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Why are Indian restaurants so crummy compared with the glory of Indian cuisine?

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Yes, my title is an overstatement. But not by much. But I read, with much anguish and drooling, about the various masalas of Maharashtra, each an intricate blend of home-ground spices, and the fabled biryanis of Hyderabad.... and I think of the Indian restaurants of Queens, all catering to a predominantly Indian clientele come to town to shop on that crowded 74th street of Indian boutiques... all of them offering steam tables of indifferent food prepared that morning or the day before using cheap store-bought curry powder. Over the years, one or two restaurants opened presenting food head and shoulders above the steam-table crowd, and all closed within a year.

I spent a year in India long ago and never had a good meal, except in a Desi Chinese dive in Varanasi. (Rawalpindi had some good restaurants, but that's Pakistan.) I'm sure there's great food being served on the subcontinent... but all of it in private homes, behind closed doors. Yes, there are a few good restaurants here and there... maybe on Devon Ave in Chicago, or perhaps in Manhattan, catering mostly to non-Indians. But compare this to Chinese restaurants; there should be so many more. Why aren't they?

  1. All of this is dependent upon your own definitions of crummy, good, indifferent, etc. The reailtiy is, most restaurants of any sort are not putting out anything special in terms of food. Most restaurants use relatively cheap, mass-produced ingredients. Most restaurants fail.

    Indian restaurants don't seem to me to be any different than most any other cuisine you might name. There are many that I'd agree have indifferently prepared food, but this is true of Chinese restaurants and Pizza joints and burger joints, too. Most Chinese restaurants serve Americanized versions of dishes laden with think sauces that aren't representative of what is made and eaten in China. Much of Pizza one can get (think standard delivery fare) is greasy, loaded with tons of cheese, sweet tomato sauce and toppings; not the lovingly made crust and minimal toppings that is what many people think of as an ideal pizza. So, in short, I think the story you're telling applies to food and restaurants generally, not only to Indian cuisine.

    Here in San Francisco, there are many many Indian restaurants. Not as many as there are Chinese restaurants, but lots nonetheless. The quality, generally, holds with the quality of most restaurants in town with a few standouts doing sublime work to the mostly middling places with one or two good dishes to the horrific, how can anyone eat this stuff places.

    9 Replies
    1. re: ccbweb

      Yes, but post about Chinese food, or pizza, on our New York board, and I will recommend some stellar places, and so will a thousand other hounds. But what inspired me to do this post was a recent post (the latest of many)searching great Indian food without a single good recommendation.
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/398704

      see also http://www.chowhound.com/topics/247368

      1. re: Brian S

        At the risk of horrendous mocking, I checked out Zagat's ratings which are not the be-all, end-all of good restaurant recs, but there are about a dozen Indian restaurants in Manhattan that rate a 23 or above for food. Zagat isn't always dead on, but they're not usually horribly off either.
        That said, there is only one Indian restaurant in the Times that gets more than two stars (though two stars is still "very good") and the Times describes it as "an American restaurant with an Indian twist." There isn't a Chinese restaurant that gets more than 2 stars from the Times.

        I'll be curious to hear why (if, as I suspect, there really isn't that great a difference in overall food quality in Indian restaurants versus Chinese restaraunts) people don't have their favorites that they recommend often. Because you're entirely right, ask people about Chinese or Pizza and there will be fierce debates about what is better (sometimes, people will even offer reasons why they think one is better than another!).

      2. re: ccbweb

        I am no expert on Indian food nor have I eaten at all the joints in SF. Not by a long shot. But I have never had anything "sublime." Please do tell which restaurants over on the SF board. I am dying to try them. (I am being serious, not sarcastic...tone is so hard on the Internet.)

        That said, I have 2 unrelated Indian friends that are in the biz (NOT Indian restos) and they know food. And both have said there isn't a single Indian resto in SF that comes even close to their mothers' cooking. So maybe what Brian said about private vs. public cooking has some merit.

