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Being vegetarians while traveling

Six months of backpacking across 26 countries and we have successfully survived being vegetarians. The truth is, it is not difficult (note: not not easy!) being a vegetarian and you can manage in most of the countries without starving! The biggest problem we see is communicating that you are a vegetarian and it gets especially tough when a new meal needs to be prepared for you separately (which is always not possible)
Some tips that work everywhere when you are a veggie:
1. Have this card printed out and put it in your pocket. Works anywhere, not sure when it will come handy.

no meat
Keep a print-out of this card in our pocket!

2. Again, google translate(offline version – download the package of the required language when you are connected to the internet)  comes to the rescue.

google translate
Google translate to the rescue!

3. Ask the locals who understand English to translate and write it down for you.

no meat in iran
A Farsi friend wrote this for us 🙂

4. Do your research online noting down some of the local dishes that are vegetarian.
5. Stock up on veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds and snacks!

Fruit market in Mardin, Turkey
Fruit market in Mardin, Turkey

We deliberately chose to use the word “not difficult” instead of “easy” because obviously, let’s face it, there are some challenges being a vegetarian!

1. Be prepared to eat the same food in every restaurant. You will miss out on sheer variety and some must-try local dishes. For instance, we had to settle with Falafel for most of our time in Tehran.
2. Communication. In one instance, the guy had clearly understood that we wanted something vegetarian, devoid of any meat. So he gets a lamb curry and removes all the lamb pieces in front of us. Voila, there you go, here’s your vegetarian lamb curry!
3. Very dependent on super markets. Sometimes, restaurant are prohibitively expensive, street food will not have any veggie options and cannot be customized.
4. It’s not always tasty or healthy. You might want to resort to cooking. Check into a hotel/guest house with a kitchen.  If you are couchsurfing, you can always cook meal for your host. And, believe us, it’s fun!

cooking mardin
Cooking in Turkey!

5. The moment we say we are vegetarians, people start putting you under the category of an activists who have voluntarily stopped eating meat because of various good-for-the-world reasons like carbon emissions, inhumane treatment towards animals, global warming etc., but we are not vegetarians because of these reasons. To each his own – We just grew up being vegetarians and cannot shift to being something else now.

 

Surprisingly, we had an amazing time in almost every place! Our taste buds were constantly kept happy and we still recollect those lip-smacking dishes and try them at home! Here’s a teaser for you. 😉

turkish cuisine
Turkish cuisine.

Separate posts on vegetarian food in different countries coming soon. 🙂

Our Favorite Eat-outs in Bangalore!

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”                                                                    – George Bernard Shaw

Bangalore is a foodie’s paradise, no doubt. In the last one and a half years in Bangalore, I have been able to get a decent taste of this paradise! I’m a foodie. And I feel lucky to be in a country that keeps my taste buds titillatingly happy.

The belly rules the mind :)  -Spanish Proverb
The belly rules the mind 🙂
-Spanish Proverb

I’m a big fan of street food. One of my favorite things to do in a new country or city is to visit the local street food vendors. Indian Street food is a perfect way to sample India’s vast cuisine and culture. You get to stand around a food cart and watch the magic of vendors slinging ingredients together to make their local delicacies. You get to see the love and attention that goes into food and food consumption.  

Well, each area in Bangalore is a city in itself. It has its own popular eating joints too.

Here I list some of our(me and VJ) favourite places (in no particular order) – both street food and restaurants. I’ll keep adding to the list as and when we discover more places 🙂

1. Mavalli Tiffin Room(MTR):

Possibly the most popular South Indian restaurant in Bangalore, MTR has acquired cult status for its unique taste and purity, with people queuing up even early in the morning to get in.Earlier it was a single location restaurant(near Lalbagh gardens) but recently new outlets are being opened, notably in Indiranagar and Forum Value mall, Whitefield.

The restaurant with a cult status!
The restaurant with a cult status!

While I do feel it’s overrated at times, it has an authentic taste.

I love the bisi bele bath, khara bath and filter coffee here!  

Taste: 7/10

Service: 7/10

Value for money: 6/10

Location : Here

2. Halli mane:

Yet another cult restaurant in the beautiful Malleswaram area, I was impressed with the ambience of the place. It’s quite spacious too.

halli_mane_mallesw_galleryfull
All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. 🙂 -John Gunther

One of our good friends introduced us to this place after a long 30 km cycle ride. The restaurant is a visual treat too with its village style atmosphere.

Dosa and coffee after some heavy cycling! :)
Dosa and coffee after some serious cycling! 🙂

My favourites here are Mangalore buns, crispy dosas and the filter coffee!

