Traditional food and drink from my home country

Follow Ashna Mathur on a food journey around India

ashna mathur
25th April 2023
Image credit Instagram @munchydessert
Every time I visit home, I beg my mum to cook Indian food because I don’t often get it here in Newcastle (except for the silly little Tesco ready-cook meals, or an overpriced restaurant). Here are some of my favourite things to devour when I’m home.
1. Chai

Right okay, we’ve all heard of iced chai, chai lattes etc. I’m not saying they’re bad and it’s good to see some modern interpretations, all I’m saying is that you probably wouldn’t catch an Indian drinking them. Why? Because we prefer the original. Try it. What exactly is the classic chai? It’s simply tea leaves cooked in milk and water, and sweetened with sugar. It becomes a masala chai when you mix in spices and herbs like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. There’s nothing like an iced chai, I’m pretty sure starbucks invented it, but you can go on and I won’t judge you! This, combined with vicks vaporub, is the ultimate cold remedy for us.

Image credit Instagram @miramanek

2. Dosa

Disclaimer- Dosa is a popular south Indian dish, and I am a north Indian so I can expect some judgment. Nevertheless, this is one of my all-time favourite things to eat back home! They’re like an Indian rice pancake made with fermented batter. When I say pancake, please don’t think of Nutella and syrup- this is savoury, thin and crispy. They can be served with sambar (a fresh lentil stew with tamarind) and a variety of chutneys (a coconut one, a coriander one, or the red one. Don’t ask me what goes in the red). It’s actually so beautiful and delicious, and I can have it for any meal of the day. There are several variations of it: butter dosa, a paper (thin) dosa, and masala dosa (stuffed with spiced potatoes). The list goes on. If you’d like to try, I’d definitely recommend visiting Dosa Kitchen in Jesmond!

Image credit Instagram @vidhyasvegetariankitchen

3. Laal maas

This dish can be a bit intimating, and I actually got sick the first time I had the authentic version. Laal maas is an extremely spicy lamb curry from the state of Rajasthan.  Traditionally made with goat meat, this dish has a long (and fiery) history. We can trace it back to the 10th century, and this was a camp food, eaten after hunting. They say that a king refused to eat a goat curry post-hunt because of its smell, as it was only cooked in yoghurt and garlic. The cooks attempted to modify it to his taste and did so by adding (quite a lot of) red chillies. My mum also told me that they only used red chillies to spice the meat and cook it, and it can be pretty hot. Today, the preparation has changed a bit, but it remains a deliciously simple spicy curry.

Image credit Instagram @theoniontreeseacliff

4. Momos

We’ve all heard of dumplings, dim sums, gyozas and the like, but have you heard of momos? Momos are a popular street food snack, loved by almost everyone in North India. It’s similar to what I listed above and is a steamed dumpling from Tibet, Nepal, and the northeastern states of India. There are so many varieties available today, with some simple fried chicken momos, and my personal favourite momo guy also serves butter chicken momos! We love to eat them with a spicy red chutney, and some of my mates with a terrible spice tolerance have it with mayonnaise. There’s a lot of judgement for those who prefer the latter, I don’t make the rules sorry! I’m not sure where you can find these here (in a nice Indian restaurant maybe), but if you ever visit Delhi, you won’t go five minutes before stumbling across a momo stall. 

Image credit Instagram @foodieoreoooo

5. Rasgulla

Let’s end with something sweet! It’s a milk-based dessert, served in the shape of balls, drenched in rosewater-scented sugar syrup. It’s sweet and spongy, and I have no other way of describing this for you. No party in my house is complete till we serve this, and it’s also a midnight guilty pleasure that I often steal from my fridge. It comes from eastern India, and is definitely worth a try! This dessert is served in many Indian restaurants here, and you can also buy a tin from an Indian supermarket. 

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