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Spice of Life Food Tours add Culture and Adventure
Food is the best way for people and cultures to come together, said my guide. With that we set off on a journey of spice, flavors and #culture. Not only did we learn about Indian and Pakistan #foodanddrink, but also about their fashions and religions. An exotic holiday in #Chicago.
The main focus on the Spice of Life Food & Culture Tour is culinary, but it is more than just your average eating tour. Food is the focal point, but the culture of India and Pakistan and the “Little India” neighborhood on Devon Avenue are the other main aspects.
Our tour guide Mohammad Ali quoted Mark Twain early on our tour when he said “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” I was struck immediately by his passion for bringing cultures together.
I was struck immediately by his passion for bringing cultures together
This is more than a job or a business for him. It is what he loves to do. Food, he said, is the best way for people and cultures to come together.
I could not argue with him on this point as I had eschewed NFL football on a Sunday afternoon and braved weather that spawned tornadoes across the Midwest in order to eat some delicious Indian cuisine. Fortunately, I did not have long to wait.
Little India Tour
Breakfast on the Ledge
Bikes at Night
We met at the India Book House in Chicago’s Little India neighborhood on Devon Avenue. Mohammad sat in front of a table of what Americans would call appetizers. Mohammad introduced the tour, the basics of Indian cuisine, and discussed the dishes in front of him including samosas and aloo tikki. The items were served with a side of delicious tamarind and mint chutney.
After waking up and realizing there was no Indian princess and elephant, it was off to Roopkala Beauty Salon for some henna. In only five minutes a beautiful design was drying on my hand.
Now that we had some culture under our belt, it was time to eat again.
Now that we had some culture under our belt, it was time to eat again
We hit Tiffin Indian Restaurant for more deliciousness. We enjoyed garlic nan with rice and several chicken and vegetable entries including buttered chicken, which was my favorite.
Every dish was very flavorful and none of it was all that spicy contrary to what many think and are turned off by Indian cuisine. We also enjoyed red wine that Mohammad picked out that paired perfectly with the menu items in front of us. The meal was topped off with an incredible frozen orange peel dish with whipped cream on top. It tasted like orange sherbert. It was fabulous.
After food, clothing, and more food, it was time to get some religion – after all, it was Sunday. We stopped in at the only Sikh Temple in Chicago. We had to cover our heads and take off our shoes in order to go upstairs, but once inside we were greeted warmly.
After getting our religion, it was shopping time. We entered Resham, a shop on Devon that features authentic Indian goods bought from artisans in small towns located throughout the country. The owner frequently visited India and instead of buying assembly line goods, would go to small villages and buy from local craftsmen.
Pakistan was next on the menu. We entered JK Kabab just off the Devon strip on Rockwell. This one was for meat lovers as we enjoyed chicken, beef, and lamb over rice. They can accommodate vegetarians with a tofu option.
They can accommodate vegetarians with a tofu option
Mohammad offered us all a Pakistani cream soda, which had a unique floral taste to it.
The last stop was for coconut water at a small little bistro. We were given a coconut with a hole in the top and a straw. I was surprised how fresh the juice was and cracked open the shell when I got home and enjoyed the jelly. It was a perfect end to the afternoon.
Although this tour was compliments of Spice of Life Tours, it does not alter the fact that I would completely recommend the tour to anyone else and would pay myself to go on it again.
The price of the tour is around $65.00. If this sounds a little high at first, you have to break down what you are receiving. When you do this it is very reasonable.
If there was no food involved and you just went on a cultural walking tour with someone with Mohammad’s knowledge and experience for an hour or two. You can add up those figures and see the tour is well worth the cost.
The best reason for the tour is for Mohammad’s personality. He is passionate about what he does, enjoys the interaction with his clientele, and is happy to tailor it depending on the needs of the group.