Taste: 7/10

Service: 7/10

Value for money: 7/10

Location : Here

3. South thindies:

A darshini type restaurant in Basavanagudi, it’s one of my all time favourites! How much does ambience and service really matter? For me good food is all that matters. If you are like me then you shouldn’t give this restaurant a miss at any cost.

South thindies in Basavangudi
South thindies in Basavangudi

I have had some of the best idli sambar, vada, dosas  and Mangalore buns here!

The pesarattu which is usually a Andhra delicacy is served here with different texture which is good.

“After a good meal one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
“After a good meal one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

And there’s the awesome filter coffee to wash it all down the throat!

 Taste: 9/10

Service: Self

Value for money: 9/10

Location : Here

4. Veena stores:

If you a great fan of the great Indian dough-nut shaped delicacy called the vada, then this is the place you should visit! They have some of the crispiest vadas in Bangalore!

The crispiest vada in Bangalore :)
The crispiest vada in Bangalore 🙂

It’s a small roadside shop in Margosa road, Malleswaram and one simply needs to walk up to the shop order the food – get the token after paying the bill and collect your food and eat while enjoying the surroundings. I think for decades they have been serving the same food with the same quality.

Veena stores in Malleswaram
Veena stores in Malleswaram

My favourites here are the vada, pongal and khara bath.

Taste: 8/10 (10/10 for vadas 😉

Service: Self

Value for money: 8/10 

Location : Here

5. Brahmin’s coffee bar:

This is one of the old joints which is still famous and running. Located in the Shankarapuram area in Basavanagudi, they serve some of the softest idlis in town. With a limited menu and quality food it’s a must visit for those who love south Indian tiffin. There is a dedicated person sitting outside for serving chutney!

Limited menu but great taste!
Limited menu but great taste!

My favourites here are idli and khara bath.

Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements. -Marcel Boulestin
Hot and soft idlis!!Anyone?

Taste: 7/10

Service: Self

Value for money: 8/10

Location : Here

6. Bobby da dhaba: 

Do you want to have the best parathas in Bangalore? Then this is the place to go to! I just love the hot and spicy parathas with that dollop of white butter on top of them. Perfectly sinful, I know!

Earlier it was located right next to the Ulsoor gurudwara, now the place is shifted to St. John’s road and is quite spacious now but with basic ambience. Cleanliness needs some improvement.

Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements. -Marcel Boulestin
Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements. -Marcel Boulestin

All the varieties of parathas are a must-try. So are Baingan da bartha, kadi pakoda and kheer. A glass of buttermilk to accompany these is a must!

Taste: 8/10

Service: 6/10

Value for money: 8/10

Location : Here

7. Eat street aka thindi beedi aka chat street:

Just a 400m stretch of road flanked on either sides by old buildings, Bangalore’s famous VV Puram eat street is a paradise for street food lovers! It only opens up after sunset when the vendors start rolling up their shutters and pushing out their carts. It has the perfect street food ambience.

Eat street!!!
Eat street!!!

You can start at one end of the road with the more common idli, vada, dosa.

Don’t miss out the paddu, mosaru kodbele, akki rotti, ragi rotti and thatte idli! If you like eating spicy food, don’t miss the mirchi bajji and other bondas.

The congress bun at VB bakery has etched an important place here. Butter gulkand fruit salad icecream can serve as a perfect dessert! You can wash all these down with a glass of masala soda!

At the end of every year, an Avarebele mela kicks off at the eat-street and is a culinary and visual treat for fans of the humble ‘hithakabele’. Almost 63 varieties of snacks and sweets and made of the humble avarekaalu(field beans).

Can you imagine some 60+ dishes made of these simple field beans??
Can you imagine some 60+ dishes made of these simple field beans??
avare dosa
Akki rotti(rice roti) made of avare kalu

Even if you are not a foodie, the gastro rich vibe at eat street is worth watching!

Taste: 8/10

Service: Self

Value for money: 8/10

Location : Here

8. 99 variety dosas:

This is one hidden gem that we happened to discover in Indiranagar 7th main during a leisurely evening walk. And eventually realised that there were similar joints in various other places too, notably, Koramangala 6th main, BTM layout, Bannerghatta, etc. And hats off to their ingenuity. These guys can actually create 99 varieties of dosas with the most awesome ingredients – Paneer, corn, mushroom, capsicum, potato, cheese and even noodles!

Watch them as they expertly toss in the dosa batter, add dollops of butter and then mix in whichever ingredients you like, to create one hot, melt in your mouth dosa!

99
It’s actually a visual treat to watch them make the dosas!

Hygiene is maintained to a reasonable extent too.

