

Dilli Haat - is a small outdoor shopping area consisting of small stalls selling handmade stuff. Like FoodTalk, there are also many restaurants serving food from the different regions. 

 

Karim’s (Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi) - Famous place, started by hereditary chefs to the Mughal emperors. It’s near a landmark mosque called the Jama Masjid.  Karim’s has a location at Foodtalk.

 

Al-Kauser (Vasant Kunj, west of Defence Colony) - famous for kakori kebab. Story goes that an old king had no teeth but still wanted to eat meat. Chef came up with kakori kebab. Meat is ground with spices into a paste and grilled. Normally, it’s served in a paper-thin flat bread called rumali roti. Melts in your mouth.  There’s a location in Chanakyapuri on SP Marg but I didn’t think it was as good (I also spied a microwave in the back). Incidentally, near Vasant Kunj is a shopping center in Vasant Vihar.  In it is a store called “Modern Bazaar,” which sells overpriced imported food products.  However, they sell Nepali cheese made from yak’s milk (tasted like a strong cheddar, apprx. $7/lb.) and cheese made by a guy near Delhi who trained in Europe.  

 

Sagar Ratna (Defence Colony) - Known for S. Indian (vegetarian) food. The dosas are great but avoid the chutney - one year, I absentmindedly ate some and had continual, though controllable distress for several days.

 

Nathu’s Sweets- (Bengali Market, east of Connaught Place, near the “Modern School”)- Indians love sugar and this place has very good sweets.  Love the rabri (kind of a like sweetened condensed milk) and kala (dark) gulab jamuns.  They also serve regular food and do a pretty good job of it.  They make “chole batura” as do many places around the city.  It’s a spicy chick pea curry (chole) served with a fried wheat bread (batura) that looks like an inflated whoopee cushion (an apt metaphor because of the pairing with chole :D).  Really tasty.  There’s a very good fruit store nearby called “Shiv Fruit Mart”.  The old guy there is named “Nandi”.  Nice guy who will choose the best fruit for you if you ask.  Stick to the in-season Indian fruit.  Out of season or imported fruits are pricey though we bought some Iranian dates that were delicious.

 

Wenger's (Connaught Place)- This is a bakery founded by people from Switzerland in the 1920s.  It's one of those places that is popular, in part, because of nostalgia.  For many years after Independence, it was rare to find Western-style food products.  Wengers became very popular with Indians that are Christians (wife's family) or had Western educations (yup) or were in the military officer class (her dad).  The baked goods are competently done but comparable products are better in the US.  However, they do make something called a "paneer roll".  It is paneer (fresh cheese) mixed with spices, breaded and fried.  Delicious when hot. 

 

Aap ki Pasand (Daryaganj, on the way to Old Delhi) http://www.aapkipasandtea.com/sancha-retail-outlets/  Well-known for high quality tea.  They also sell at the Cottage Industry stores (government-run outlets for traditional crafts- guaranteed quality and provenance so you pay a little more) but the HQ is a nice experience.

 

Bhavans- Bhavans are state houses that were set up to house state govt officials when they come to Delhi.  Most, if not all, have cafeterias where you can get authentic, regional food at very low prices (usually <$5/person).  Here are the two I enjoyed this trip:

 

Andhra Bhavan- Food from Andhra Pradesh (S. India) is really spicy.  Went there on a Sunday because it is the only day they serve biriyani.  Delicious.  The mutton (lamb) fry blew my head off but was addictive.  There were two pickles- tomato and something else.  Also spicy.  Probably the best meal I had this visit. The setup is a bit strange.  You push through the crowd waiting outside to go to the counter.  You pay for what you want and get a ticket with your number.  As your number gets closer, you push your way back in and tell the guy directing diners your number and number of people.  You get seated, give your ticket and the food comes out right away.  It’s controlled chaos unlike most North Indian places which are chaotic chaos.  If you get the set (vegetarian) meal, they’ll keep serving you until you say no.  Because of the biryani, I think we spent $7-8/person.

