Travelling, if you belong to one of those camps that segregate travellers by their food habits, can be quite arduous. Especially if you are travelling in India. The overwhelming variety of cuisines in this vast country has resulted in assumptions that make Bengal sound like a meat lovers’ nation and Lucknow as a place where everybody swears by seekh kebab!
Thus, I scoured through the cuisine offerings from India that are exclusively for vegetarians. Here’s a vegetarians’ guide to India for all the travellers out there. Also check our special survival guide for vegetarians.
Think and think again if you have landed in Bengal and think that you might have to turn into a non-vegetarian, owing to the fish and more fishy dishes this think-tank of the country has.
Right from echor, khichuri, ghonto, kofta, luchi, jhal muri, moa and alu r dam to chochori, there’s no ending the delights for vegetarians. Add to it the ever pleasing menu that is wholly dedicated to desserts, which has some of the first loves of anyone having a sweet tooth. Try shondesh, rasmalai, roshogolla, pantua, chomchom, pitha, mishti doi and more.
This state is one party zone for anyone in love with vegetarian food. Never mind the extensive coastline that it has, vegetarian fare is a bigger hit than seafood here.
Take your pick from biranj (saffron steamed rice), puran poli, thepla, khichu, fansi nu shaak (green bean curry), chorafali and more. Don’t forget that this state offers an entire menu for vegetarian side dishes which it has lovingly named as farsan. Oh yes, there are desserts too, including names as delightfully sweet as adadiya, kansar, basundi, ghari, sukhadi, laapsi, ghooghra, shiro, doodhpak, gud papdi and more. Remember the ever gorgeous jalebis, those too come from Gujarat.
Okay brave hearts, now you can venture into the wondrous Kashmir without the thoughts of being assailed by some 30 varieties of mutton that Kashmir’s cuisine has. Vegetarian food, though less in variety, has everything exotic that you can think of.
Choose from modur pulav (sweet rice), lyodur tschaman (cottage cheese in turmeric gravy), nadir-wangan (lotus stems with brinjal), dum oluv (potatoes cooked in spicy tomato gravy), baqerkhani (puff pastries), nadir haaq (lotus stem cooked with exclusive-to-Kashmir-and-Portugal cabbage)! And yes, a range of teas, including the much loved Kahwa.
Kerala & much of South India
No words of introduction for Kerala or Malabar cuisine. A haven for both vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians, it perhaps stands second to only Gujarat on the love list of vegetarians. And yes, it’s a whole lot more than idli and dosas.
There’s aviyal, kaalan, thoran, kappa (tapioca), erisherry, puliinji, payasam, parippu, upperis, kanji, rasam, kanji and more. If you have trouble remembering all these names, there’s the entirely vegetarian Kerala banquet by the name of Sadya.
Lucknow & much of Uttar Pradesh
While much of this region is more loved for the non-vegetarian fare that Awadhi cuisine offers, there are more than just some delights for the vegetarians too. You can start on a sweet note, tasting the many types of halwa that Lucknow learnt from Arabian countries and Persia. Choose from the equally delightful four varieties of sohan halwas or kheer.
Move on to pulao, halwa puri, naan (the staple bread of Awadhi cuisine), parathas, mint lassi, Awadhi gobhi, Awadhi daal rice, Awadhi chana. And yes, the whole buffet of Awadhi chaat!
Once you stop bothering about laal maas, Rajasthan’s runaway hit, gear up for something that is much more to your liking. A delight for vegetarians, Rajasthan has no dearth of dishes to woo them. While the famous Rajasthani ghevar and malpuas are something that you can save for the desserts, start from any of these.
Ker sangri, kadhi, papad ki sabji, Govind Gatte, Haldi ka Saag, daal baati, Bajre ki roti, mawa kachori and lehsun chutuney to give it a sour tinge. For desserts, there is more of churma, gujia, imarti, jhajariya, milk cake (exclusive to Alwar), kadka and much much more.
If there is one Indian state that will baffle you with the sheer variety of dishes that it has for vegetarians, it’s got to be Maharashtra. A look at just the snacks’ menu in Maharashtra will have you whooping in delight, since there is so much to choose from. Right from chivda (spiced flattened rice), pohay, upma, surali wadi, vada pav, pav bhaji, thalipeeth, zunka bhakar, sabudana khichdi, kolhapuri misal and more.
Other than a whole lot of Maharashtra-exclusive pickles, there are drool-worthy Maharashtra soups as well, including kokam saar, tomato saar, solkadhi, varan and aamchi. Ghadichi Poli and Bhakri make for the staple breads here. Plus, there are ukadiche modaks, puran poli, karanji, chirota, basundi, aamras, shrikhand and more for desserts.
Bihar is a lesser hyped tourist destination, almost unmarked on a foodie’s map too. Yet, it has got some of the most delectable dishes for both vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians. Starting from Bihar’s fast food, you can indulge in litti, chokha, bajka, bhurta, bhunjia, kachoris and more. While the breads and appetizers are almost the same as north Indian cuisine, it has some surprises in the huge variety of saags and desserts.
It can be a tough one for the ones with a sweet tooth, as there’s a choice of khaja, tilkut, thekua, khajur, harnaut balushahi, motichoor laddoo, pantua, peda, murki, khurchan, gaja and more. Then, of course, there’s the much loved kesaria peda!
If you can forget your calorie intake for a while and forgive yourself for doing it, Punjab is just the place for you. Dollops of butter accompany almost every dish here, starting from vegetarian fare that has the world famous sarson da saag & makki di roti, baingan bharta, dal makhni, rajma, shahi paneer, choley kulche, choley bhature, lentils and more.
While a glassful of lassi is more than enough for desserts (anytime of the day!), you also have phirni, jalebi, malpua, sheer kurma, kheer, rabri, kulfi, gajar ka halwa and more.
Leaving you on that sweet note, I’ll scour for the next travel story for you. If you think I have missed something here, do leave a comment below.
Till then, happy travelling.
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