Our first and last overnight bus ride in India got us to Udaipur just in time for sunrise. Our guidebook called Udaipur the “Venice of India”, and though that is quite a stretch, the city is centered around the water – a beautiful and impressive lake that is lined with palaces, forts, and guesthouses. Wonderfully, nearly all the restaurants and guesthouses in the area have rooftop balconies for taking in this fabulous view.
Udaipur was a treat. Yes, it is still full of aggressive Indian salesmen, noisy rickshaws and smelly cows however, it is such a small place that it all feels more manageable. Anytime the chaos is too much, you are never more than a couple minutes stroll from your hotel or another equally welcoming rooftop with this breathtaking view – perfect for sipping on chai and admiring the floating palace, the whitewashed guesthouses lining the lake, and the mountains that hover in the distance. We took a boat ride on the lake, we visited a temple in town, we watched sunsets from our rooftop, we recuperated from being “foiled by India”, but our favorite and most memorable activity in Udaipur was an Indian cooking class.
Neither of us had ever taken a cooking class before, but we were excited as we obviously love Indian food and wanted to learn how to cook it better at home. Our instructor, Shashi, was a widow who had lost her husband when her sons were young. The Indian caste system did not allow her to remarry, but she had no way to support herself without her late husband’s income (and family members did not come to her rescue). After working for years doing laundry and sewing projects for the many hotels and tourists in town, she came up with the idea to start a cooking class. Through trial and error and her many international customers, she learned English and she now operates one of the most successful courses in town. Her class is so popular, it has surpassed the floating palace as the #1 activity in Udaipur according to TripAdvisor! She was a very fun and inspirational lady and the day we were in class, her oldest son was off to take his exams for university admission so she has obviously done well for herself and her family.
Our group mates were a couple from The Netherlands. They were wonderful partners in crime as we worked our way through Shashi’s recipe book. We sliced and diced veggies; we deep-fried pakora; we hand-rolled naan and roti; we simmered curries; we watched Shashi in action; we took notes; and we had a wonderful time. The course was topped off with an over-the-top meal that we couldn’t find the room to finish (thanks to all the snacking along the way). Our first cooking class was a roaring success and we look forward to trying to recreate Shashi’s masterpieces when we get home.