 

Goa Nivas- Goa was a Portuguese colony (if you can, you should visit it- beautiful place).  The food, therefore, is an interesting combo of Indian and Portuguese.  Lot of seafood and pork dishes (e.g. vindaloo, sorpotel).  Usually spicy and sour (they either use a kind of plum or tamarind).  Relatively new building and nice ambiance. 

Some random observations:

1.  I noticed less pushing this time.  One of the most irritating things for me was that Delhiites do not respect lines so you frequently had to push people to ensure you were served.  My sister-in-law was telling me that many businesses are actively fighting this by ignoring queue jumpers.  I found this was generally true, though I did have to push some people out of the way (queue jumpers don't take offense so it can be a low risk way to get some aggression out).

2.  Despite all the traffic, and people cutting each other off, I didn't witness any road rage as one would expect to find in the US.  In fact, I even saw a couple of instances where, when the traffic was stopped going in one direction, people drove over the median and went on their way against traffic.  I wondered about this and I think because Indians view rules more as guidelines, when someone breaks the rules, it's not seen as such a violation as it might be here.

3.  Go to the Taj Mahal.  I'm usually let down by things that have been widely publicized but the Taj is the real deal.  It is incredibly beautiful.  Unfortunately, the process to see it is not.  The last time I had gone was in the late 80's and one could take a day trip and still see it at a leisurely pace.  Now, perhaps because the price for Indians to see it is about a quarter (the foreigner price is $15-20), the place is packed and you wait a long time.  As a foreigner, you bypass a lot of the crowds but both Indians and foreigners are funneled into the little area where the replica tombs are located.  Everyone is pushing to go around the circle, cops are yelling and sometimes banging people (typically teenage boys who aren't paying attention) on the head with their radios; one could easily be trampled. In hindsight, I should have blown off the mosh pit and simply spent more time enjoying the architecture and view of the Jamuna River.  My advice is to go on a guided tour as early in the morning as you can.  Not as awe-inspiring as the Taj but amazing nonetheless, is Humayun's Tomb in Delhi.  It's being restored by the Aga Khan Foundation and they're doing a great job.  Those Mughals really knew how to build lovely structures.

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19 hours ago, SilverBullitt said:

We spent Christmas/New Year primarily in Delhi.  Since we're Indian and my wife is from Delhi, the following list of places are those popular with the middle class and from my observation, less frequented by tourists.  All have good levels of hygiene and as long as you stay away from anything uncooked, your tummy should be fine. 

Karim’s (Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi) http://www.karimhoteldelhi.com/ Famous place, started by hereditary chefs to the Mughal emperors.  It’s near a landmark mosque called the Jama Masjid.  Karim’s has a location at Foodtalk.

 

Nathu’s Sweets- (Bengali Market, east of Connaught Place, near the “Modern School”)- Indians love sugar and this place has very good sweets.  Love the rabri and kala (dark) gulab jamuns.  They also serve regular food and do a pretty good job of it.  They make “chole batura” as do many places around the city.  It’s a spicy chick pea curry (chole) served with a fried wheat bread (batura) that looks like an inflated whoopee cushion (an apt metaphor because of the pairing with chole :D).  Really tasty.  There’s a very good fruit store nearby called “Shiv Fruit Mart”.  The old guy there is named “Nandi”.  Nice guy who will choose the best fruit for you if you ask.  Stick to the in-season Indian fruit.  Out of season or imported fruits are pricey though we bought some Iranian dates that were delicious.

 

Aap ki Pasand (Daryaganj, on the way to Old Delhi) http://www.aapkipasandtea.com/sancha-retail-outlets/  Well-known for high quality tea.  They also sell at the Cottage Industry stores (government-run outlets for traditional crafts- guaranteed quality and provenance so you pay a little more) but the HQ is a nice experience.

 

Some random observations:

1.  I noticed less pushing this time.  One of the most irritating things for me was that Delhiites do not respect lines so you had to push people to ensure you were served.  My sister-in-law was telling me that many businesses are actively fighting this by ignoring queue jumpers.  I found this was true, though I did have to push some people out of the way (queue jumpers don't take offense so it can be a low risk way to get some aggression out).

