As many of you know, or will discover, I love Indian food (well food in general!), so I am always keen to try food tours wherever I can. When visiting Varanasi I stayed in the fantastic STOPS Hostel which has a mixture of rooms and lots of communal areas to meet other travellers – perfect! They offer an amazing the tour package which includes 4 tours (Market, Food, Ghats and Temples) and cost 800 Rs in total each (about £8).
Our guide for the food tour was the amazingly charismatic Anil who makes you laugh and learn with his impressive rhymes! He has definitely been one of the best tour guides I have ever experienced; nothing was too much hassle, never too many questions and a very friendly guy! The trip would have 5 stops of delicious cuisine, some of which are fairly special to Varanasi.
Our first stop, and perhaps my favourite was at Kashi Chaat Bhandar, a small local restaurant that specialises in lots of different varieties of Chaat which originates from Uttar Pradesh state. The restaurant was full of locals, always a good sign, and Anil ordered us 7 varieties to share between us.
Some of which I have had similar to at home and others were brand new, particularly their unique tomato Chaat that you can only get at this one restaurant. They were all utterly delicious and I went back the next day for 3 more Chaat, which only cost 90Rs ( approx. 90p!).
The second stop was in the Muslim area of the city, which is where you will locate more non-veg options. Here we sampled a buffalo wrap ( fairly spicy for me!) and a delicious egg roll. It is like a chapatti, cooked with an omelette on it, then they add onions, tomatoes, herbs and spices before rolling it up for you to eat – amazing! The closest I have found in London is Kati Roll in Soho!
After finishing our ‘main’ meals we were then taken to the famous Blue Lassi shop, that sells over 80 varieties of Lassi. I opted for a banana lassi and was not disappointed! The walls are also covered in passport pictures of visitors and having one in my purse I couldn’t resist adding myself to the walls of fame!
Just around the corner we visited one of the oldest Indian sweet shops in Varanasi that has been trading for over 100 years! Unfortunately the rows and rows of sweets to chose from and free samples distracted me from taking a picture! The shop sells 3 main types of sweet: condensed milk based, cashew nuts based and dried fruit based. They are all extremely ornate and many are covered in silver or gold foil! We tried a cashew and pistachio based one and a condensed milk ball. They are both very sweet, which is typical of Indian products that can be overly sweet, even with my sweet tooth! I would definitely recommend trying one of the condensed milk varieties if you can!
Our last stop was the paan shop. Paan is an Indian tradition/habit that has 2 variations: tobacco or sweet. Many people chew the tobacco paan, that leaves the infamous red colour in their mouth and leads to excessive spitting. It is highly addictive and also very dangerous, leading to a rise in mouth cancer in India. The sweet variety famously from Varanasi is however safe to try and Barack Obama even tried it on his visit to India. The sweet paan is a combination of sweet minty ingredients wrapped in a silver foiled beetle leaf that you chew and can swallow. It is meant to aid digestion and is fairly refreshing with a strong toothpaste like taste! I would see more of paan on the market tour.
The food tour was definitely worthwhile and gave me lots of places to go back to over the next few days for dinner and ideas for cooking at home!
Bookings are now taken online via the website. Residents of the hostel & non-residents are welcome!
Date of Travel: January 2016