Travel, Kids and Food: India

May 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm
Dinnertime - its been a very long day!

Hotel buffets are often lavish affairs

Today I am starting a new series within the blog relating to the foods available for kids when traveling. I’ll be looking at a whole selection of countries and discussing the food as far as kids are concerned.

Let’s start with India. India is one of my family’s favorite countries. The country is probably the most fascinating we have ever visited, and while travel with kids in India certainly can be challenging at times, it is simply unforgettable.

So what can kids eat in India?

On our very first morning we went down to the hotel breakfast room in Mumbai and quickly learned that in India, hotels offer two types of breakfasts – there is the “Indian” breakfast – which varies depending on where you are in India but rest assured it will be spicy and unfamiliar names such as idlis, wadas and similar will pop up.  An there will be a standard Western style breakfast.

The Indian breakfast will consist of various curries and unusual bread type fare  (fried or not). In the South, rice dishes are dominant. For the adventurous it is often amazing and Daniel who was only seven at the time loved the Indian food. But let’s be honest – not every western kid is going to want to eat curry for breakfast. That’s where the Western breakfast comes in – eggs, toast, cereal, milk, regular bread, jams – basically a normal breakfast. To summarise, there is no reason why any kid should go hungry at breakfast.

An Indian menu written in latin characters may as well be in a totally foreign language if one is not familiar with Indian food to some degree. On my first trip to India, I read the menu but couldn’t understand a word. In the end I asked for help, said I didn’t want anything very spicy, and they brought me a dish usually reserved for kids – which I enjoyed very much.

So, one can see Aloo Mattar on the menu, but what does it all mean? By and large the wait staff in good restaurants and in hotels are able to help translate,  but if you are on the road then it helps to have a small glossary of Indian food descriptions on hand. The great thing about India is that so many restaurants also offer a very familiar Chinese style menu. So if you can’t decipher or you don’t want aloo gobi or palak paneer, then you may as well have sweet and sour chicken or noodles or something Chinese. We found that the Western dishes served in India were poor – so, I am not sure I’d suggest ordering spaghetti with tomato sauce, even if it’s at a five-star hotel restaurant. If your kid eats rice and nan bread, he or she will always have something to eat in India.

By and large, our kids had no trouble eating in India – the food was often excellent, and buffet meals were very easy to negotiate with kids. We didn’t eat street food – India has horrible hygiene on the streets and however tempting it may look, I suggest to keep away. Another tip is not to order what the restaurant clearly doesn’t specialise in – Daniel ordered chicken at a fish restaurant, with dismal results.

Negotiating an Indian meal

Negotiating an Indian meal

Some snacks are very local.

Some snacks are very local.

As for snacks – one can find a huge assortment – chips, cookies, chocolate – the flavors may be totally new – masala flavored chips for example, but why not try it. The fruit is excellent, and we saw stalls selling cucumbers for snacks – peeled as you wait! Local India sweets are wonderful if you have a sweet tooth.

Drinks wise one will find bottle water everywhere as well as the local soda products – variations of cola drinks and others, big name drinks and we really enjoyed Maaza – a mango flavored drink made by Coke.

Overall, India and kids get along just fine!

I plan great family trips to India. For more info click here.