2.  Despite all the traffic, and people cutting each other off, I didn't witness any road rage as one would find in the US.  In fact, I even saw a couple of instances where, when the traffic was stopped going in one direction, people drove over the median and went on their way against traffic.  I wondered about this and I think because Indians view rules more as guidelines, when someone breaks the rules, it's not such a violation as it might be here.

Thanks for the in depth recommendations! I was reminded by your posting and a recent episode of The Great Indian Rasoi that focused on Delhi how many places there are to try in Old Delhi. Our next trip to India wanted to spend a little more time in Old Delhi, eating food instead of just non stop shopping. Though it is worth it buying some good pashmina shawls. 

The Great Indian Rasoi is also a good travel food show for India, if anyone is interested in the food diversity of the country, kinda of like Anthony Bourdains shows. 

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Thank you, lion.  One thing I regret missing on this last trip was a visit to Old Delhi.  I was going to hit Karim's and then find this guy who is famous for his jalebis (kind of a funnel cake soaked in syrup), after which I would visit the flea market near the Jama Masjid.  Unfortunately, terrorists hit an Indian air base near the Pakistan border and Delhi was on lockdown on the days I could go.  My in-laws told me that Old Delhi is not the place to be if there is threat of terrorist attack.

This visit, I found that Indians are developing a broader "foodie" culture.  There are several shows like you mentioned, chefs are experimenting with Indian cuisine as others have written about in this forum, there's more appreciation of foreign foods, and there are even some "artisan" producers like the cheese guy I noted as well as winemakers.      

 

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Half of the population of India is under 30 and there is a seismic shift in terms of appreciating one's own culture and the broader 'foodie' culture. Over the past forty years visiting my family in India, the change has been dramatic. I remember summers in India where we didn't eat any protein except for eggs for weeks. Now everything from around the world can be flown in and is at high end hotels and restaurants. 

Our last trip to India, we were mainly in Connaught Place and a bit south. Traffic is so bad sometimes getting around takes half the day. 

Personally I love gulab jamun. But a friend recently brought back some jaggery sweets that was like peanut brittle. Man that box went fast! :D

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I'd like to say that we have a small Indian-American contingent here on DR, and if any of you would like to get to know each other, please PM me and let me know; without your explicit permission, I cannot give up any identities. I'm also making assumptions based on names, so I might be wrong.

SilverBullitt, I'm spending quite a lot of time jazzing up your *outstanding* post (if only every post could be this detailed, I would devote even more of my life to organizing this website than I already do ... no, wait a minute - that would be impossible, but I'd sure try!)

I have a couple questions:

* If I can't find a Wikipedia entry for something, is Zomato respectable? I've seen it a bunch of times before, and used it for, e.g., Al-Kauser, but I don't want to put a link into something that's worthless. 

* Since I couldn't find a Wikipedia entry, I put a humorous link in for the Kakori Kebab - I hope nobody takes offense to the title (if so, please write me, and I'll remove it). I like using Wikipedia when I can, because that's one website that I believe will be around for quite a long time, and ten years from now, the links will still probably work - at least I sure hope they do, because I'm betting heavily on it.

* Curious, was the Nepali cheese from Yak's milk? I've always wanted to try that, and even became part of an initial group of "shareholders" for a brand new company wanting to bring some over - to their credit, when it folded, they refunded my $30 without hassle - jeez, that was probably 15 years ago. And, of course, as soon as I write this, I go back up and see that yes, it was from Yak's milk. Was this, by any chance, Chhurpi? 

* Why do you consider it "absentminded" for having eaten the chutney when you had no way to know? Was there some warning sign in the story missing, did you really dig in and down a pint of various types, or what?

---

(I'm also writing this post simultaneously to linking up the thread, so if it appears "incomplete," then that means I'm probably still working on it (it's very late Friday night, and I don't think I'll finish it this evening) - it's taking me a long time to do this, but it's worth it to me. Truly great posts such as SilverBullitt's deserve respect, and I believe inserting meaningful links make such posts richer and more helpful to the reader.)

