What We Ate: Recapping 2022 In 22 Meals
Image Credit: Anirban Biswas

This is the second in a three-part series that looks at 2022 through the lens of food. In part 2, foodies recall their standout meal of the year.

Read part 1, "What We Cooked", here.


1. SMITHA MENON | Culinary Editor, Mumbai

I visited Ladakh in May and had an incredible meal in Leh at a restaurant called Syah — an experimental dining establishment that adds modern twists to Ladakhi food and produce.

I loved the fact that Syah pays respects to Ladakh’s culinary traditions, in a way that isn’t obvious or fusion for the sake of it. Local produce is sexied up in new and exciting ways — apricots are churned into velvety ice cream topped with tangy, pickled mustard seeds and seasonal herbs are brewed in a coffee siphon for an earthy soup. It’s a delicious, playful lesson in Ladakh’s history and terroir. Chef Pankaj Sharma is both incredibly talented and humble; go for the fantastic food and stay for the incredible views of the valley. 

Insta: @champarani

2. ANIRBAN BISWAS | Food blogger, Kolkata

Being a professional food blogger, it’s part of my job to taste the menus at different cafes and restaurants in Kolkata. Over this stint, I’ve tried many, many different types of biryani. It’s an absolute favourite among many people here, and mine as well. 

However, a recent surgery has meant I can’t eat rich food. So my mother’s been trying her best to make healthier and lighter versions of all the dishes I like. One Sunday, I suddenly became aware of the aroma of biryani wafting through the house. Usually, we avoid rich/greasy food at home, so I was quite surprised.

My mother had made a delicious chicken biryani with plain refined oil and all the necessary ingredients; she didn't use any ghee, khoya or aromatics. Yet, the biryani was delicious and light. To be honest, it’s the best biryani I’ve ever had. After a long time, I could actually enjoy food at a whole other level. And the smile on my mother's face when I praised her cooking was priceless. 

Insta: @mr.foodie_official

3. AATISH NATH | Freelance journalist, Mumbai

In 2022, the hospitality industry got a chance to return to normal, which meant face-to-face dining, actual service, and at least initially, a sanitiser on every table. As the year has progressed and COVID protocols have given way to ‘regular’ life, what’s clear is that we need restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels. 

That said, a meal that’s stayed with me is one that almost didn’t happen. It was a quick sushi lunch at Megu in New Delhi. There, chef Subham Thakur does his best to showcase the array of seafood that makes up an omakase sushi experience. Each piece is hand-shaped and really allows the fish to shine, whether it be the oily mackerel (served skin-on), fatty otoro or deeply flavourful braised and charred eel. For me, it once again opened up what food can do, and how simplicity often is all that’s needed.

Insta: @aatishn

4. KUNAL RAY | Writer and educator, Pune

Food memories are never singular. When I try to remember what I have eaten this year, there are two experiences that stand out — of eating home-cooked meals with friends in the intimacy of their homes… Rutuja's famous brinjal onion raita and Chandrani's fish curry amongst several other delicacies. These encounters reaffirmed to me something that I perhaps always knew: That food is also friendship.

Insta: @kunalray05

5. TARAA VERMAA SENGUPTAA | Personal branding coach and food fanatic, Mumbai

A last-minute plan to celebrate a birthday took me to Sundargram in October. While the environs were as beautiful as expected, it was the food that was truly unbelievable. 

Our lunch was a vegetarian thali with fish on the side. Served on beautiful brass platters, this rustic meal got everything right on the aesthetic and taste fronts. The thali items were begun bhaja (fried aubergine), aloo bhaja (fried potatoes), lal saag (red spinach), aloo potoler torkari (potato and pointed gourd), musur dal (masoor dal) and chorchori (a mix of vegetables and saag). The fish were parshe (baby mullet) and ilish (hilsa). For dessert there was rosogolla. 

The vegetables had the flavour of freshness and the fish, grown in the 'bhedi' of the hotel, were of a quality impossible to find in the city. And the rosogolla was still warm from its soak in the sugar syrup!

