Dining in India is always an experience. From multi-course banquets eaten off a banana leaf, to a sizzling samosa at a street corner, there’s a wide range of cuisine that gives India its reputation as a foodie’s ultimate frontier.
When in India, eat like the Indians do — with gusto!
Delhi is often the first place you touchdown in India, and no visit to our capital is truly complete without an Old Delhi breakfast.
Encounters Asia’s guides will help you navigate the by-lanes of Chandni Chowk, for a hearty local breakfast, accompanied by the customary cup of steaming chai.
In India, its not uncommon to chitchat endlessly over a steaming cup of chai or coffee. Timeless classics like the Sea Lounge in Mumbai, with sweeping views over the harbour, are a perennial favourite. On the other hand, hotspots like Perch or The Nutcracker are great to grab a cup of tea or coffee and a quick snack, while you scope out the local scene. Each café has its own character. A place like Café Story in Kolkata indulges the bookworm in you, while Amethyst, a concept store in Chennai, is ideal for coffee, a snack and some retail therapy.
You can’t visit India and not taste at least some of its ethnic cuisine.
In Delhi, Bukhara’s grills and clay-oven specialties never get old, but Indian Accent’s contemporary Indian cooking is bound to win you over. Trishna in Mumbai is a favourite for local seafood and cuisine from the Konkan Coast, but Bombay Canteen’s funky twists on traditional recipes keep us going back for more. One of Mumbai’s most unique and iconic sights is food related too — don’t miss the amazing dabbawallas who bring thousands of lunchboxes from homes across the city, to office-going folk, everyday.
But beyond the curries and tandoors, there’s a whole food scene waiting to be explored.
Chic continental, to mouthwatering Asian, world-class eateries like Le Cirque, to casual brick-oven pizzas at bistros like the Woodside Inn, you’re spoiled for choice.
You can’t go wrong with sundowners at Raas in Jodhpur overlooking Meherangarh Fort, or an elegant dinner at The Table, in the heart of South Mumbai’s historic district.
While we’re at it — every city has its streetfood specials. Kolkatta’s Kathi Rolls are legendary. Mumbai’s claim to fame is Bhel Puri and Vada Pao. Delhi’s known for its buttery parathas (stuffed flat breads) and spicy chickpeas, while Hyderabad and Lucknow compete for the best kebabs.
The Pink City’s lanes are full of food vendors selling everything from salted peanuts to sugary desserts, but if you step out beyond the old city in Jaipur, you’ll find artsy coffee-shops, and spectacular dining.
We love the food and the ambience at Samode Haveli or 1135, topped off by a nightcap at Bar Palladio.
Goa has a terrific food-scape, and our favourites include classics like Bomras, or fire up your belly with food to die for at Gunpowder. Olive and Thalassa both offer fresh and light Mediterranean nibbles with chilled cocktails and awesome music — the ideal combination as the sun goes down and the party begins. Goan cuisine is heavy on Portuguese influences, but Pondicherry, on the opposite coast, merges French and Tamil flavours, so don’t be surprised if you get a fluffy idli and croissant for breakfast! Pondy has some awesome quirky hole-in-the-wall eateries, café/bookstores, boutiques and art galleries.
Head further south to Cochin, a former outpost on the Spice Route.
The historic centre, Fort Cochin, is a great place to delve into some superb South Indian cuisine. Kerala grows tons of pepper and spices, and the main trading takes place in Cochin. The Mattancherry Spice Market is a sight worth seeing, and if you like, stop by at the Pepper Exchange as well. Then head down to the Chinese Fishing Nets and watch as the fresh catch of the day gets hauled in.
Feeling peckish? They’ll fry you a piece of fresh fish on the spot! Encounters Asia can arrange for you to visit a private home to learn how to make creamy fish stews, an age-old recipe that hails from its Syrian Christian diaspora. Or devour a feather-light dosa (a Kerala crepe), stuffed with steaming veggies, dipped in coconut chutney.
If you’re the kind who likes to wield a spoon in the kitchen, then Encounters Asia can set up some spectacular hands-on culinary experiences.
From volunteering in the communal kitchen at a Sikh Temple, to a private cooking session with a royal chef, and home-style family secrets that have been passed down from one generation to the next, there are several ways to get your hands dirty, and have fun too!
The amazing thing about India is that it’s food is so inclusive. Unlike many parts of the world, India accommodates every palate and dietary requirement with ease and gastronomic flair. It doesn’t matter whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, gluten-free or lactose-intolerant. The Indian kitchen can handle anything you throw at it, and Encounters Asia knows exactly which foodie experiences to dish up, so that you go to bed each evening feeling more than satisfied.