Today was our first day exploring India. Even though we didn't get to bed until roughly 2:30 a.m., most of us were awake well before our 10 a.m.brunch meeting. I was able to go on a walk in the Haus Khas park with John, Rob, and Dan, which was interesting and fun; however, I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that the highlight of the morning was breakfast.
We had worked up quite an appetite, so my mouth began to water with the first bowl of cereal that was set on the buffet table. Slowly, it was filled with serving dishes of cholay baturay (a chickpea dish), aloo something (a delicious potato dish), puri (round puff bread), paratha (spinach and potato flatbread), french toast sans syrup, scrambled egg whites, chai, warm milk for the cereal, and assorted fruits (bananas, apples, and mosambi).
After our morning meeting, we had a few minutes to prepare for our tour of Old Delhi. Hearing about a walking tour of Old Delhi did not bring to mind food, so I didn't realize the delicacies that awaited me. Our first stop was the Jamma Mosque, where we saw the most amazing view of Delhi. From there we walked through the Chandni Chowk district (meaning Moonlight Intersection), stopping at vendors that our guide Sushil knew to be delicious. We started with a sweet cream dessert called tauluk kikchat, which was very reminiscent of whipped cream. From there we were shown little shops and vendors and stopped to watch a man frying up gulab jamun. We shared the gulab jamun and samosas. The savory samosa was a necessary balance to all the sugar we had consumed in the tauluk kikchat and gulab jamun.
I think our guide must have realized that we were past all the best food, so our next stop was a chai shop. We were able to watch while our vendor prepared our chai. Our guide, Sushil, explained that ginger is added in the winter for its curative/warming properties that aren't needed in the summer. It was some of the best tea ever! We also had some tasty biscuits, as the British would say (cookies in American), immediately following.
We then walked out of the market and bazaar area toward the Red Fort. Sushil taught us a lot about the Mughal era and the history of the fort through independence to present. A few of us were stopped by Indians to take pictures with them for the novelty of our presence, which was unexpected. I felt like an instant celebrity.
From the Red Fort our night was winding down. We had just one more delicious stop to make - DINNER! We ate at the Chor Bizaare. We were given appetizers of papadum (a spicy sesame cracker), another unnamed fried chip, chicken masala, and paneer. Then the communal dishes of tandoori chicken, saag paneer, aloo jira, and dhal makni were brought to us with roti and naan to compliment. As per the norm, I ate as much as I could with the roti and naan as edible utensils, but I didn't have the commitment of Nathan to eat the rice that ended our meal with some of the main course toppers. Perhaps by the end of our trip I will be eating like a traditional Indian, but for now, I still appreciate a fork every now and then.
In the end, it was a deliciously exciting day that left everyone (well there were 2 people awake) sleeping on the bus ride back to the B&B.