We were spoilt for choice with places to do cooking lessons in Rajasthan’s Udaipur. Just like tailors and art classes, cooking classes are advertised and available on every street. It hadn’t been like that in any other town. Udaipur was just dying to share its knowledge with us.
Unfortunately my travelling wardrobe doesn’t place tailored clothes high on its list of priorities and while my drawing skills could be better, they’re not something I’ve thought of improving since early high school. Cooking however- now that’s useful to me.
Like any situation with too many choices (dessert menus for example) it’s hard to choose which one to go with. But eventually the cooking class nearest to us won the pleasure of teaching us two South Africans how to put together various Indian dishes.
You might be surprised to know that Indian food is not actually very hot. That’s not to say a lot of spices aren’t used, it’s just that our idea of the hot and spicy Indian cuisine is a little exaggerated. Spiced food does not necessarily equal hot food. If you want to cook a legit, no premade sauces Indian dish, be prepared to stock up on your garlic, your ginger, ground spices like cumin, coriander and turmeric and unground spices like bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and star aniseed. These and more are kept in ‘ground’ and ‘unground’ spice boxes that hold a very important position in the Indian kitchen.
Reece and I took turns being scribe and photographer. I used my fixed 50 lens for the occasion because I wasn’t sure what light we’d be dealing with. It would give me more to work with if the light situation was less than ideal. For that reason it was hard to get any wide angle shots, but at least you get a good idea of what the food looks like!
Most Indians are vegetarians and our cooking class was 100% veg too. Potatoes, lentils, rice, tomatoes, eggplant, onions and breads are what made up the bulk of our dishes. Not to mention the spices. First we learnt what goes into the making of masala chai, a spiced milky tea that has made up a big part of my diet in India. From there we made the lentil based Dal Fry, Vegetable Pulau, mixed vegetables and of course the various forms of Chapati (roti); plain, butter, potato and sweet.
Throughout the process we chatted with our teacher’s son who we had a few years on but who ran a successful business in the town and did his fair share of travel. We tested him on world capitals and he gave us riddles to figure out. He told us of how cast members from the movie The Next Best Marigold Hotel came for lessons and how just a few weeks ago another South African couple stood where we did, learning the basics of Indian cuisine. He showed us their picture but alas, their faces didn’t register. After eating restaurant meals three times a day, our freshly home cooked meal was more than welcome and truly delicious! If you find yourself in the Rajasthani town of Udaipur, don’t hesitate to increase your Indian cooking knowledge. They are well equipped to help you do so!