        1. re: chaddict

          I'll check out whether any of the places I'm thinking about have threads going on the SF board. I also don't have the comparison of a mother's cooking on this one. No one has ever made a meat loaf or smothered pork chops like my mom's, but other than that :)

          1. re: ccbweb

            An interesting point. If your mom is indeed a very good cook, you probably WON'T find traditional Southern U.S. dishes to equal hers in a restaurant. Certainly not in NYC, and not even in Tulsa, which has some excellent restaurants serving stuff like that. Tellingly, they call it "home cooking" and the best of it is served in private homes. Just like India.

          2. re: chaddict

            Bah! Come to a HOLY City, which attracts pilgrims.
            http://www.udipicafepittsburgh.com/
            Fantastic food.
            Hell, our chinese is better than NYC's, at least here in the East End.

            1. re: Chowrin

              What Chinese places in the East End are you referring to? I'd like to give them a try.

              1. re: Rick

                The New How Lee, Sichuan
                Rose Tea Cafe, Cantonese
                (those are the two mainstays that I really really enjoy).

                1. re: Chowrin

                  Thanks! How Lee looks excellent and just the kind of place I was hopiong for!!

        2. One word: demand.

          Or the lack of...

          When there are clients ready to spend $$$ on something better, something better will show up.

          It happens in many ways.

          Somebody opens a great restaurant and hopes for clients - often, the public at large doesn't have any idea what "great" is, or how "great" is better than "adequate" or than "American-[fill in the blank]", and they stay away in droves and the place dies.

          Sometimes a wonderful hole-in-the-wall eatery caters to ethnic clients and is "discovered" by a wider public. That happens a lot around here (Washington DC area). Or, as happened with "authentic Sichuan," a star chef attracts a lot of buzz, and even if he leaves the trend takes on a life of its own.

          The bottom line: until you have a "critical mass" of enough ethnic diners who know enough to keep alive a restaurant with better cooking, you may not get a better place in your area.

          25 Replies
          1. re: wayne keyser

            "The bottom line: until you have a "critical mass" of enough ethnic diners who know enough to keep alive a restaurant with better cooking, you may not get a better place in your area."

            That is key.... I am not afraid to admit that I like Panda Express... and when I have craving for "Chinese" Food I don't hesitate to eat there or P.F. Chang's... and that is because I don't know enough about the cuisine to differntiate... or motivated enough to go seek out its finer examples. I know it sucks and it is limiting.. but its also human.

            I am sure some of you are think... Nopal is so backward! Likewise when I see CHers rave about burritos or quesadillas etc., I can't help but cringe, roll my eyes and think what dumb %^&s.

            But its human... people all have different cuisines they are intrigued by and willing to spend big dollars versus a small price tag & convenience. I guess for most Americans... the $5.95 two choices with Naan is as much as they are willing to invest in Indian cuisine.

            Personally, I think of Indian, Moroccan & Ethiopian far more often when I want to eat a good meal out than I think of French or Italian etc.... and would much rather spend big dollars on those (if they were available) than on French or Italian... but asi es la vida.

            Of course my first priority is to eat really good Mexican cuisine yet there isn't that much to choose from. Hell, Michoacan is the state the exports most of the immigrants to California... yet there is not a single Mexican place here that dishes a multi course identifyingly Michoacan meal anywhere. As a matter of fact I don't think there is a single Michoacanian restaurant I can think of (that serves mostly Michoacan regional specialties including spirits (Charanda), Fruit Liquors etc.,).... people just don't want to invest enough in Mexican cuisine to understand it deeper... Margaritas & Guacamole is as far as most want to go etc.,

            I know alot of people that run Mexican restaurants... they aren't bad people, they aren't mediocre... some of them even cook incredible meals at home... but its an easy biz they do... sell alot of margaritas, nuked antojitos in a combination and you can make a living while others who try to educate the public go bankrupt all the time.

            1. re: Eat_Nopal

              In New York, the Mexican restaurants I go to, even the one with the incredible entrees, is filled mostly with lonely young guys far from home (mostly from Puebla), who only order beer and maybe some tacos and just want to flirt with the pretty girls. All those restaurants take care to hire pretty waitresses. In short, they are mostly not in search of the best food, though they probably do want a taste of home.

