Exotic and mesmerizing, India is a land of complexity and contrast, a vivid tapestry of peoples, languages and cultures. Among the oldest civilizations on earth, Indian culture has evolved over centuries, absorbing ideas from the Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Moghuls, Portuguese, Dutch, French and, of course, the British. From the Moghuls, northern Indians learned to make rice pilaf and biriyani, an elaborate layered dish of rice and meat. The Moghuls’ refined cooking became the palace cooking and the dominant influence in the north. In the tropical south, the food is hotter and seafood dominates the coastal diet. The treasured fruit of the coconut palm yields coconut milk for curries and coconut water for toddy, a fermented beverage. From north to south, India offers an endlessly varied feast, befitting its varied geography and multicultural heritage.
Join us as we tour the spice coast of tropical Kerala, where home gardens are a tangle of pepper vines and cardamom bushes and mountain plantations yield coconut, cashew nuts, nutmeg and coffee. We’ll cruise the backwaters of Kerala, past rice paddies, shrimp farms and mango trees. With local cooking teacher Nimmy Paul, we’ll have a private lesson in Kerala home cooking, and we’ll watch the great Kathakali dancers perform in their dazzling makeup.
Moving north, we’ll experience the rich Moghul cuisine and the splendor of the Taj Mahal, the most beautiful tomb ever created, an emporer’s tribute to his beloved wife. In nearby Delhi, we’ll explore the colorful stalls of the market, learning the names and uses for the mysterious vegetables and fruits, lentils, chilies and herbs that underlie this major regional cuisine. In Jaipur, our culinary tour leads us past Hawa Mahal, the Palace of the Winds, a late 18th century example of architectural artistry. And we’ll watch elephants bathing in Moatha Lake outside the fabled Amber Fort, overlooking the great desert plains of Rajasthan.
Together, we’ll uncover the essence of the Indian kitchen as we learn from tandoor masters, market vendors, and specialists in biryani and dosa. In this vast country, with its well-preserved regional cooking and agricultural abundance, we’ll never lack for extraordinary foods to taste.