Looking back at my stay in Gurgaon, I am proud of myself when it comes to the variety of new foods that I tried. I remember five years ago when I went to school in Singapore I would hardly touch curry – look at me now! I am so appreciative of Negi Chef and his staff for keeping me safe and never once getting me gluten’d. I’m glad I asked him countless times to surprise me with my meals so that I branched out and tried so many new delicious dishes and I am proud that I avoided the Western food on the menu. Sure some people might say that I wasn’t adventurous since I barely ate outside of the hotel. But given the situation I was in as a solo female working during the night in India and that due to safety reasons I couldn’t leave the hotel unless if I was accompanied by colleagues, I’d say I did well. I’m just glad I got to try so many new amazing foods!
One of my favourite experiences of my trip was the evening I spent at a colleague’s family home eating a meal with his lovely wife, beautiful spunky kid and gorgeous German Shepard. I am so grateful for this evening. His daughter is five years old and only speaks Bengali and Hindi, with a few words of English so it was really cute watching her try to speak with me! We bonded over ice cream and Angry Birds, two of her few English words.
At MoMo, the hotel’s main restaurant, there was a huge dessert buffet full of a rotating assortment of delicious and beautiful looking Western and European desserts. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat any of them but I did walk past them each day. So thankfully I still managed to have a dessert every few days to satisfy my sweet tooth, including two traditional gluten free Indian desserts.
As one of the desserts I was served as part of a surprise meal Negi Chef prepared, I was given Moong dal halwa. Now when I ate it, I wasn’t sure what it was but Negi Chef explained it to me the following day. Moong dal halwa is a grain that is finely ground down with clarified butter and sugar. It was served with crushed pistachios. Visually, it didn’t look like much but it tasted really good. You can only imagine with that much ghee and sugar that it was sweet and not very healthy – but such a yummy treat!
At home my staple Indian dishes are butter chicken, curry chicken, aloo gobi and vegetable biryani. It’s funny how quickly butter chicken became boring in India. I think I only ate it twice as there were so many other more delicious meals to try. I am proud of how many different types of dishes I tried while in India. Actually, during my trip I started asking Negi Chef to surprise me with the dinners he prepared me. This was a fantastic way to try a wide variety of dishes and it really opened my eyes and taste buds to a whole new world of Indian dishes.
Prior to my first day in the Gurgaon office, Negi Chef told me he would prepare me a lunch to bring to work. Perfect, I thought, that way I would know that I was eating safely and gluten free. After all I was told a few times to only trust the food at the hotel, not the stuff at work. Well there I was my first day at our Gurgaon office, packed lunch in hand. When I got there and asked my colleague where the kitchen was so I could put my lunch in the fridge he said there was no fridge. “Wait, no fridge? But how will my lunch stay cold then?” I thought. Instead, he brought me downstairs to the cafeteria and he asked one of the vendors to put my food in the beverage fridge full of pop. Well, from then on I had a new routine of eating my lunch during first break so that it had less of a chance to go bad. Then I’d eat a banana or Lara bar during dinner break.
Quickly I learned how much I love traditional Southern Indian breakfast dishes and I am proud to say I only ordered a plain cheese omelette a couple times throughout my stay.
Masala Dosa was hands down my favourite breakfast. It was just disappointing that I could only eat it on the weekends since they weren’t able to make it on the weekdays when I ate breakfast at 3:30 p.m. before work. For the first week I actually stayed up until 8:00 a.m. after work so that I could eat this for breakfast before going to bed, but I quickly realized this was greatly messing up my sleeping pattern. Dosa is a thin rice flour and yellow lentil pancake wrapped like a crepe and usually filled with delicious potatoes. It is served with coconut chutney and lentil broth. The breakfast chefs on the weekend would always know my order. One morning I had a conversation with the Dosa chef about how making dosas is a skilled technique. The batter is made ahead of time and then has to be left out for a while before cooking it. To cook, the batter is quickly poured in a circle on the grill and flattened out into a perfect circle with a wooden tool. They were so good, I hope I can find them in Toronto!
I think we all agree that traveling gluten free can be a bit scary. What about language barriers and awareness levels? Do they understand the risk of cross contamination? Will I be able to taste the local food or will I be stuck relying on fruit, nuts and granola bars, essentially only skimming the surface on the local culture?
But here I am on a short term business assignment in India. I will be living in a hotel in Gurgaon, a subdivision of Delhi, for the next five weeks.
I’d like to proudly say that it has always been a dream of mine to work overseas. Here I am at age 25 having just got back from a work assignment in India. It was challenging, exciting, rewarding and scary at times…but I did it! When I was asked to go abroad, I didn’t stop to think that it might be difficult to find gluten free food. I promised myself three years ago when I found out I had to let gluten go that I would never let gluten stand in the way of me living my life or traveling the world. I’m happy to say that my severe gluten intolerance did not stand in the way of fulfilling a lifelong dream. I took the challenge in stride. This time I was lucky since India is one of the most naturally gluten free cuisines in the world and I was staying at a nice hotel, but it still gives me confidence that I can successfully, safely and deliciously travel the world for business and pleasure and not let gluten hold me back.