Okay, I didn't really go to India. But I did the next best thing: I went to Memphis' annual India Fest this weekend. Every year, the India Association of Memphis puts on this massive festival with food from every state of India, dance performances, vendors selling saris and jewelry, and lots of henna artists.
They really go all out with the decor. Check out this huge Taj Mahal!
My friends Cassi, Leslie, and her daughter Toya (all pictured here), and Stephanie, Richard, and their kid Peter all met up at the fest. And yes, I wore an Indian shirt and a bindhi on my head. I'm a nerd.
We immediately went in search of food, but we didn't have to go far since the fest has soooooooo much food. It's impossible to try even a smidgeon of what's offered. Every year, I try to vary what I eat. But I always, always order a Samosa (pictured here with a sweet tamarind sauce):
There are food booths representing the various states of India, so I like to order a small dish from several states so I can sample my way around India. After I downed my samosa, I found this Idli with Sambar at another booth:
Idli, the white things, are lentil and rice dumplings. They're like little soft pieces of bread, and they're served with a coconut sauce. That soup is sambar, a tamarind and pigeon pea stew. It's often served with idli. I like to dip my idli in the soup.
As I was walking to find a place to sit and eat my sambar and idli, I stumbled across a vendor selling my favorite Indian food — Vada!!
They look like donuts, but vada are actually savory. They're made with dal or lentil flour, and they're typically served with a sauce. This one was served with a brothy soup that had chunks of potato. So good!
Now, I had mostly chaat (street food that's typically served at roadside carts in India), but there were plenty of full meals offered too. I just didn't want to fill up in one place, so I stuck with snacky fare.
I was pretty full after all the chaat I'd eaten so far, but I kept seeing people walking around with plates of this puffed rice looking stuff. And I really wanted to try it! I'd had some before, but I had no idea what it was called. So I went from booth to booth, looking for this stuff. I finally found it when we were in line for henna tattoos. The booth next to the henna artist was selling this Bhel Puri:
Bhel puri is a spicy, savory street food snack made with puffed rice, veggies, and tamarind sauce. This plate had fresh onions, sev snack sticks, cilantro, peanuts, and some other stuff. It was so amazing. I savored every bite while Cassi and I waited in line for our henna tattoos.
Here I am getting my henna done:
And here's the finished product. This black stuff flakes off, leaving behind that brown henna dye that stays on your skin for a few days: