Top tips for foodie travellers on trains in India

Indian train travel is, in many ways, a feast for the senses. Here’s how to make it a particularly tasty one:

Early morning at Madgaon train station, Goa, India

1. Buy your own tiffin tin

A sure fire way to ensure you eat tasty, freshly prepared food on your train journey is by taking your own packed meal onboard. We did this by buying one of the local tiffin tins, a multi-tiered metal container (basically the Indian equivalent of a lunchbox), and would then ask our hotel or favourite restaurant to fill it up with the dishes of our choice. For ease, you could just as simply buy easy to carry items, such as stuffed parathas and samosas.

2. Pack a spoon

A towel may be about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can carry. But if you’re on an Indian train and intending to buy or, as per tip one, bring a meal, I might rather suggest taking your own spoon. Most of the long distance trains we took offered meals for lunch and dinner, a choice of veg or non veg thalis and biryanis, and all of these meals came with the kind of plastic spoons that were about the size of a McDonalds coffee stirrer and, tragically, not half as strong.

3. Never underestimate the generosity of Indian travellers

Not once but on two occasions, Indian families tried to ply us with food from their own plate. The first time, a young woman interrupted our meal, because, she translated, her mother was worried we were eating our daal without any pickle, and wanted us to have some. The second time, we had been feeling poorly, and were asked plaintively by a young couple, who told us, we have watched you from 6.30am to 2 pm and you haven’t eaten anything; please, you must eat this biryani.

4. Take biscuits

One, because they’re delicious. Two, because they’re a good ice breaker, and easy to share with other passengers (particularly as they are probably also plotting on how best to feed you). And three, because you can’t just rely on the onboard chai wallah (serving 10-sugar tea) for the onset of your future diabetes, can you?

5. If you forget all of the above, never fear

On a single train journey, hawkers selling everything from bottled water, juices and lassis (a yoghurt drink) to cucumbers peeled in front of your eyes, crisps, Indian sweets, omelettes and daal vada (like a lentil falafel), will pass through the train. Many more than once.

For information on how to book trains in India, and what it’s like onboard, go to Man in Seat Sixty One