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                Would this place in Grants Pass Oregon, which advertises a Comida Corrida qualify as good multi-course Mexican?
                http://www.tacosburritosandmore.com/m...

                From this page http://www.eskimo.com/~sockeye/Mexica...
                I get the impression that El Paso is the only place in the USA where Corida Corrida ('businessman's lunch special) is common, apparently influenced by nearby Juárez.

                paulj

                1. re: paulj

                  It depends on execution... but I could bet an Awakatl that Tacos, Burritos and More would have a have a hard time staying open in Mexico City.

                  Whats a good multi-course Mexican meal? Well they run the gamut from the low end Fonda Comida Corrida to the Alta Cocina Menu de Degustacion... and they can be good or not so good depending on execution.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    While I've had a number of nice multi course meals at nice places in Ecuador (with the full rank of utensils), my only experience with Mexican multi course meals was on a budget trip to Zacatecas. Our main meal was the lunch time comida corrida, depending on the panaderia (bakery) for the other meals. However I don't recall any of the comida dishes, except for a steak with a too-hot red salsa topping. The other food highlight of that trip was field lunch with some oil company workers, cucumbers and tomatoes with fresh squeezed lime and salt.

                    paulj

                2. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Im not familiar with the cuisine of Michoacan, but being from southern Arizona I grew up eating and loving Sonoran Mexican food. There aren't as many good Sonoran restaurants around as there used to be, either. I think it's the Generalization of Mexican food and the proliferation of Taco Bell as the gold standard (God help us all).
                  I thought I was fairly indifferent to Indian food until an Indian doc from work made me some, the difference between the food she made and what I'd had in restaurants was just unbelievable. I suddenly knew why people liked Indian food so much! Why isn't it like that in restaurants? I think Eat Nopal has summed it up in his last sentence. "some of them even cook incredible meals at home... but its an easy biz they do... sell alot of margaritas, nuked antojitos in a combination and you can make a living while others who try to educate the public go bankrupt all the time".

                3. re: wayne keyser

                  But the original poster here is talking about pretty much the reverse phenomenon: a primarily Indian neighborhood, like 74th St. in Jackson Heights Queens, where the dining population is overwhelmingly Indian. But the general consensus is that there isn't a single stellar Indian restaurant amongst the dozens in the area. In fact, most are mediocre and many are downright bad. The "critical mass" is certainly there, but if anything the restaurant scene has gotten worse, not better.

                  As the original poster indicated, the few really good restaurants that have opened in the area have either gone out of business rather quickly, or have declined sharply into the same sort of cheapy buffet places, using the same ingredients, as all the other neighborhood places. The sole partial exception is a restaurant near, but not in, this same area that gets a lot of attention on these boards, Spicy Mina - and they aren't doing a lot of business. This is something that is very strange, and somewhat maddening, to those of us who live in the area. And the formula is followed by most NYC area Indian restaurants, despite a sizable South Asian community.

                  1. re: Woodside Al

                    Is it cultural? (I'm asking seriously.) I'm not so familiar with Indian culture to know the answer here, but it occurs to me that perhaps restaurants and going out to eat just aren't a major part of people's lives. Perhaps eating at home is simply more important or more "normal."

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      That is my theory. It's not a restaurant culture. And also, strict Hindus must make sure the chef isn't of a lower caste than he is. Perhaps this will change. Like every other group, many Indians are part of relatively affluent families where both parents have full-time jobs. They can't expect one spouse to spend twelve hours simmering that dum biryani.

                      1. re: Brian S

                        This is an interesting article I came across on NPR.
                        http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...

                        I also remember, but can't find at the moment, a simliar piece in the SF Chronicle that discussed "underground" food service operations. What both stories have in common is that what Indian immigrants are looking for is home cooked food, or as close to it as they can get, not restaurant food. As you note, caste issues will complicate the question even more.

                        1. re: Brian S

                          I know many "strict Hindus" who eat at Indian restaurants and I'm almost positive that none of them have bothered to inquire on what caste the cook is. That's a thing of the past.

