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July 26, 2018


I therefore conclude that if you skip meat, eat rice and bread, and eat spicy, you may not gain weight.

At least, that’s what happened during my last trip to India. Every morning at breakfast my favorite waiter Shlok would bring me his suggested “plate of the day”—his own selection of different South Indian breads—idli, uttapam, dosa, and Mysore megavada, with sidings of Shambar (like a spicy minestrone with spices) and Bhaji (a potato curry).

Before leaving for this trip I was watching local television and caught a feature of a Filipino who made a business on spice. He says it made him lose weight and he was on my mind as I savored the spicy soups and dips served even at breakfast. So my mental note: eat spicy, for as long as you can still enjoy the flavor. I do not like spice to dull my senses. I want spices to enhance the inherent food flavors. Thus, let’s go spicy. And to balance it off, Shlok gave me some fresh yogurt, which cools the mouth and neutralizes a spice that may be too much, in some recipes.

This trip was also a chance to eat vegetarian everyday. I mentioned in a previous write up that in India, everyone gives you a choice of veg or non-veg. Be it in a posh hotel dinner or in a sidewalk restaurant, there are vegetarian choices. I had to detox after a few days of not being able to skip chicken and some meats during a recent visit to the south. So I so looked forward to this trip.

You can also pre-order a vegetarian meal from the airlines. It does not matter if you are travelling on Business class or coach. All airlines I have taken give you a choice for vegetarian meals. Yes sometimes they just serve you potatoes, but on most 4-star and 5-star Skytrax you have a wide choice of Asian Vegetarian, Indian vegetarian, Moslem vegetarian, Lacto-ovo vegetarian—about 6 to 8 choices of just vegetarian food choices. There is no excuse not to be able to eat while in the air. And an extra bonus: you get served ahead of everyone (in economy) because they want to get the special meals out of the way!

You can google their exact descriptions but here are my recommendations.

The breads: Dosa, Poori, Idli (like a puto rice cake), uttapam and pratha—just for breakfast.

Poori and pratha with butter

The sauces or dips: Shambar and Bhaji

Over at our hotel snack buffet, there are samosas (like empanadas), vegetarian tea sandwiches, pakora, and local and western desserts like India’s gulab jamun and fruits. India is proud and known for their fresh mangoes (tastes like a cross between indian mango and our Guimaras).

And at the formal dinners, you can still opt for vegetarian—usually served in a thali a round metal plate usually in gold or silver, and with small dishes of lentils like dal makhani, potatoes, curries, yougurt and served with fresh oven-hot breads like naan and chapatis.

Back to my breakfast, I had a treat of fresh homemade buffalo butter and freshly-made Pratha. You slather it with butter and take it with a swig of brewed coffee. We also enjoyed the “doughnuts” a mysore specialty made with rice flour and slightly fried to a crunch that dunks well in the potato curry or Shambar. “Dip it in any of the sauces,” Shlok says. Shlok is from the North but loves South indian cuisine. So I asked, “What about northern cuisine?” He just smiles and recalls how his mother made breads fresh everyday, a skill every Mama in India happens to have.

Yes, Vegetarian can be liberating as you just skip through the meats and head for the greens and the breads. Even the rice dishes are plenty—biryani, pulao (a yellow rice) and everything is made with Basmati rice, another known “diet” or healthier rice option—long grains of heirloom varieties of rice native to India.

And guess what? I am back and I stepped on my scale. There was no weight gain. That’s the vegetarian effect, I think. I went to Cagayan for a night last week and gained four pounds. I was in India for almost a week, ate as much vegetarian as I could, and did not gain an ounce. It must be the rice and the fresh breads—no additives, just all-natural and made from healthier grains.

And the one new secret? It must also be the spice. And the spices, one called Gunpowder, are plenty. So try going vegetarian sometime. It’s good for your health and good for the soul. You will find that a diet without much or no meat makes one more focused, meditative and probably more contented, too.

Go veg sometime. Detox. Spice up. Be happy.



Photos by Chit Juan

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