Cooked simply, with care, and served beautifully, this was a meal that surprised me with every morsel. It made every minute of the 37 km drive to get there worthwhile.

Insta: @taraavermaasenguptaa

6. YUMMRAJ | Food and travel blogger, Gurugram 

Amid a few hundred eat-outs this year, the meal that’s on top of our minds is a Koraputia lunch that we had — seated under a tree on a madur spread out on the grass, next to a stream, with lush greenery all around. This was part of a trip to the tribal villages of Koraput district in Odisha, organised for us by Avijit Sarkhel, founder of a niche travel company called Vana Safaris. The village where we had this meal is called Goudaguda.

 The food was served to on a banana leaf, by a woman belonging to the Paraja tribe. A man from the same tribe and village had cooked the entire meal. The lunch items included mandia balls — millet steamed in the shape of a ball, eaten as a cereal, with dal and vegetables. We had eaten ragi mudde on our numerous trips to the interiors of Andhra Pradesh earlier. This was similar. 

The second cereal served at lunch was hand-pounded aromatic rice. Dali, a local dal variety, was somewhat like lobia, yet different. Sarson saag (mustard leaves) curry retained the distinct flavour, texture and taste of the saag; desi murga curry was made from real 'desi' murga, unlike the farm-bred desi that is sold in many Indian cities. These murgas and murgis of rural Koraput are athletic, have more bones, less muscles and almost no fat. Their meat is outstanding to taste and can beat the average mutton curry any day. We were bowled over by the taste and the retaining of original textures and flavours of fresh local ingredients, while using minimal oil and spices.

Insta: @instayummraj

7. RAKESH RAGHUNATHAN | Food historian and culinary expert, Chennai

I do this show called Food Art where I feature legendary places, restaurants, recipes that have been around for generations. I call them 'artists' who create food.

I take away a lot from every artist — cook or restaurant owner — I meet on the show. One common thread (among them) though, is their passion to serve. And for me, particularly, the story of a grand old lady who I met in Madurai recently, stands out. In fact, I have posted about her on my social media too. Her name is Kamalam and she runs [a stall] in one particular place in Madurai. She sits on the streets and makes these palm jaggery-flavoured crepes called Karupatti Appam in Tamil.

The beauty in all of this lies in the fact that she has been sitting there, in that exact place, for about 45-50 years. I have spoken to her and she said she does this just like an odd job, not for money or anything. She learnt this from her grandmother, and she says one needs patience to do this. "Money is immaterial. What gives me happiness is that people eat it and tell me that it is tasty. And that is what keeps me going," she told me when I met her. 

And that is also my food for thought. Nothing is about money, it is more about passion, following your dreams, about wanting to serve your purpose — of what you are meant to do in this birth. I think there was a lot of enlightenment for me, personally, when I met this lady. After watching the video, many texted me, asking how they could reach her to help her out financially. I simply told them that she wasn't really looking for any such help. It is all about her ethos, her philosophy.

For me, it was a very intellectual connect that I have with her. Not just her, there are many such small businesses that attribute their success to dedication. When I visited Kamalam's home, it was just about a 100 sq feet area where she and her son live. Yet, she does this consistently for 45-50 years. She told me that she has served families for over three generations, and that is amazing. If she really wanted she could have upped her prices, opened a shop etc. But she says this is what gives her happiness. 

Insta: @therakeshraghunathan

8. ROCKY SINGH | Food enthusiast, TV anchor and author, New Delhi

In November 2022 I found myself in Manipur, at the Sangai Festival, prowling the streets of Imphal for culinary experiences. The name 'Luxmi Hotel' came up constantly across the board as one of the most beloved eateries in Imphal. Upon arriving, I learnt that the Meitei, the predominant ethnic group of Manipur, have an incredibly complex and varied cuisine, specialising in a vast variety of ingredients, many from the forest, and endless recipes,  eachmore surprising than the other.

