Sacred cows, cheeky monkeys, tasty fish, and beer!

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Flag of India  , Maharashtra,
Thursday, May 6, 2010

Posted by Genevieve

Of the many reasons I have always wanted to go to India, the food is easily number one. As a teenager, spending time at Nina's house was always a delicious treat (thank-you Davinder!)  Buttery roti, chai, wonderful combinations of spices, and hundreds of samosas led to my love of food from the subcontinent from an early age.  Although our trip is starting in the south where the food is different from the Punjabi fare I had in my youth, so far it has not failed to impress!  Starting, believe it or not, on the flight over.  Jet airways, an Indian airline, served the best airline meal I have ever had – chicken curry with rice!  Delicious. 

We checked into hotel #1 in the afternoon and decided to have a small snack to save our appetite for a good dinner.  We stopped by a bakery and indulged in a paneer tikka masala quiche.  This was fusion food at its finest – light, fluffy pastry filled with a creamy egg-and-cheese mixture spiced to perfection.  It was difficult to stop ourselves from buying a second helping! 

But it was our first dinner that we will be dreaming about for months to come.  We chose a seafood restaurant tucked away down a crowded alley with uniformed men standing post outside to greet us.  The menu was huge, but we finally settled on fish biryani, garlic-chilli prawns, and garlic roti.  The biryani was rich and creamy with tender chunks of mild white fish and rice cooked to perfection.  The prawns were huge and cooked in an incredible tomato based sauce with green beans – which I quickly learned to distinguish from the whole green chilies included!  We ordered extra roti to sop up the delicious sauce. 

Since that first meal, we have been eating incredibly well – more biryani, channa dahl (chickpeas in sauce), red dahl, paneer (Indian cheese), dosas (Indian pancakes stuffed with curry of various kinds), idli (steamed fermented rice cakes), and upma (semolina cooked with spices) to name a few items! 

Sadly, the choice of refreshment is less interesting – beer lists always include the same three choices, Kingfisher, Fosters and Budweiser.  Being the beer snob that I am, these choices tend to make me turn up my nose – until my thirst gets the better of me.  I must admit, a chilled Kingfisher on a hot afternoon goes down pretty easily!  And at least the price is right.  (Except for our first beer, sipped slowly at the famous Leopold's café, where everything is overpriced for the crowds of tourists that regularly flock there.) 

In addition to the food, the animal life has been providing much entertainment.  On our (slightly terrifying) taxi journey from the airport on day one, I was surprised to see two cows wandering down the middle of a six lane highway!  I knew that cows here are considered sacred and often roam the streets, but to see them in amongst the honking taxis, busses, and pedestrians was unexpected.  Since that day, we have come across cows in the most unlikely of places – outside banks, in alleyways, doorways, and driveways, and amongst stalls of clothing or other goods. 

The animal life that has impressed me the most is the birdlife.  There are nearly 400 species of birds in Mumbai, and we have seen quite a few of them – everything from the multi-coloured house crow trying to pull wires from houses for their nests, to the enormous eagles that scare the crows away even when humans can’t, to colourful parrots swooping gracefully amongst the tropical trees on Elephanta island.  

Elephanta island is also where we had our first encounter with monkeys.  We didn’t have any food with us, so we were safe from their antics and able to watch them with some amusement as they tried to steal snacks from unsuspecting children.   The funniest moment was when I jumped out of the way of one that I thought was coming after my ankles, only to watch it deftly sneak past me to a vegetable stall, grab a tomato, and run off into the bushes before the angry stall owner could get to it with her broom. 

Before any assumptions are made, there are no elephants on Elephanta island.  It is a small island 11 km away from the city in Mumbai’s large harbour that is named for a large elephant statue that once stood guard over a series of caves.  The caves are impressive structures filled with Hindu deities all carved into the hard rock.  Our tour guide, Krishna (like the god himself) told us the stories of the characters and took us deep into the caves to show us the echoes used by monks in prayer to enhance the effect of their voices.  Despite the 37 degree heat, it was a fantastic experience. 

After all this typing I have worked up an appetite – must be time for my next delicious meal!  No one will recognize me when I get back home :)
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Colin on

Wow. such food. When I was a youth travelling all I remember was eating a lot of crackers. And yes lots of wondering cows in India, makes for interesting pictures.

Lots of Love

Uncle Colin

Kristi on

I'm quite disappointed that there are no elephants on elephanta island, but glad you are seeing cows in random places. That food is making me jealous. YUM!

Maxine on

I am so jealous of all the good food you are enjoying! I don't think you will gain any weight as you will sweat everything out! What an interesting journey! Thanks for all the news!

Lori on

I'm drooling right now ;) Glad you guys are having fun!

Tara on

Sounds delicious. You two both write really well and are convincing me that I might want to go to India one day, if only for the food!

Uncle Rick on

Seeing monkeys and parots is one thing. I want to hear aboit your first cobra! The temperature up Hollyburn today was about 3 degrees in the sunshine. There was no one there; just the sound of the wind, the fire in the wood stove and the radio tuned into some CBC classical music.

Nina on

Glad to hear that things are going super well for you guys! Matt and I were thinking of you guys today in the heat while roasting away in the sun in Vegas.

Tom H on

My first time in India was in Nov. 1977. On the drive from Dehli airport to the hotel (at 5 am) the taxi driver had to serve around cows on the highway. Suddenly he stopped and got out to pee - on the highway. Welcome to fascinating India. Amazing place!

Lynne & Ross on

Greetings from sunny East Sooke. Glad to hear that you are enjoying your trip and the great cuisine. We are enjoying reading about your adventure.
Stay safe.

Angie Percival on

Hi Genevieve,
Wow, you almost sound like a food critic except you are describing great tastes of different and kiane must be having an excellent time. it must be something else to see animals amongst people everyday. Did you get any pictures of the different birds?

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