Food remains one of the major reasons to travel and yet, it would take us several lifetimes to try every dish this country has to offer. Where does one even begin? Knowing how overwhelming the choice can be, we spoke with a few foodies who were happy to share their food road trip experiences with us. These are people who would not mind travelling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Assam to Gujarat, only for their love for good food.
In the first part of this story, we introduced you to the flavours of destinations as varied as Almora and Nellore through road trips that hardcore foodies undertake, just for their love of awesome food. Here is the second park of food-related road trips you can take this monsoon. We hope they will help you nudge in the right direction and plan a food-to-drive-for outing soon!
Kolkata to Shaktigarh for Lyangcha
Let’s begin with the sweetest part of India, West Bengal. Bengalis just love their mishti. While the classic roshogolla and shondesh have made their way to every sweet shop across the nation, there are some sweets that are still exclusively available in the eastern Indian state. Lyangcha is one of them.
Most travellers in West Bengal stop by at Burdwan’s Shaktigarh on National Higway 2 during long-distance trips from Kolkata. And then there are people who travel to Shaktigarh with the soul purpose of relishing their favourite lyangcha and return to Kolkata when done savouring the irresistible sweet.
Writer Promita Mukherjee still remembers how her childhood was made beautiful by frequent trips to Shaktigarh with her grandparents, just to sample her favourite mishti. “My first memories of food trips are associated with my late grandfather. He loved long drives and he would often take me and my grandma along. He would often come home from work and decide to go on impromptu trips. And the drive to Shaktigarh was our favourite,” Mukherjee says. “There are tons of lyangcha shops here, but Hemanta Ghosh was my granddad's favorite so that's where we went most of the time. Depending on what time in the evening we left, we would either make pitstops for cha, or not stop till we reached Shaktigarh. We would of course get back with handis full of lyangcha to be consumed over the next few days whenever one felt a craving for mishti."
Mukherjee, who now lives in Mumbai, continues to drive down to Shaktigarh whenever she’s home and her busy schedule allows her to.
A two-hour drive away from Kolkata and about 80km from Burdwan, Shaktigarh is renowned for its lyngcha. You will find an array of sweet shops along the highway, specialising in it. The unique cylindrical, deep-fried chhena sweet soaked in sugar syrup has many intriguing stories attached to it. According to local legend, the sweet was originally made by a crippled mishti maker called Lyangcha Dutta. Another story says that the sweet made its way to Shaktigarh from Krishnanagar after a matrimonial alliance between the royal families of Krishnanagar and Burdwan. Another version of the story says that the sweet was first made by Khudiram Dutta of Shaktigarh. A crippled British officer fell in love with the sweet and hence, it was named lyangcha (perhaps a play on 'lyangda', the Bengali word for crippled).
OT Recommends: When in Shaktigarh, you can also drive further towards Burdwan and pick up some sitabhog and mihidana, the famous sweets of Burdwan. While mihidana is a golden-coloured fine-grained sweet prepared from powdered rice, gram flour and saffron, sitabhog is made from cottage cheese and flour and resembles white strands of vermicelli. Both these sweet dishes are redolent with ghee.
Bangalore to Coorg for Pork Masala
Coorg is better than perfect in the monsoon season. People visit the region for its gorgeous landscapes and peaceful environs, but there are some who drive to this Karnataka hill station for its special pork masala. The blanket lockdown was finally over and Puneet Murthika, a Community Lead in a real estate company, was looking for a reason to leave his home. Luckily, one of his friends was already in Coorg and pursuaded him to visit. It was the stories about the wonderful pork masala that the friend had been relishing that convinced Murthika.
He and his flatmate drove all the way to Coorg to satiate their cravings for some authentic Coorgi food, which they had enjoyed during an earlier trip to the hill station. “My palate knew the taste of Coorg’s legendary pork dishes and I was so done with eating regular ghar-ka-khana during the lockdown that I desperately needed a break. Coorg proved to be just right ,” he says. Murthika and his friends stayed in a homestay run by a fourth generation Coorgi family. “The best part about our homestay was that they have their own piggery. We were treated to some really good Coorg-style pork masala which was aged and cooked, for four days. Ageing the pork makes it taste better."
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What made the dish stand out was the spices and melt-in-the-mouth texture of the fat. “They served us both the semi-gravy style and dry style. We had both as part of our dinner with rice and as a side dish." The hosts also served them some amazing hard-press coffee from their estate throughout their stay.
OT Recommends: Coorg is famous for its pork dishes. You must try pandi curry, a semi-gravy dish of tender pork cubes seasoned with the signature black kachampuli vinegar. The vinegar is unique to Kodagu cuisine and is said to have a shelf life of ten years. Its primary purpose is to keep the pork fat firm. The dish is best had with kadambuttu (steamed rice balls) or akki otti (flat rice bread).
Read:Coorg: Pork Heaven
Delhi to Murthal for Everything Punjabi
Murthal! The name’s enough to get your tastebuds craving daal makhni, paratha, kulchas, lassi and everything that makes authentic Punjabi cuisine so popular in the country. Famous among passionate foodies and travellers who are inclined towards good food, Murthal is a must-top on any road trip. Located on NH1, Murthal's dhabas gained prominence during the late 70s, thanks to their ever-popular kali maa ki dal and fried parathas. The best part about Murthal is its proximity to the Delhi-NCR region. Delhiites love to drive to Murthal on weekends for generous servings of mouthwatering north Indian food.
Nishant Saxena, a developer with Microsoft has lost count of the rides he and his friends have taken to Murthal because they wanted to have a glass of cold and heavy kesar lassi laced with pistachio slivers, or a plate of hot flaky parathas garnished with mounds of white desi makhan. “A drive to our favourite dhabas in the dead of the night is our idea of chilling out on weekends. Murthal is like a mecca for us foodies and we’ll never get tired of visiting the same highway dhabas there again and again for the same set of dhishes,” says Saxena.
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Saxena is always ready to try out new dishes though. “My favourite is the ma ki dal at Amrik Sukhdev. They boil it for 48 hours and when consumed with their butter naan, it’s a divine combination. But I always make sure to try out new dishes. I have tried almost every kind of paratha at all the major eateries in Murthal. I love the food at Garam Dharam, Mannat Haveli and Gulshan Dhaba too."
What makes the Murthal experience all the more special for Saxena and his friends is the relaxing massage that the full body massage chair at the attractive Mannat Haveli offers. “It’s all what you need after a long drive and a night of dhaba hopping,” Saxena says.
OT Recommends: Your primary reason to drive to Murthal should be the delectable parathas. If you are going in a group (which you must), we suggest each one of you order different parathas and share them. Must-try parathas here include aloo, onion, aloo-pyaaz, gobhi, soya keema, and paneer. Cooked on hot coal tandoor, they are best enjoyed with tangy pickles, green chillies and a cup of hot chai.