How to find your masala dosa and eat it too: Tips for the fussy South Indian traveller

If you're not a millennial who can eat any kind of food, don't force yourself.
How to find your masala dosa and eat it too: Tips for the fussy South Indian traveller
How to find your masala dosa and eat it too: Tips for the fussy South Indian traveller
Written by:

Jaya Shravan

It is no secret that the world has shrunk. “Foreign” holidays that were previously unimaginable are now not only common, but quite affordable, too, for the middle class traveller. With travel comes the expansion of horizons, cuisines and palates. Or so one would think.

But even within the country, you will find South Indian travellers who tire of the North's never-ending aloo mattar and paneer dishes when on a trip beyond the Vindhyas. The filter kaapis are just not the same either. Thus begins the search for Udupi hotels which will offer the traditional South Indian fare. 

For such travellers, the first foreign trip can go down the drain if they don't figure out their food options. Ask your next door uncle and he’s likely to lament that in all of Greece, he couldn’t find a single place that served “first class curd rice" and that the buns and burgers of the West are no match for Indian food.

Do Indians live to eat or eat to live? The line is blurred. We’ve been fed our masalas, biryanis and idli-dosas one too many times to easily stomach a plate of salad or live on pizza and pasta outside our country. Even if it is only for a week.

There are few people who like airplane food, the ones who appreciate the fact that you get "3 courses" on a tiny tray at 36,000 feet! But well, it's not everyone's cup of tea and trouble starts for the fussy traveller even before s/he reaches their destination.

If you're fussy about what you eat,  make sure you pre-order your meals, no matter what your origin or destination, or you might just end up starving inflight. Most people find airplane food to be bland, unpalatable, boring and too less to satiate hunger. And it only gets worse once you get to our destination. Carry permitted supplies from home that will survive for long hours.

If you’re vegetarian and are on your first trip abroad, you’re probably in for a shock. Most places in Europe, for instance, consider white meat like chicken and fish to be vegetarian and they're not too fond of spice either. And so, salads, boiled chicken or grilled fish with next to nothing seasoning may have you reaching out for the chili flakes in desperation.

Inevitably perhaps, starts the search for an Indian restaurant. Which, let's be honest, isn’t hard to find any more. Indian restaurants are like the icing sugar on top of a dessert. They’re sprinkled all over, spread far and wide. You'd find one even in the far corners of New Zealand, tucked next to the rain forests, if you looked for it.

But sadly, Indian restaurants all over the world seem to share a universal menu: 4-5 subjis which are cream-laden and bland to the point of hurtful, served with Basmati rice. Or something they call biryani but has surely never been near Hyderabad to validate that name.

However, it's better than nothing, so if you really don't want to explore the local cuisine, use a restaurant app like Yelp, Foursquare or Urban Spoon to locate a place that will serve the kind of food that you're looking for.

Your best bet in such places is the dal tadka (or equivalent) and tandoori roti which will have the least cream/fat floating on it and offer the least possible chances of food poisoning with old meat or the likes of it.

Get local produce too – seasonal fresh fruits and nuts are an excellent choice that can’t go wrong. Hit the popular supermarkets for good deals on fruits, produce, juices, etc and snack on them in between meals to keep energy levels up.

The rise in popularity of Airbnbs has been a boon for fussy travellers. You can now rent apartments with kitchenettes and salvage at least one meal a day. Something basic that doesn’t require much effort. Even just making rice, buying yogurt and chips and some pre-packaged sides, for example.

This is not only cost effective, but will fill your tummy and soul. Many young travellers are choosing this route, especially if they're travelling with a child or a spouse who acts grumpy when denied rice three days in a row!

The older generation still relies on “package tours” like SOTC and Thomas Cook predominantly. And these are customized for Indian palates, of course. For instance, Thomas Cook promises at least 1 Indian meal a day, a terrific USP to have.

The millennials will have you believe that the only way to see the world is to become a global citizen. But don't let the pressure of fitting in with the "cool" crowd come in the way of enjoying your travel the way you wish to. 

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