This simple thali-style eatery serves a vegetarian (yes, there are a few vegetarians in Manipur too) and an incredibly popular fish thali. The Nga Atoiba Thongba, a fish prepared with potato and vegetables ('thongba' meaning curry) was magnificent. I loved the Eromba, which is a chutney made with the incredibly aromatic fermented fish called Ngaari, served with the ever-present salad Singju (it can be made in 100 ways or more). It completely blew me away with the vast intricacies and bursts of flavour on my unaccustomed palate. The wind-down from the meal was the black rice pudding called Chak Hao Kheer. That was one meal I’ll remember for years to come… it was truly a memorable meal for 2022!

Insta: @rockyandmayur

9. NOTORIOUS FOODIE | Home cook and food blogger, London

I have a few favourite dishes. One would be the Burnt Basque Cheesecake I had from Lurra in London. It’s a cheesecake recipe from San Sebastián. Very simple but prepared beautifully here. A burnt exterior with the most luscious, fluffy, creamy and addictive interior. Usually in San Sebastián the cheesecakes are cooked for a little longer, for a slightly firmer texture. At Lurra though, they are pulled from the oven early. The result is an unforgettable texture. On the outside: dark, crusty and nutty in flavour. A really rich aroma. On the inside though, the spoon just glides through with ease. The filling is oozing and soft. Such a simple recipe with only a handful of ingredients but one that impresses you time after time.

I went here recently with some friends and we were all equally excited for dessert. It’s everyone’s favourite.

Another version of this that made an impression was the one I had in Istanbul. A slightly different take on the classic but one that made me excited to try it at home, it was a firmer basque cheesecake, covered in a milk chocolate sauce. Just incredible. Sweet and moreish. I recently recreated the recipe and posted the video, which was well received. 

Insta: @notorious_foodie

10. PRIYA PATHIYAN | Lifestyle journalist and bespoke city guide, Mumbai

As a food critic, I eat many new and exciting meals and cuisines throughout the year. As a lover of food in general, I have several dishes that wrap me in a cocoon of comfort, like my grandma’s soft sarees. While fluffy vellayappams with sweet coconut milk or a peppery mutton stew might be my all-time favourite dish, my other loves include the Bengali chingri malai curry with steamed rice, Burmese kaukswe, crab and avocado maki rolls, the popular Thai dessert popularly known as mango-sticky rice, etc. My own creation is a curry that features sauteed pineapple in a coconut milk sauce flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, palm jaggery, and bydagi chillies. As you can see, there’s a common theme — coconut milk, rice, mango, pineapple, seafood — if my food choices were to be described the way perfumes are, I’d use the words tropical, sweet, creamy.   

I’ve had plenty of memorable meals in 2022 that have one or more of these at their core. But, if there’s one particular dish (if you can even call it that!) that I could talk about endlessly, it would have to be a simple, caramelised butter that I had at Sens, a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Vitznau, Switzerland a couple of months ago! Imagine being served a really creative and pathbreaking 10-course fine-dining meal paired with exquisite wines, but all the tongue really wants is for you to go back to the rich familiarity of that butter slathered on sourdough slices or even just licked off breadsticks! So enamoured was I with its nutty mouth feel and earthy flavour that I asked if I could buy some to bring back with me to India. The amused team vacuum packed a little for me, and toast at home has never been the same since. 

In a way, that butter was a defining symbol of 2022 for me, as it was one of the many ways in which I sub-consciously veered towards simpler, cleaner living, closer to nature and my roots. It was only much later though that I could finally place what the taste and texture reminded me of... delectable desi ghee! Yes, talk about going halfway around the world to connect with what’s right in your backyard. 

Insta: @priyapathiyan

11. ANTOINE LEWIS | Food critic, Mumbai

There’s nothing exciting about the medu wada.

