Contributed by: James C. | Last Date of Travel: June 2011
Kosher travelers not only want to indulge in India’s cultural highlights, they want to enjoy quality meals that meet the requirements of Jewish dietary laws. With a vibrant Jewish heritage, India offers culinary diversity, suitable for the observant kosher traveller. Flights to India can take you to the heart of three unique Jewish communities, where you can experience authentic Indian – Jewish kosher cuisine. Each community abides by the Kosher laws but has adapted Indian influences into the style of cooking, resulting in a distinct fusion of tastes and flavours.
Outside of the Chabad Centres, Bayit Yehudi (a string of open houses for Israeli and Jewish travelers in India), Lev Yehudi, Jewish institutions, guest houses and/or using the services of kosher travel agents in these communities, a Kosher menu will be hard to find. While pre-packaged kosher food is available, it might not always be suitable to carry as you travel around. Depending on where you choose to travel, you’ll have to fend for yourself! It’s also worth highlighting that your airline meal may not be kosher – or at least there may not be a kosher meal that you’re interested in eating. Some airlines are better at others at this.
Seek out Kosher friendly food with:
- The Bene-Israeli Jewish Community of Mumbai
Mumbai is home to the Bene Israel, the oldest and largest Jewish community. This community has adapted to the local flavors of Marathi cuisine. The dishes are redolent with spices. Coconuts and mangoes are staples. Only fish, sheep, goats and certain fowl are eaten – no beef. Expect dishes including flat bread, rice and/or lentils, and vegetable or fish curries. Bombil-batata with moong dal khichdi is a typical Saturday night meal. On the Sabbath, they enjoy a semolina and coconut milk dish called ‘kanavili’. In Mumbai you’ll also find the only Kosher Bakery in India to make strictly Kosher products, which is housed on the ground floor of the ORT India building at Worli.
- The Black Jews of Cochin
In this small community, you’ll find the kosher cooking is spicy with an emphasis on using ginger, coriander, mustard seed, fresh and dry hot chili, fenugreek, cardamom and the ever-present curry leaves. No meat, only a little poultry is eaten. Spicy fish curries and rice cooked with coconut milk, saffron and almonds is common in Cochin kosher cuisine.
- The Baghdadi Jewish Community in Calcutta
This community brought with them dishes like Hameen (Vegetables and Meat) and Koobe (Stuffed Dumplings). These were later adapted to include Bengali spices such as ginger and turmeric and commonly use vegetables like squashes and spinach. Baghdadi Jewish parathas and beef curry are popular.
Well, it depends on where in India you plan to visit. India is a big country. Very big and unless you’re planning to do a tour of the entire country, you will need to be specific about where you’re going and what you will be able to see during your time there.
Here’s 5 things you absolutely must to on a trip to India
- Visit the Taj Mahal – It’s one of the seven wonders and absolutely worth the visit.
- Take a camal ride – Trek through the sands on one of the many ‘ships of the desert’
- Try a (kosher) curry – Regardless of whether or not you like spicey food, you simply can’t visit India without sampling one the spicey curries on offer.
- Go to the beach- if you’re visiting Goa the beaches are absolutely worth a visit.
- Go to the market – dive headfirst into the chaotic pace of life that India is known for
There are currently 33 synagogues in India. Not all are in use and some date as far back as the mid sixteenth century. Although Jews arrived in India long before this, it took a considerable amount of time before the first synagogues were built. The most famous synagogues in India are the Baghdadi, Bene Israel, and Cochin synagogues.
Here’s a decent list of the prayer halls and synagogues in India. We recommend calling or emailing them to confirm their hours and if they’re still around.