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Don,

Thank you for your kind words.  My sister-in-law uses Zomato, which seems to be like Yelp, so the normal caveats apply.  I'm not aware of any websites like yours where members try to be descriptive and even-handed.  I expect that will happen in time.

After reading the link about Chhurpi, it wasn't that.  It had the density of cheddar so it wasn't the soft version and it definitely wasn't the hard version (chewing on the thing for 2 hours?  Yikes!).  I wish I had a more knowledgeable palate so I could tell you whether there was something distinctive about the cheese; it just tasted like extra sharp cheddar.

The dosa was served with a coconut chutney and a fresh coriander/mint chutney in little dishes.  Both include water in the preparation.  I should have remembered not to eat them with the dosa but I think it's hardwired in Indians to eat something uncooked with something cooked.  I wasn't thinking then and had plenty of time to regret it later.  I didn't mention it in my initial post but the chole batura was served with a wedge of lime, a green chili, and some sliced onion.  It was so difficult to keep my mitts off of them and though I did, it was with a feeling of regret because they would really have enhanced the flavor.

 

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To my great surprise, I find that I'll be traveling to India in December.  I never expected that I would have the opportunity to visit India, so I'm kind of clueless, other than the Taj Mahal.  MrB has been working with clients in Delhi since last January -- traveling every other month and staying for about a week.  We decided that I would accompany him in December.  We will be staying at the Taj Vivanta Surajkund in Faridabad because it is close to MrB's clients' offices.  My questions are:

1. MrB will be very busy for several days in Delhi meeting with clients.  I will be on my own.  I'm concerned about being a lone female.  What suggestions do you have for visiting sites in Delhi? And, which ones?

2. We will have about 2 weeks after MrB finishes his work in Delhi.  Other than the Taj Mahal, which is a given, what do you recommend as 'not to be missed' sites in Northern India?

I have just bought Lonely Planet's book on India, but I really trust the advice of DR members.  If there are other guidebooks/resources that you would recommend, please let me know.

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http://mouthfulsfood.com/forums/index.php/forum/38-asia/

There are quite a few threads written by mongo on Delhi restaurants and they link to his blog https://myannoyingopinions.com  As insufferable and annoying as he can be (I know him), he's also very knowledgable and you can probably contact him directly with questions.  Tell him I sent you and you'll get nothing (just joking).  Have fun.

eta: you should also check the slow travel boards & web sites.  Although mostly used for Western Europe, I think there will be some stuff that you can use.

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India is amazing and I hope you love it. there is so, so much to see though! I think one thing that may help you decide where to go is to decide what you are most interested in--temples, mughal stuff, or scenery. if you're interested in ruins and temples you may want to reconsider staying in the north only--the most spectacular ones are in the south and are absolutely worth seeing. the south is also very different than the north, so you'd get so see two different aspects of the country. 

near the taj is fatepur sikri, which i've never been to but looks unbelievable (and my husband, who has been there, agrees that it's amazing). in delhi itself i like the red fort.

many people love rajesthan, and if you're in delhi it's convenient to go and it is very scenic and tourist-friendly. i think most people go to jaipur, and it is lovely. but by far my favorite of the places i visited there was jaiselmer--it's unfortunately the farthest away, but its right by the desert (complete with dunes and camels, etc, the moonrise is unforgettable) and it was just so much older and better preserved than the other cities i saw, or at least that was my opinion.  my other fave in rajesthan are the temples at mount abu/dilwara. definitely much farther off the tourist path but so gorgeous.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilwara_Temples

what is must see depends on how far you're willing to go in northern india. for example sikkim is gorgeous, and the monasteries are very cool, but it's quite far from delhi i think. Kolkata isnt nearby either (and is usally called east india, but it's more north than south), and is frankly hard to navigate unless you have an insider to go with you (maybe a good guide would do?) but i adore the city. it's the most intellectual city i've ever been to, there's college street with literally a mile or more of book stalls on both sides, and people literally arguing over poetry and politics in the coffeehouses for hours. and it's interesting to see the remnants of the raj, the old, slowly declining buildings. 

