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Anita Rani on Indian street food, Tabasco sauce and lamb chops

The TV and radio presenter tells us about her favourite street food, why she carries chilli sauce with her at all times, and why she’s not quite ready to give up lamb chops

Anita Rani on Indian street food, Tabasco sauce and lamb chops

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My day is dictated by food. I wake up excited about breakfast, spend the next few hours planning lunch, then think about dinner. This comes from growing up within an Indian household where everything revolved around food.

I’ve never dieted. I’m not one of these carb-free, protein-only people; I think eating three healthy meals a day is the way to go.

I love all Indian food, but my favourite is Punjabi. That’s where my family is from and what I grew up eating; you kind of get used to the taste of your mum’s cooking. Sometimes there’d be leftover dhal in the fridge cooked by a friend — my mum would try and pass it off as her own, but I’d say, “That doesn’t taste like yours!”.

Growing up, we didn’t eat garlic in our household as my dad can’t stand it. We didn’t eat much meat, either, just because there was always such a variety of vegetarian dishes on offer — lots of pulses, lentils, vegetables and beans, served with salad, chapatis and rice. We’d tend to save meat for special occasions.

While there are phenomenal restaurants in India, really it’s all about the street food. One of my favourite places is a kebab joint behind the Taj in south Mumbai called Bademiya. They cook vegetarian and chicken tikka kebabs on the roadside — I once ate a huge feast on someone’s car bonnet.

My go-to street food is pani puri. It’s a crispy dome filled with tamarind chutney, potatoes and lentils. It’s spicy, tangy and salty and you stand on the street and eat as many as you can before paying at the end.

I was a vegetarian for six or seven years. I often order the veggie option, but if I go to a restaurant and there’s good-quality meat on the menu, then it’s worth it. I’m eating less and less meat, but I do love a good lamb chop. Tayyabs, in east London, do the most phenomenal lamb chops — I’m not prepared to give those up just yet.

I’m at my least healthy when I’m filming Countryfile. It’s usually a very early start, so we get a cooked breakfast. Lunch is usually stodgy — a sandwich — but it depends where we are; sometimes, we’re in the middle of nowhere. I always have a bowl of chips on the road, though.

Hackney, where I live in London, is a foodie haven. There’s a great dumpling place called My Neighbours the Dumplings, and I also love Luca, an Italian restaurant in Clerkenwell. I enjoy pottering around the food markets in London Fields, too.

There’s no excuse for bland food. It’s not hard to make a potato taste good. I’ve started carrying bottles of chilli sauce around with me. There’s nothing a bit of Tabasco or Encona can’t save.

Kuoni are hosting a street food masterclass with Anita Rani in London on the 27 November. Enter their competition to win tickets here

Interview by Connor McGovern, published in Issue 3 of National Geographic Traveller Food.

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