Tuesday 17 November 2009

Delhi belly or just a case of a rottten egg?

Well it had to come, didn't it?

So first, a little about our eating arrangements during this month in Delhi. Through the week we have breakfast and lunch at the cafeteria in the Institute's hostel where we are staying and are left to our own devices in the evenings and for lunch and dinner at the weekends. The food is totally vegerarian and is always accompanied by a massive amount of rice and bread. Pancakes, breads - parathas, naans etc abound. Sometimes the veg dish is potato based so the amount of carbs is very high. I'm finding the cooking style quite monotonous and very liquid, there is nothing much to get you teeth into veg wise. The one delightful taste I discovered when we went out as a huge group with the office staff here on Saturday night is a south Indian dish called Rassum - it is served at the start of the meal, in a glass, to drink. Its consistency is like a clear soup. It is made from lentils and coriander and is delicious. I must try and hunt out a recipe. I managed to get some ginger tea that evening as well, served south indian style with metal cup and saucer for pouring from on high - Tuareg style to aireate the tea. The containers were extremely hot, but I proudly showed of my skills and managed to pour from about a couple of feet high straight into the saucer and back again without spilling a single drop!

The restaurants along our local such street are basic and I could see a few worried doubtful faces as we approached them for the first time - but before you jump to conclusions, they are not where my problem has come from! In the UK we'd call them "greasy spoons". I think the best meal we have found so far has to be the night we found beautiful large yellow fin tuna steaks in one of the greasy spoons and got the cook to fry it simply without adding curry spices to it! Otherwise everything has basically the same sauce on it. Being a bit of a foody I am so far quite disappointed with the cuisine - the range of vegetables is limited but this may be because it is winter - mushrooms, onions, spinach, potato, cabbage, peas and chickpeas - this seems to be what is currently available, along with the ubiquitous paneer, which is nice but not every day. Chicken is the only meat around and as expected quite boney, but when we have managed to get it it has been very nice, including a spit roasted / tandooried type one night. So for our dinners we have been successfully finding something locally so far but some folks have ventured further a field to the likes of Khan Market, Dille Haat etc but these are a factor more expensive and required autorickshaw/tuk-tuk rides to get there and back. These are more set up for the tourist market.

What we have found locally is a nice coffee shop for those who need their regular caffiene fix of cappuccino, expresso or the like and for me it does a passable cup of nice darjeeling tea. It seems to be run and frequented almost exclusively by Sikks with the addition of ourselves. Unfortunately it is compabably expensive with a cuppa clocking in at the grand total of 47 or 49 rupees - Exchange rate is around 77 rupees to the pound. Not a lot in Western terms, but having one's daily fix could blow your volunteer allowance for Delhi of 8000 rupees for the month. If you compare that to the 4 rupees for a chai in the Insitute's training building's cafeteria you see the difference. So comfy chairs and coffee/tea become a once a week treat.

Unfortunately, Sunday breakfast's boiled egg was, I think, the culprit and I have had today off, laid up with horrid stomach pain. It could have happened anywhere so I'm doing the usual 'don't eat for 36 hours' to fast the bug out of my system. Grumbling guts kept me awake all last night and the attempt to eat breakfast this morning was way the wrong thing to do. But I have had worse, way worse!

My room mate has returned tonight with fruit and digestive biscuits from Khan Market for me to break the fast with tomorrow, but so far is refusing to tell me how much I owe her! Clearly more than our local market street. But 12 hours after the attempted Monday morning breakfast I feel much better and am sitting up in bed scribbling this down for when I get my next turn on our shared mobile internet dongle. I hope this hasn't been too squeamish for those the sensivite amongst you but I am determined this blog will be an honest reflection of my time here.


  1. Oh dear, sounds familiar. The monotony of the food at the isi leaves much to the imagination - how do they make it so dull? The delhi belly hit me about a week after I arrived, not sure if it was food, water or just the heat in July. Hope you get well soon. Plain yogurt and some slightly green banana is supposed to be a good aid to recovery.
    There's loads of lovely fresh veg here in Orissa though!

  2. Hi Sheila
    are you treating all water that you drink?
    I spent several trouble free weeks in Delhi eating only food I could see cooked in front of me - so most often that was from street vendors.
    My eventual view was that peoblems came from food that was kept after cooking (standard practice in many westernised restaurants) and contaminated in that process - most little nasties are killed by cooking in very hot oil!!
    thinking of you

  3. Sheila, I'm glad to hear you're feeling somewhat better. I'm enjoying reading about your adventures. Keep them coming!

  4. Hilary - It's not Delhi belly, it was just a "off" egg which could have happened anywhere. I was fine the next morning - I took the usual steps of not eating for 36 hrs and cleaned my system out and all is well.

    Ken - no need to watch the water yet as VSO are kindly supplying good quality bottled water for us. I've avoided western foods completely as always and the food from the street vendor/street cafes is fine, no problems there for me. The aforesaid bad egg came with breakfast in the hostel. I think it was just the one egg, hardboiled, and as soon as I bit into it I knew it wasn't right but by then I had swollowed about half of it, so too late. Its texture wasn't consistent with a good egg - too spongy. Reprecusions happened later that day. As I said all is well now

  5. Glad to hear you're up and at em again Sheila...
    are you learning Hindi AND Oriya??

  6. I'm glad to hear that the illness was short lived, Sheila. And, it sounds like you have a great roommate.

  7. Yep, I'm sharing with Jen from Ireland who I met at the Skwid course in Birmingham and who is also going to Orissa, although she will be 14 hours away in Bhubaneswar.