Taste: 8/10

Service: Self

Value for money: 8/10

9. Chakum chukum:

Unarguably one of the best Calcutta rolls in Bangalore, we were introduced to it by one of our expat friends who just loves these rolls and says these are one of the best things about Bangalore!

One of our favorite adda! :)
One of our favorite adda! 🙂

The Kati rolls (kolkatta style) be it Veg/ Non veg come with loads of varieties that every single time you visit, you have something new to try. Our consistent favourite has been paneer egg followed by chicken egg. The rolls are quite filling and always cooked to perfection.

One of the best Kati rolls in Bangalore!
One of the best Kati rolls in Bangalore!

Taste: 8/10

Service: Self

Value for money: 8/10

Location : Here

10. Ali Baba cafe:

Do you love the Middle eastern cuisine? Hummus, babaganoush, etc? Well, VJ just loves it and off late I’ve started liking it too. This tiny, less popular joint in Frazer town was introduced to us by Highway On My Plate(HOMP) in NDTV Good times.

After searching for a good half hour we finally found the place. It’s not so easy to locate the place for first timers who are not familiar with the area. One important landmark which we found out later is Richies Rahhams restaurant on MM road. The entrance to the restaurant on 1st floor is through a narrow, dark stairway and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone says they were skeptical to proceed. However, as you enter that restaurant things look a little better.

A small Persia in Bangalore?
A small Persia in Bangalore?

The decor is interesting, in that it doesn’t look like your typical restaurant. It shows that they have made an effort to do up the interiors. The modified ceiling, antique looking furniture, the curtains, artifacts, give the place a middle eastern look.

They specialize in 3 types of cuisines – Arabian, Persian and Bhatkali. As such, their menu is quite exhaustive, and most of the items were alien to us except for the few Arabian dishes. We had the awesome Persian yogurt or the Doogh. We were completely bowled by the Mezzeh platter that we ordered. It was the best one we have had till now!

One of the best Mezze platter we have had!
One of the best Mezze platter we have had!

And the simple dessert of Shaufa pana pudding completed a happy meal for us!

Taste: 8/10 (For Mezzeh platter-10/10)

Service: 7/10

Value for money: 8/10

Location : Here

 

What do you think of the list? Tell us about your favorite eat outs! We’ll check them out 🙂

15 things we learnt from our one month of travel

So it’s been one month into our backpacking trip. We are loving it so far!

We think traveling is great. It has expanded our minds with new experiences. We have learnt a few lessons on the road and would love to share them with you.

  1. Strangers are nice and helpful. If anyone tells you otherwise, ignore them.

  2. Feeling comfortable about  meeting and speaking to new people is an essential skill.

    A group of cheerful teachers we bumped into in Mardin, Turkey.
    A group of cheerful teachers we bumped into in Mardin, Turkey.
  3. Saying bye to your newly made awesome friends is not easy. We never thought it can be that difficult to part ways with someone you have only met for a couple of hours!

  4. You will slowly learn to deal with the fear of unfamiliar – new place, people, food and language. None of these will bother you after some time.

    Sign board in Bulgaria :)
    Sign board in Bulgaria. Decoding Cyrillic alphabet can be fun! 🙂
  5. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and for help.  Ask the locals, it is their turf. This can save you a lot of time and effort.

  6. Learn to say ‘no’. That $50 meal in an expensive restaurant is not going to enrich your experience any better than a delicious local snack in the same area. (of course, there are exceptions)

  7. Learning some words/phrases in the local language always helps. Showing that you have taken that extra effort to learn their language will let the other person go that extra mile for you.

  8. Swiss knife is amazing. Just buy it! Has helped us in a variety of situations from cutting fruits to removing glass splinters stuck in our hand.

  9. Google translate offline version can really save your day! Imagine booking last minute tickets in a remote place in Iran and having to deal with somebody who knows only Farsi! Google can handle it for you, offline.

    There you go!
    There you go!
  10. It is really not that difficult to live out of a 11 kg  bag.

  11. You don’t have to be rich to travel. We have spent ZERO money on our accommodation until now!

  12. You can be a vegetarian and still have a nice time 🙂 You need to know where to eat and what to eat. Refer to #5.

    Our favourite snack in Turkey - Çiğ Köfte
    Our favourite snack in Turkey – Çiğ Köfte
  13. Indians are expected to know how to dance! 

  14. Walking for 5-6 kms everyday  with a big bag on you is not so tough.

  15. Hitch-hiking can be fun and is good for your wallet. Deciding to do it is a door to amazing experiences.

    We hitch-hiked to Persepolis with this friendly Iranian family :)
    We hitch-hiked to Persepolis with this friendly Iranian family 🙂