It’s one of the great tragedies that the spice-filled splendour of Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine, which draws inspiration from dozens of ethnic subcultures and centuries of history, has been sold to the western world as simply ‘One butter chicken, one lamb Rogan Josh and three garlic naan.’ But not on this trip. Taste fresh paratha bread fried in ghee, tamarind chutney and vegetable pickle, onion bhaji from a Delhi street stall, home-cooked Rajasthan curry and real Sri Lankan tea, picked straight from the plantation. Butter chicken will never be the same again.
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When it comes to finding the best food in India and Sri Lanka, you need to go local. That’s why we have the Intrepid Foodies: real life culinary travellers and gastronomic experts who follow their stomachs from Delhi to Colombo – sampling and learning everything they can on their quest for fresh, local cuisine.
Day job: Author, food blogger and Delhi’s only ‘pop-up High Tea’ host
It’s almost impossible to narrow it down, and my favourites change all the time, but I would include street food dishes like the various chaats (they’re always like a party in a plate), the Amritsari chhole kulcha, the rich meat stew called nihari, daulat ki chaat and the Hyderabadi chicken biryani I learned how to make at home.
I think it was love at first sight, in September 2005 and I haven’t been able to stay away since. The area’s combination of mesmerising chaos, crumbling historic buildings, the markets selling every commodity under the sun, an utter refusal to join the 21st century and of course the wonderful street food make it irresistible to me.
I like my local market, INA, in Delhi – it’s great for fruit, vegetables, spices, dried fruit and nuts, dairy, meat, fish. But perhaps my favourite market is the early morning market which takes place on the Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir. Mapusa market in Goa is a close second. When I eventually go home, I’ll be taking huge amounts of spices – they’re so much more vibrant than the ones we get in Scotland. I’ll probably also try to smuggle out a truckload of mangoes.