                          1. re: boogiebaby

                            Amen! Thanks for pointing that out - it was bothering me as well, but I forgot to address it in my response. :)

                            1. re: boogiebaby

                              Amen! Thanks for clarifying that. That generalization was bothering me as well, but I forgot to mention in my long response.

                              1. re: sweetTooth

                                Usually I hate being wrong, but in this case if I'm wrong I'm glad. I got what I said from the post quoted by Woodside Al below, and also from my experience living in a remote village in northern Bihar over 25 years ago.

                                1. re: Brian S

                                  Yup, remote village in Bihar 25 years ago explains it. Rawalpindi is a city from what I understand, so you could compare it's culinary offerings to say Lucknow or Agra or Gwalior.

                            2. re: Brian S

                              Yes and no. Traditionally, eating out was for those who couldn't cook themselves - bachelors, people in vocations that kept them on the move, or when travelling. That said, things changed even with my parents' generation (I'm am a thirtysomething). As a middle class family, we ate out a few times a month. Some times at sit-down restaurants, sometimes at roadside carts (chaat, samosas etc) and sometimes at cafes (dosa, uttapam, filter coffee). Each had it's own ambience. A sit down had dim lighting, linen, finger bowls at the end of the meal and instrumental music in the background. The roadside carts would often be next to a ripe smelling drain/canal. The cafes would be brightly lit, full of college students drinking endless cups of tea or coffee and chain smoking. Also there are plenty of delicacies that are simply not made at home because of the skill/labor involved. So I am pretty satisfied with the restaurant scene in India as far as getting good food is concerned and a little shocked that over a year's stay in India you only found one that was good. My only criticism is that there aren't or weren't much non-Indian food choices outside of the major cities like Delhi or Bombay. Other than Indian Chinese, which is technically very Indian. Perhaps you'd care to elaborate what was dis-satisfying about the restaurants in India.

                              I agree with most other people that the quality of Indian food available here has a lot to do with demand. There are plenty of restaurants serving fine regional Gujarati cuisine in Artesia and South Indian in the SF Bay Area. After all, there aren't as many ethnic Indians in the US as ethnic Chinese. Maharashtrian cuisine? I just don't see the market for it here. BTW, even in India there aren't too many restaurants outside of Maharashtra that serve it's cuisine, nor Goan restaurants outside of Goa that serve it's cuisine, nor Assamese, Bengali, Oriya, and so on outside those respective states or regions-of-influence. (When I say cuisine, I don't mean snacks or sweets - there is a fair amount of dispersion of those.) So even in India, the only regional cuisines that are prominent outside of their native or neighboring states are Punjabi/generic North Indian and Udipi/generic South Indian.

                              I think you're drawing conclusions from the wrong figure. What you should be comparing is the percentage of good restaurants among each ethnicity - what percentage of all Indian restaurants are good versus what percentage of all Chinese restaurants are good.

                              1. re: sweetTooth

                                there's a place near San Francisco that has Maharastrian. they do it once a month... which is a great way to serve regional dishes withough making the commitment of having them on the regular menu.

                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/401203

                                1. re: Brian S

                                  Thanks so much for posting that link Brian! I am jonesing for Puran Poli and Shrikhand now. Well, atleast Shrikhand should be easy to accomplish.

                              2. re: Brian S

                                I don't want to belabor the point, but "strict Hindus must make sure the chef isn't a lower caste than he is" would probably translate loosely to "white supremacists in America would not eat food cooked by a black person" in America. Such strict Hindus are a fringe minority in rural India in 2012(and already were 25 years ago in Urban India). Having travelled all over India, especially to small villages all over the country, I can promise you that not once did someone's caste influence his or her choice of a restaurant in India. Just as Americans have stopped discriminating against their minorities(for the most part), Indians have stopped discriminating against theirs(for the most part).

                              3. re: ccbweb

                                It is largely cultural. My bengali mother would never take us out for food that she could make at home - it wouldn't be to our family's taste, we would most likely be paying a 300% mark up, and the food would most likely be WAY greasier than what is cooked at home. The only things we will order out for are the dishes that are time/energy consuming to make like biryani or sweets and this is usually done (in my family at least) only for large dinner parties.