It’s about the most predictable, most standard breakfast, or anytime snack you can find in almost every big Indian city. Whether it’s at a street vendor, a budget quick service, or a fancy South Indian tiffin restaurant, these brown doughnut-shaped savouries with their thick centres don’t vary much.

Except at the Madras Pavilion at ITC Grand Chola, Chennai where they do a medu wada that challenges everything you expect of the dish. I was there in August to try out the new menu at Avartana, one of my favourite restuarants in the country, and where I had a predictably good meal. What I wasn't expecting was a breakfast that would be as memorable. Imagine if you can, a golden, circular tube, crisp and firm on the outside, but with a centre that’s so light and airy it feels almost hollow. As with any wada, you put pressure on the outside to cut through, only to find you’ve just sailed through a very aerodynamic centre and reached the bottom. This is not a medu wada; this is  an engineering feat, and fortunately one you can eat over and over again.

Insta: @antoinelewis

12. KRISH ASHOK | Author of Masala Lab: The Science of Indian Cooking, Chennai

My defining 2022 food experience was the humble dosa. Having spent most of the previous two years either cooking at home or ordering in, I began to specifically enjoy dishes that simply don't reach their zenith in a home kitchen or in the lukewarm and soggy state that is a delivery bike's storage compartment. A perfectly crispy dosa needs the heat retention capacity of a large and heavy cast iron griddle and the privilege of being able to eat it hot straight off the pan. The realisation that the dosa is also the perfect vehicle for seafood gravies also made for particularly memorable moments.

Insta: @_masalalab

13. JOANNA LOBO | Independent journalist, Ribandar (Goa)

It was my first meal in London, a city I have been planning to visit for three years, and it was memorable for more than that reason. I shared it with dear friends who I was meeting after years. Over a bottle of wine, we spoke about the migrant experience, cooking Indian food, racism, men, Goa, and more. It was also my first (almost) vegan meal. 

As it turns out, my dinner at chef Rishim Sachdeva’s (ex-Olive) Tendril was easily the best meal I’ve eaten in 2022. There was technique and flavour, and a mastery over vegetables, which were treated well, almost reverently, to form delicious morsels of food. Highlights were the purple potatoes with sticky soy, muhammara and beetroot bao. There was a vegan tiramisu, too. The star of the meal and the reason behind the (almost) vegan title was a dish he created in Olive and which still stands strong across the ocean: baked brie on toast with truffles.

It’s a meal that proved two things: vegetables can be sexy, and Sachdeva’s move to London is a loss to the Indian dining scene.

Insta: @thatdoggonelady

14. AMAR MUKHERJEE | Sales professional and food photographer, Kolkata

One of my most memorable meals this year would be from a trip to Gangtok, Sikkim. At a restaurant named Shuffle Momos, I had the best(est), finest and thinnest momo ever. I went to Sikkim on a solo trip, hence it was special and meant a lot to me.

While travelling and photographing the natural beauty of Sikkim was the primary agenda of the trip, exploring Sikkimese cuisine and especially momos took over most of the things on my to-do list. On one of those gastronomical expeditions, I landed at Shuffle Momos. I ordered a momo platter which had fillings of various types of meats including prawn, pork, buff, chicken and beef. Those steamed pockets of joy filled my heart and soul as I devoured them while seeing the beautiful mountains.

Insta: @gastro_mancer

15. GOPAL KRISHNAN | Food and city explorer, New Delhi

On a recent trip to Chennai we happened to stop at Grand Sweets, Adyar to pick up some sweets, savouries and staples. For the uninitiated, Grand Sweets is the Mecca of the South Indian snack world. 

In the ‘80s we would place our order and while we waited in neatly arranged theatre-like seating, we’d be served free food — either lemon rice, puliyogare, sambar rice or curd rice. This was made homestyle and was extremely tasty and comforting.

In its new avatar, there is little waiting now, with Grand Sweets adopting modern billing and delivery systems. However, there is a separate cafe area where one can enjoy the limited menu they serve. 

