«Aren’t you scared of the food in India?» «Isn’t it too spicy?» «Isn’t too different?» These are the common questions I got when I decided to move to India a couple of months ago. And to be honest I didn’t really think that much about the food in India when I made that decision. And well, it is no secret to anyone that any western who comes to India gets sick at least once while they are exploring this country. Sadly for many, there is no way to avoid this situation, it just happens, even to the most careful germophobes (like me).
For many making travel plans, health issues in India can become a serious reason why staying away from here sounds like a great idea. And I won’t lie, it is an understandable fear but nothing that will be life threatening (if you are a normal healthy person and don’t have a special condition). Here are my tips for surviving your time in India an eating your feelings away without concerns:
- You have to accept that no matter what you do, how careful you are and how cautious you have been, you will probably get a stomach bug at some point. Don’t try to think what could have made you sick, there’s no point on doing that because it can be anything. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to be careful, but just don’t get paranoid like I did during my first weeks. I was obsessed with not getting sick from the food in India that I was cooking, boiling and disinfecting everything like crazy, until I got sick twice in a row. You just have to deal with it.
- Come to india with a good health insurance. It doesn’t matter if you are visiting or living here, make sure you have an insurance that covers everything, because usually stomach bugs will go away eventually with a few medicines, but sometimes they can get bad. Like, really bad.
- Tap water here is quite dangerous to drink. Those juices in every corner look so tasty and refreshing (especially during the summer time and if have been shopping all afternoon), but they are a big no-no. A bottle with a filter is always a good idea but even if you have one, avoid tap water. Also, avoid ice in most places, because they usually come from the same dirty water. Have ice in really good restaurants, and the ice you make yourself at home with boiled water.
- Even if I hate them so much, straws are a must. If you hate plastic like me, check these stainless steel straws to avoid using plastic ones.
- I know everything above sounds a bit scary, but once you got that cover just ENJOY THE FOOD! Food in India offers a limitless variety of flavors and ingredients and you can’t miss that just because you are afraid. Check the recommended places on Tripadvisor wherever you go and you will be fine.
- «And what about the food being too spicy?» Well, either you adapt, or you can ask for dishes that aren’t spicy at all like Malai Kofta or some paneers. Also, keep in mind that for indians “spicy” is one thing and for westerns is another. When you ask them if a certain dish is too spicy and they say it is not, it is probably a little more spicy than you can handle. Almost everything is a little bit too hot here, so never, ever, expect to get bland food. (Once I brought mashed potatoes to the office and my indian coworkers almost threw up, they seriously hate bland food).
- In India you can eat however you want to eat. With a fork, a spoon, with your hands, making a mess, however you want. I LOVE IT. Nobody cares. So you shouldn’t care too much either.
- No matter what you are eating, always get naan. Trust me. And if you go to indian restaurants, get used to the typical salad which usually consists of red onions with lemon juice (I hate it).
- If you are living in New Delhi, my recommended (and favourite) place to dine is definitely Hauz Khas Village. You can find all kinds of restaurants there which are usually very clean and delicious. My personal favourite lately is Smoke House Deli.
- One of my weaknesses in India (and anywhere else in the world) are desserts. And if you are here, you are in for a -seriously sweet- treat. My personal favorite is barfi, and when I have a bad day at the office I go to a dessert shop near my flat and get a piece to enjoy later when I’m home. Don’t miss the chance to try gulab jamun and kheer as well.
Do you have any advice for restaurants, desserts, or food in India in general? Leave your thoughts in the comments.