Napolean did say that an Army marches on its stomach. While the corporate jugglers often say that most battles are won on an empty stomach. It’s hard to tell who is right.
A day in a soldier’s life begins with the smell of puris, from nearby langar, a cook house or dining hall from officers. These puris are eaten by the handful with hot tea. Very rarely aloo ki sabji or petha subji (pumpkin) are served along with it.
While a soldier is on the field, they eat the same food with aloo and mirchi chips and sometimes with anda bhujia with lots of onion and green chillies. They have their breakfast within 7 to 8 in the morning. The tea at mid morning is namak para, shakar para or a sugary ball of gram fried and called a bonda. This sometimes supplemented by samosas, besan ladoo or burfi from the wet canteen.
In Lunch, they have rotis with sabji (vegetables). The range of vegetables for lunch includes alo gobhi, gajar or maybe just aloo and dal. The vegetarians have milk instead of meat and eggs. Egg curries are more common that meat. Rice is served almost every day. Most of the soldiers have their food all served in one utensil, instead of taking it as a Thali. Some also have salad comprising of tomatoes, onions and cucumber with green chilli. In the evening, tea is a must and usually consumed with nothing at all.
Dinner on issue day (day of the week when rum is issued to the officers on payment or fee) largely coincides with the day meat is prepared. Ghee is used if needed. Meat is a spicy curried meat with lots of gravy. If it forms to be a Rajput unit, then the meat is best served spicy. They are eaten with rotis with normal menus like dal sabji or rice. Sometimes there is kheer. Pickles are sometimes eaten.
On the other hand,
Indian troops often operate in far-flung inhospitable terrain under inclement and hostile weather conditions ranging from sub-zero to 50 Degree Celsius, and hot and humid areas. In that case, they have the following with themselves:
The Meal, Ready-to-Eat – commonly known as the MRE – is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging for its service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available. It contains dishes that cater to Indian tastes, namely: chapaties (preserved), sooji halwa (300g), vegetable pulav (300g), Potato & Peas curry (300g), a chocolate bar, and 3 servings of tea (3 servings). Accessory items such as a plastic spoon, tissue paper, box of matches, a folding stove, and fuel tablets for warming the food are also included. An entire days worth of food, plus accessory items, is packed inside a heavy-duty olive green plastic bag with pasted on label.
One-Man Compo Ration (Dehydrated)
A one-man ration pack featuring freeze-dried or dehydrated products has also been developed. It consists of early morning tea, breakfast, mid morning tea, lunch, evening tea, and dinner. The menus feature both dehydrated and ready-to-eat products, and include a folding stove & hexamine fuel tablets. The ration weighs 880 grams and provides 4100 kilocalories. Food items are packaged inside flexible plastic-foil laminate pouches, easy to open and dispose of, which fit easily inside the haversack or uniform cargo pockets. Intended for short duration patrol duties, the ration caters to Indian tastes.
Mini Compo Pack
This is a simplified version of the One-man Compo Ration pack, but provides only 1520 calories of energy from two entrees, namely Sooji Halwa mix (100g) and pre-cooked dehydrated Vegetable Pulav (125g). Weighing 400 g, the ration also includes: 3 packets of tea, a folding stove, fuel tablets (100g), matches, and a plastic spoon. Like other Indian rations, the food items are packed inside plastic-foil trilaminate retort pouches, which are then sealed inside a heavy-duty plastic bag.
The survival ration consists of a soft bar and chikki. The daily survival ration per man consists of : Soft bar 100 g x 2, Chikki (sugar base) 50 g x 3, Chikki (Jaggery base) 50 g x 3. This provides around 2400 Kcal, more than the normal survival ration used by most nations.
Main Battle Tank (MBT) Ration
Uniquely, India also developed an operational ration pack specifically for Main Battle Tank (MBT) and other Armored vehicle crews. Designed to sustain 4 soldiers for 72 hrs in closed-in battle conditions, the MBT ration is based on instant/ready to eat foods and ration/survival bars. First and second day ration packs weigh 2 kg each and provide 4000 calories per man, while the third day ration pack weighs 1.5 kg and supplies 3000 Calories.