I had the idiyappam and kurma and it was the best version of the dish I have had in living memory. The string hoppers were hot, fresh and fluffy. Steamed to perfection and not sticky. The kurma as accompaniment was perfectly spiced. Considering that we had great meals on this trip, picking this one dish as the standout was actually easy. 

Insta: @geekay35

16. ROSHNI BAJAJ SANGHVI | Food and travel writer, Mumbai

I've spent my life without a sweet tooth, so I'm very picky about dessert. To me, sugar should be treated at best like salt, as a background note that lets other ingredients in the dessert shine. In the last week of 2022, I found a dessert that made me want to scrape the plate. 

Everyone should sample the black garlic chocolate tart at For The Record, in Panjim, Goa. To compose it, founder and chef Buland Shukla layers dark chocolate fondant, then savoury miso caramel, on a very buttery, very short almond and chocolate pâte sablée tart shell. This is topped with a swirl of deeply complex dark chocolate and black garlic ganache, flecked with flakes of salt. 

Take a spoon to it, and the tart crumbles open, unveiling its layers. The aged garlic lends notes of aged balsamic vinegar and liquorice to the dish. Because of its complex savouriness and its ripple of tartness, it's a treat that feels rich, but not stodgy or heavy. Every bite begs for another. To me it's a dessert that subverts the idea of what the last course of a meal can be. 

Insta: @roshnibajaj

17. MAUMITA PAUL GHOSH | Research scientist, food blogger, Kolkata

After 2020 and 2021 left us battered and bruised, 2022 carried a beacon of hope. For me it was a cathartic return to my roots, meeting family and friends after two long years — warm hugs, long addas, endless cups of coffee and emotional reminiscences of loved ones we had lost.

I’ve had loads of memorable meals with family and friends, but the one that would stand out is the lunch Rita Aunty (the mother of my husband’s childhood friend) cooked for me when I visited her earlier this year. In her early or maybe mid-seventies, Aunty lives by herself in her apartment in Kolkata, a stone’s throw from the hustle bustle of Park Street. She’s a tower of resilience and the epitome of grace. Her piano recitals are mesmerising, and her food is divine. Aunty’s an encyclopaedia on Anglo Indian cuisine. 

Our lunch was a hearty Anglo Indian spread: earthy, rustic, yet lip smacking delicious. The piece de resistance had to be the stuffed bird: Moist, luscious, with a drool-worthy glaze. The stuffed sausages were packed with umami, with a subtle hint of orange and ginger. The roast potatoes were crisp on the outside, melt-in-the-mouth on the inside. The spinach and peas were creamy and delectable, and a touch of nutmeg made the dish magical.

Insta: @gastronomad_m

18. RUTH DSOUZA PRABHU | Independent journalist and food writer, Bengaluru

The Conservatory (by The Courtyard) in Bengaluru has been the source of several wonderful meals since it opened its doors in June 2022. This is not a restaurant but in the words of its founder, Akhila Srinivas — ‘a no-rules-applicable culinary space’ that hosts pop-ups where chefs can unleash their creativity, completely unfettered by the demands of a commercial kitchen. 

Here, I attended the first pop-ups of Chef Kavan Kuttappa’s now eight-seater ramen bar Naru. Today, his Kumamoto Tonkots is one to go back to, time and again. I attended Mumbai-based Chef Viraf Patel’s multi-course meal here, which traced Parsi roots through history. The lamb over Black Bean hummus with Warm Pita and the Eggplant and Spiced Shrimp over Crisp Rice Salsa and Toum were stellar. 

The tapas experience by Chef Karan Upmanyu where I had Caqui en Miso con Sal de Sesame Negro (persimmon with miso sauce and sesame), and Gambas a la Plancha (grilled tiger prawns with black garlic emulsion) among other dishes was memorable. Every meal served at The Conservatory comes from the creative heart of the chef who stands in its open kitchen, ready to present food to his/her guests just the way he wants to.