Kerala and goa are very popular too, though i've never been so can't speak to them. 

though i have many dear relatives there, i don't love mumbai, to me it's mostly like any big international city but with parrots and crazier traffic. but if you go the elephanta caves are neat. 

and please do yourself a favor and eat as much as you can, including the street food, which is amazing. 

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5 hours ago, sandynva said:

and please do yourself a favor and eat as much as you can, including the street food, which is amazing. 

Thanks to sandynva and SteveR. for these really useful replies.  I am just beginning to delve into the massive amount of information and it's quite overwhelming.  One thing I'm quite happy about is that we invited my 2 grown daughters to accompany us on the trip and they are both going to come with us -- so I am very happy about that. It'll make the Delhi portion of the trip that much nicer for me since I'll have sightseeing companions while MrB is working.   

Sandy, I want to ask you about your advice to eat as much as possible, including street food.  I love Indian food (although my only experience of it is from Indian restaurants in the U.S. and the U.K.).  So, I want to sample as much as possible, but balance that with my number one goal: not to get sick.  What is your advice about that?  I have read that one should not eat anything that hasn't been cooked, so no salads, for example.  I'd appreciate your input.  

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It's hard not to get sick, honestly :( I've gone so many times, and end up with some sort of diarrhea every time. My mom who is native, on her very last day ate some street food in Ahmedebad and spent the whole plane ride home vomiting. So .. watch people make the food, make sure it looks clean, anything that requires water - watch them open up a fresh bottle of water. The cooking oil gets me sort of sick, so we used to bring our own butter. Ask around, and it's not impolite to ask if a particularly place is known to be clean - it matters to people that live there, too. But, man ... I think more often than not if you eat street food, you're going to get some sort of GI issue... 

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4 minutes ago, Simul Parikh said:

 I think more often than not if you eat street food, you're going to get some sort of GI issue... 

This was kind of my assumption as well.  Given the time and expense of such a trip, one really wants to try to avoid spending a good bit of it hovering over a toilet. 

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i hear you, and as someone who  got sick on many, many trips to india i can understand the desire to avoid it.   and i will say that in general i tend to have a weak stomach or system in that every single time i've gotten sick other people eat the same thing as me and don't get sick (and i get sick here too, even whole foods did it once!).  i think it's quite possible that if you follow the normal rules (and have a normal stomach) you'll be fine. many of my friends have been to india without any problems (and i envy them!) i haven't gotten sick in my last few trips, when i just started taking cipro the moment i felt unease. i don't know if that's an option for you (and i know its bad to take antibiotics if you don't need them, etc). the reason i mentioned my sad history of getting sick is this--even with my lousy system, the cipro made sure i didn't get sick, even though i was eating all sorts of things (including street food and juices like every day). so, if you can do it, it may be the best option. 

but, as i said there are many, many people who go to india and don't get sick or only have a few days of sick.  i don't know that i know anyone who's gotten sick eating cooked food from a non-sketchy restaurant. the main thing in india that gets you sick is the water so i think cooked food anywhere is fine (including street food), but if you want to be safe you can stick to the restaurants. and still eat amazingly well. the safest bet of all is to eat at restaurants in high end hotels, which should be 100% safe. and the food at many of them is actually really good. and high end indian service is amazing and will make you grumpy with all the waitstaff here, it's definitely worth experiencing a couple times. 

if street food in other countries upsets your stomach, definitely avoid it here. i've eaten cooked street food in many countries without problems, including india, and i don't think your liklihood of getting sick from, say tasty fried street snacks, is any greater in india than elsewhere, which is why i reccomended it, but there's so much good food in india you'll eat really well even if you avoid the street. 

 make sure you drink bottled water (which is available everywhere) avoid salads/anything with raw veg in it, and as i learned once, ice cream which also apparently has water in it. fruit is ok if you wash it yourself. chutneys (the pourable watery ones) are made with water and are to be avoided unless at a nice restaurant or hotel where they are likely made with purified water. another thing to be careful of is water on washed plates or glasses, sometimes they give you a glass that's fresh from the washer with some drops clinging to it, which can (as i've unfortunately learned) be sick. 

you may also want to chose your antimalarial carefully. some of them have nasty side effects (including nausea). 

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