India Food Tour from Calcutta to New Delhi
Departure Point: Calcutta, India
En route to the Marble Palace, a traffic jam causes F&W travel editor Jen Murphy and her guide to abandon their taxi and discover a frenetic fruit auction even Jen had never seen before.
Spiced Potatoes (Aloo Bhaji)
Art dealer Surajit Bomti Iyengar serves these tender potato sticks for brunch at his Calcutta apartment. The recipe is from his designer friend Devika Datt Duncan. The potatoes are cooked with panch phoron, or Bengali five-spice powder—a mix that includes fennel, cumin and mustard seeds—then tossed with turmeric.
Each night, Jen and her guide reboard the Maharajas' Express via the bar car, order a cold Kingfisher, snack on puffed rice and swap stories about their day.
Jen tries to meditate at Mahabodhi Temple at the Bodhi Tree, where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment 2,500 years ago. But Jen is distracted: The monk next to her is rocking out to his iPod.
New Delhi, India
After an Ambassador car takes Jen to yoga in the historic Lodhi Gardens, she heads to Varq in The Taj Mahal Hotel for innovative dishes like fried-chicken kebabs.
Fried Chicken Kebabs (Ganderi Kebab)
New Delhi, India
One morning Jen finds herself running with the Indian army. They jog through the city's old alleys, lined with pastel doors. A general tells Jen she has "excellent fitness," then directs her back to the Aman New Delhi hotel, where she cools off in the pool.
After a sunrise boat ride along the Ganges, Jen and her guide take a terrifying rickshaw ride to Nadesar Palace, the centuries-old summer home of a Maharaja, where the chef prepares pigeon pea dal cooked in a clay pot.
Buttery Pigeon Pea Dal (Mitti Handi Dal)
Dal—a thick stew or puree of beans or legumes—is a staple in every corner of India. At the Nadesar Palace in Varanasi, chef Sanjeev Chopra has an elaborate method for cooking his nicely spiced dal very slowly in an unglazed clay pot, over a wood fire, but it's also great cooked simply in a saucepan on the stove with butter and cilantro stirred in at the end.
Lunch at the Oberoi Amarvilas precedes a tour of the Taj Mahal, where Jen is surrounded by teenagers who want to take pictures of her and her blonde hair. What will they do with the photos? "Facebook," Jen's guide says.