Insta: @therdplife

19. ANUBHUTI KRISHNA | Freelance food writer and editor, New Delhi

There were some truly exceptional meals that I had the privilege of experiencing this year —  from Gary Mehigan's Asian pop-up to Yves Mattagne’s Michelin star menu to an incredible Bengali meal by chef Asma Khan and an excellent tasting menu by Vanshika Bhatia. The meal that I instantly recall as the most memorable however is a humble Odiya thali I had in Bhubaneswar. 

I had always imagined Odiya food as a subset of Bengali cuisine, but just one morsel told me how wrong I was. A mix of stir-fried local greens, raw banana cutlets, mutton kassa, fried fish and dalma, the meal was served with steamed rice and pithe, a kind of local dosa. The richness of flavours and the contrast of textures was unlike anything I had eaten — even though absolutely new to me, the flavour and taste were immensely gratifying. And to close it was the iconic pahala rasgulla, which I think is the most iconic confection of all time. 

Insta: @thatgirlinmuddyboots

20. AYUSHI GUPTA-MEHRA | Food writer, content creator and economic consultant, Mumbai/London

As a self-professed foodie, I’m often asked about my favourite restaurants and recommendations on dishes to order when dining out. However, if you were to ask me now “what is the most memorable meal you have eaten so far this year”, I would be inclined to look back and say that my most cherished and satisfying meals were born in my kitchen. One dish in particular stands out, with shades of nuanced heat: Gochujang noodles.

2022 is the year that I truly started experimenting in the kitchen with abandon, in the pursuit of new and thrilling flavours. A fiery tub of the traditional Korean red pepper came to hand more than once, as I discovered that just about a tablespoon of gochujang could enliven everything from eggs and fried rice to noodles.

 Over the course of the year, I iteratively tweaked my base recipe for what are now my signature gochujang noodles. Some days, I add a mix of miso and peanut butter for a balance of umami-rich nuttiness. Other days, I stir in cream and cheese for an elevated ramen hack. Some friends often drop in if only to request I make them a bowl, while others demand I send them a batch.

 What’s most gladdening though is that the joy has been shared by so many thousands more across the world having found my recipe via a reel gone viral on Instagram or having stumbled upon my website. Seeing pictures of their remakes and reading firsthand how much they loved the dish too, has been as gratifying as the soul-stirring comfort of these noodles.

Insta: @the_foodiediaries

21. RAHUL PRABHAKAR | Food blogger, New Delhi

The meal that made a lasting impression on me in 2022 was the vegetarian thali at Khandani Rajdhani. Hailed as a thali restaurant, Khandani Rajdhani offers a delectable vegetarian menu, with a wide variety of traditional dishes from the regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. You can eat to your heart's delight and the best part is, at no extra cost (you only pay for the thali which costs Rs 600 excluding taxes). You can even request multiple refills for all 16-plus dishes in the thali.

Bringing the finest desi flavors to your platter, the menu consists of all seasonal favourites, along with Rajdhani's famed farsan, chutneys, appetisers, Indian breads, rice, khichdi, and desserts. What in fact stood out for me was the delectable taste of each and every component of the thali — there wasn't a single dish that I wasn't satisfied with. And that happens quite rarely.

I would've probably spent the entire night gorging on their delicious thali if I had my way. I am definitely visiting the place again (and more).

Insta: @rahulprabhakar

22. ATUL SIKAND | Food blogger, New Delhi

My taste in food is super eclectic. I love street food, as much as I do the occasional fancy meal. What does stand out in my mind were the delectable meals we ate in Windermere, in England's Lake District, a few months ago. A memorable meal was at Francine's, a cosy bistro-style restaurant in the heart of Windermere village. Why are they special? They let nature decide the menu, in this case the bountiful delicacies of the sea.

Oysters, escargot, lobster bisque, Morecambe Bay potted shrimps, razor clams with pancetta, spiced monkfish with mussel and saffron cream were the beautifully plated and melt-in-the-mouth specialties that come to my mind from that meal.

Insta: @atul_sikand