“There is no love more sincere than the love for food” said George Bernard Shaw. If this is gospel truth for you, then you are a die-hard foodie. And for a foodie in India, NH 44 is paradise – a sublime and delicious experience.

NH 44, or National Highway 44, is the longest running highway in the country. It originates from Srinagar in the north and terminates in Kanyakumari in the south. Previously known as NH 7, this highway covers a mammoth distance of 3,745 kilometres, passing through the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

 

While India, renowned for its cultural heritage and diversity is showcased in its entirety in this stretch of travel, all that should concern a foodie is the variety of food available on this NH. Even though it’s just one single highway, each and every state you pass through throws up a completely different taste. There is no better evidence of the variety of food in India than NH 44, and no better way of tasting the gastronomical delights of the country than taking pit stops through the length of the highway, preferably at least one in each state!

 

Before you start on this epic gastronomic journey from J&K, sample the homely Kashmiri food in one of the numerous dhabas. Rich and replete with the flavour of spices like cardamom, cloves, saffron and cinnamon, Kashmiri cuisine does justice to the picturesque beauty and serenity of the place, rightly termed as “heaven on Earth”. Yakhni Pulao, Dum Aloo and Mutton Rogan Josh are the staples of all dhabas here. You will also find Kahwa to warm you up just before you zoom off again.

 

While you might take a few short breaks in between, the next food stop should ideally be Punjab. Being the bread basket of India, Punjab is synonymous with many mouth-watering dishes cooked in desi ghee and served with love. Stuffed parathas, kaali dal, naan and tandoori chicken will fill you up and you can finish off with some chaach or lassi. Or if you want to taste the hitherto unexplored taste of Haryana, then skip Punjab. Simple, wholesome food prepared with minimal fuss reflects the average Haryanvi’s simplistic attitude to life. Kadhi pakoda, Besan masala roti, mithe chawal, khichri, methi gajjar are favourites of all drivers passing by, and you can end the meal with some sumptuous kheer.

 

After that heavy meal, you can take small stops in Uttar Pradesh for some creamy tea or fresh juice. However, if you are hungry, do taste the mutton kebabs that will remind you of Mughlai cuisine. Or, stop in Madhya Pradesh for some bhutte ka kees, palak puri, poha and malpua that are a must-eat for every traveller passing through the state.

 

Lip smacking and delicious vada pav, sabudana vada, pav bhaji, missal pav can be your snack the next day along with some ‘cutting’ chai as you cruise through Maharashtra.

 

Or if you have crossed Maharashtra and ended up in Andhra Pradesh or Telangana, feast on some delicious idlis, dosas and vadas that are universal favourites. High on spice, pulihora (tamarind rice), chicken biryani, prawn curry and gongura chutney are a must try if you have time for a meal and finish it with bobbatlu and double ka meetha.

 

NH 44 drifts through Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka which is ideally suited for an overnight layover. Bisibele bath, Vangi bath, benne dose and kesari bath are delectable signature dishes that the foodie in you, needs to sample. Or have some Neer dosa with corgi curry and end with mysore pak.

 

As the road trip takes you closer to the finishing line, Tamil Nadu is one state extensively covered by NH 44. A wide array of dishes starting from sweet pongal, idiyappam, paniyaram to the celebrated Chettinadu specialities like chicken chettinadu and sura meen kulambu (fish fry) leave your taste buds craving for more.

 

At the end of the journey, take a break to recover from the onslaught on your senses and start back, if you have missed out a few states.

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