When I started writing this blog post, I realised I should take some time out first to beat myself up. I am the ultimate blunder queen and it seems I have done it again. Here I am about to write about the delicious yummy food of the Andaman Islands, to tell you about the fresh seafood and local cuisine which I enjoyed there….and I suddenly realise my mistake.
During my 10-day visit to Port Blair and Havelock Island, I ate so much but never had to worry about putting on weight since we walked a lot! And since we walked a lot, we ate a lot too! And in the middle of all this walking and talking and eating, I forgot to click pictures of what I was eating.
I envy all those people out there who take a few moments out to click a picture of the food served on their plate before they dig in. I have always, well,… dug in. So please forgive me for not clicking pictures of Andaman’s glorious seafood. It was mouth-watering and you will just have to take my word for it. Except for these three photos here, and especially proud of the top picture.
No butter chicken please
Our first meal there, and husband says, “Let’s have butter chicken.” I wanted to strangle him right there…we live in north India and all there is to eat there is Butter Chicken (and matter paneer and aloo gobhi). And I was not going to let Butter Chicken sabotage my culinary vacation. But I was surprised to see that most hotels’ menu were predominantly north Indian. As our guide Kuber later told me, Andaman’s food habits include many north Indian dishes. I was expecting it to be only seafood, but that was not the case. The seafood section of the menus in Port Blair was quite tiny and expensive. But we still made it a point to local food and snacks whenever we could.
All the beaches in Andaman and Nicobar– at least the ones open to tourists– will have some small shops or vendors with a wicker basket where you can have light snacks. But in the midst of all those kurkure and chips packets, I could see bhel being sold by a couple of guys who were carrying a portable stand in which they stored the various ingredients of bhel.
They had a special variety, called Chana bhel, which had boiled black chana with finely chopped onion, tomatoes, a bit of thin sev and lots of shredded coconut with spices. They would roll up a paper into a cone and serve this bhel in it with a banana-leaf spoon. All for Rs30. It seems Bengal Gram is very popular here, as the boiled variety was served as chakna with drinks in local bars.
Another popular beach item is Kulfi. Just for Rs 20, a refreshing Kulfi would re-energise me for the long walks and ferry rides.
Of course, you would find the occasional restaurant that would serve south Indian items like Idli-Sambhar, Vada, Dosa, Uttapam etc.
Phish and Prawns
In terms of seafood, Havelock offered tremendous varieties of dishes. It has the best restaurants and in all budget ranges — from local stalls to boho-style restos — and unless specified, they all served fish and prawns dishes. Check out Fat Martin on Beach no.5 in Havelock, where I had the most awesome Grilled Tiger Prawns with Garlic Butter sauce. There are many other good eating joints there, like Anju Coco and Full Moon Cafe, that serve delicious continental seafood.
At the Havelock jetty, check out B3 — Barefoot Bar & Brassiere, I am so proud to say that the fish steak served with salad was an absolute delight. After finishing a good meal off with a cheesecake and panna cotta, there was only one thing left to do — sleep. Now B3 is an open air restaurant on situated on the first floor, and there is a constant breeze that caress you. A full tummy and a breeze is a heady mixture for us Indians, who love their afternoon nap. But obviously, B3 is not about to let us Indians go off to sleep on their long benches, not when there are people waiting for you to vacate that bench.
But I have to admit, we had the best meal in small dhabas where the local drivers and workers eat. We had this homely food twice- first on our way back from Jolly Buoy Island and the other time while returning from Baratang Island. Now there is fixed meal menu at such dhabas— steamed rice, with daal, sabji and papad. For non-vegetarians, sabji is accompanied by fish fry or fish curry. Oh by the way, did I mention that you can have unlimited rice and daal? (I love how multiple servings is called Unlimited in India.) And all this for mere Rs 100!
And later, quench your thirst with some coconut water. You will find many vendors who would open up a green coconut on the spot and slip in a straw. Once you are done drinking the water, they would crack it open and give it back so that you can eat the tender white coconut (called malai in Hindi). I asked a vendor, out of curiosity, what they do with all these empty coconut shells. He told me that they bury these shells with the purpose of making manure, which would be ready in an year’s time.