Saturday, November 10, 2007

don't eat that...

As you might imagine, one of the best parts of visiting India is the Indian food. The one complication is that, as a foreigner, I can't eat a lot of it -- it makes me sick. It's not a problem of prejudice or strong distaste, it's a matter of microbes. "Don't drink the water" is as appropriate a warning in India as it is south of the border and the Maharajah's revenge is every bit as vicious as Montezuma's. Of course you can always build up an immunity if you want to... but by my dad's estimate it'd probably take you about three weeks to do so and it's been a long time since I've had a trip to India last longer than a month.

I learned first hand about these microbes the hard way when I came to India in 2002. My cousins run a fresh fruit juice stand in Mumbai and were positively insistent that I sample their offerings. Seeing as they were family and knew I wasn't from 'round these parts, my mother and I figured it was probably O.K. to try. Despite using filtered water when washing the fruit, some regular water presumably made its way into the mix and by the next day, I was running a fever as well as other.... physical discomforts. To make matters worse, this happened a day or two before my 32+ hour trip back to Boston... I think I spent most of my flight in line for or on the toilet.

Needless to say, many meals here are prefaced by a quick discussion as to which dishes are "safe." There are two major rules of thumb: anything uncooked containing water or sold uncovered off the street is off-limits. Water must be boiled or filtered (Aquaguard being the trusted brand name in filtering) before consumption and only up-scale restaurants bother to process all of the water used in the cooking process.

Of course the best food comes from the most questionable of origins. My friends and I are big fans of a type of Indian fast food known as kati rolls -- if someone we know doesn't like kati rolls, we tease them saying they "wouldn't last a day on the mean streets of Calcutta." The truth is, we probably wouldn't either. Proper street-side kati roll wallas use uncooked chutneys in their creations, so when I went out for some "authentic" kati rolls in Mumbai I had to settle for a more sanitary version from a proper food stand -- chutney on the side.
The unsatisfying verdict? I like the ones in NYC better... but without the sauce, it's not a fair fight.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting - I'm not sure how I feel about that. Now I have very little reason to go to india...


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