In India you are constantly harassed by people trying to get you into their stores, rickshaw drivers asking if you need a ride and restaurant owners asking if you are hungry. One day, while visiting a temple I overheard another tour guide ramble off to tourists about the things that he offered. As he spoke though, my ears suddenly perked up. He was talking about a cooking class.
I was a bit hesitant about the legitimacy of the cooking class, given the pushy way that he was selling it. However, there was no harm in asking him more about it.
When I investigated, he told me that the price was 650 rupees. This was a good start – I had looked into cooking classes for a while and had never seen anything less than 1,300. I was intrigued. He went on to tell me that the class took about three hours – seemed legit. When I asked him what we learned to cook he rambled off a whole concoction of delicious traditional Indian dishes that made my mouth water. SOLD.
I got two of my friends to come along with me as well as another guy – that I happened to meet just a couple of hours before. We met in front of Virupaksha Temple – the main temple in Hampi. The man who was selling me the cooking class was there also with a tuk-tuk driver ready to take us all out to New Hampi Town where the woman’s house was. This was definitely going to be an authentic Indian cooking class.
The woman teaching us to cook was the sweetest woman ever. She was very friendly and had a good sense of humour. She had a daughter but we didn’t get to meet her because she was at school. If you take an evening cooking class I am sure you will get to meet her.
The woman greeted us with fresh lemonade – very much appreciated in the Indian heat – and we enjoyed sipping it while she finished getting prepped.
Our menu for the day was the following:
Butter Paneer Masala (we even made the paneer!)
It was so fun to watch and learn. One of our friends took notes on the ingredients and directions to share with all of us afterwords.
We didn’t actually do any of the cooking, we just sat there trying to take in all the crazy spices and vegetables she was using. The ingredients were all so fresh and filled the air with a colourful aroma. When adding cinnamon to a dish, she would take a fresh cinnamon stick and grind it up herself. The smells from the cooking were making us hungry.
I love Indian food but have always struggled with how to make it. Watching the process not only helped me learn but added to my appreciation of the cuisine. There is so much thought and consideration given to each element of the food.
My favourite dish to make – and to eat – was the butter paneer masala. This was so interesting to me because we actually got to see her make the paneer (cottage cheese) from scratch. You can learn how to make paneer online here if India is too far of a stretch. On top the homemade paneer, everything else about this dish was absolutely delicious. It was very complicated with its mixture of spices, so I am thankful that I had my friend to take notes for me. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it now.
When it got to the onion pakoras that was also a fun one to watch as the batter and vegetables fried to a crisp. The best part about this dish was that we got to nibble on them as they came out of the oil. The smells in the kitchen of fresh ginger and turmeric continued to stir up our appetite.
The one dish that we did get our hands dirty for was the roti (Indian bread). We each watched her make the dough, roll out the roti and cook it on the frying pan. Then we each got to try rolling our own dough and frying it. It’s fair to say that we all needed a little more practice.
The best part of all came after our sad-looking rotis were finished. We got to eat it! She served us each a plate with a portion of each perfect creation on it.
We had so much food and everything tasted amazing! I wanted to keep eating forever but I was quickly stuffed – it must have been from all of the pakoras I was snacking on.
Once I get back home the first thing that I am going to do it hit up the spice section in my local market. If I wasn’t traveling for a few more months I would have loved to have stocked up on spices in India and brought them back with me. I can’t wait to practice my roti making skills and share some delicious Indian food with my friends – that is, if I’m willing to share.