Please welcome today's guest blogger who has chosen to be identified as the mysterious Gluten-Free Family Of Four In Boston. ~Kelly
We are just back from a trip to India, specifically the Golden Triangle comprising the cities of Delhi, Agra (location of the Taj Mahal), and Jaipur (the capital of Rajasthan.) We are a family of four, with two gluten free girls, ages 8 and 11. Complicating matters is that one of the girls is mostly vegetarian and the other is a ravenous carnivore.
Overall the food in India is fresh, unprocessed, gluten-free and delicious. The majority of food (with the exception of the obvious breads naan, chapati, and puri) is gluten-free. It is much simpler in India because you are not dealing with processed food so there are few hidden ingredients. A lot of the food is lentil and chickpea based and is almost always served with rice.
Many meals, particularly in restaurants, start with papadam, which is made from lentils. This is great because so often my girls don’t get anything to eat until the main course and have to sit watching others eat bread sticks, etc. In India they ruined their appetites with papadam and I happily let them. Another great appetizer is pakoras. Pakoras are similar to vegetable tempura but with chickpea flour (aka gram flour.)
We ate dosa every day. Dosa is a very large crepe made from lentils and rice that is eaten plain or with a variety of fillings. The most common is masala dosa, which is the crepe, folded over spiced potato. My girls loved the crepeness of it. Often meat is not served in restaurants that serve dosa. This was hard on my carnivore. We compromised by eating in hotels instead of more local joints so she could have meat. In the end, although the atmosphere was lacking, the dosa’s were still really good because it is a staple and hard to mess up. (WARNING:There is one dosa batter that does contain wheat. It is called Rava dosa, so be careful to stay away from it. I did not know this before going so now I know to watch for it here as well.) We never took it for granted that the dosa batter was wheat-free. We asked at every meal. When language was a problem we called someone on a cell phone who could translate for us (we have friends in India but a good choice is your hotel concierge for example). But most of the time there was always someone around that spoke English well enough to figure it out. The word for wheat in Hindi is aata.
The meat dishes like tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, chicken/lamb curry, and others are almost always gluten-free. The same goes for the vegetable curries. For the most part they do not use wheat flour as a thickener in India, but again we always asked.
It is very tempting to eat from the street stalls that are everywhere. I think it could be done if you know the language, but there are 49 official languages in India and that doesn’t include scores of other dialects. The street vendors as a rule did not speak English so we stayed away with one exception. I tried something and I was 99.8% sure that it was made from chickpea flour so I let the girls try it. So good and greasy. Tea (chai) is very big in India. Even if you don’t drink tea here, in India you will begin to crave it just like the locals. Indian chai is sweet, milky and satisfying. And gluten-free so drink up!
We had a spectacular trip. My girls enjoyed every minute we were there. India is a visually spectacular place, rich in history, with diverse cultures and religions and lucky for us delicious gluten-free food!