                                1. re: ccbweb

                                  most of the desi's in NY i know eat indian at home and that is exactly what they don;t want when they go out

                                2. re: Woodside Al

                                  In the case of Mina's, I know many folks who have refused to try the place out simply based on their opinion that the restaurant looks like a dive and seems dirty.

                                3. re: wayne keyser

                                  Not to mention that Indian cuisine is an American invention. In India, food is made and served at home, and there are a myriad subtle differences from home to home and community to community.

                                  1. re: sr44

                                    yes and no, what about the amazing street foods in various regions of India? Also I dare say many many Inidans eat out in Bangalore, as well as other areas. I think times have changed since you lived there. I actually couldn't believe your saying that "Indian cuisine is an American invention. In India, food is made and served at home." So all those amazing meals I have eaten during my 30 some trips to India were infact American? :-) Wow so these are American joints?

                                    http://www.indianfoodforever.com/eati...

                                    1. re: shantihhh

                                      Yes, curious thing for sr44 to say. I guess by his/her lights ALL those restaurants discussed on the India & South Asia board (http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/44) are nothing but American restaurants. :-)

                                4. I'm Indian. That being said, I cook Indian food at home. If I go to an indian restaurant, I don't want homestyle Indian food -- I want something different. I don't want to pay $9-10 for something I can easily make at home for $1.50. I want to have dishes that are either time consuming for me to make at home, or something unusual that I wouldn't make at home for whatever reason.

                                  I find it hard to believe that in one year in India, you "never had a good meal". Between the hotel fine dining restaurants, regular restaurants that locals frequent and the street vendors serving snacks and sweets, there are so many great things to eat. Maybe you are expecting too much from the cuisine?

                                  As for restaurants in the US, most of them are tailored to non-Indians because most indians won't pay for food they can make at home. Like the other poster said, it's like Panda Express -- you know it's not authentic home style food, but it's still good in its own way.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: boogiebaby

                                    Have you ever eaten Indian in the UK?

                                    I've lived in the UK and the Balti in Birmingham was OUTSTANDING! Even the take out from Marks & Spencer's was great.

                                    I've had some pretty good Indian in Toronto, and once when visiting at Brown University years ago, a school with a highly alternative reputation.

                                    But for good Indian=UK, not US.

                                    1. re: veganish

                                      There was one restaurant in Queens that served meat quickly stir-fried with fresh herbs, home-ground spices and vegetables on a tawa (or tava, which is like a big wok) It was incredible... but it went out of business in a year. I think that is like Balti style. Balti style originated in Birmingham, England... but I believe the tawa is an authentic Indian implement.

                                      1. re: veganish

                                        Yep, for obvious (colonial) reasons, there are lots of Indian restaurants in the UK, and a British Indian style of cooking has evolved. There are four or five decent Indian restaurants within a couple of miles of my home for example, and several high-end places with Michelin stars in the West End. I've never bothered eating Indian food in America, because coming from the UK I don't see the point. I'd rather eat good Mexican, which is very hard to find here.

                                        1. re: veganish

                                          I believe Balti style was born in Birmingham NOT India :-) Yes there are some great Indian spots in the UK but not as many as there used to be. I used to love the take aways around Victoria Station in London, but they have all disappeared.

                                          1. re: shantihhh

                                            The balti style was, indeed, invented in Birmingham. No-one suggests it is authentic south asian food. There is currently an application being made for it to receive protected status in the European Union - "Traditional Speciality Guaranteed"

                                        2. re: boogiebaby

                                          Heartily agree with the part about not wanting to pay $$ for homestyle.

                                          1. re: boogiebaby

                                            The year spent in India was over 25 years ago, so it is possible things have changed. It's also possible I didn't go to the right places, though I tried.

                                            1. re: Brian S

                                              Things have changed a lot in India in just the past 5 years, let alone in the past 25. I bet if you went now you'd find lots of great restaurants. 25 years ago India, especially in Bihar (one of the more rural states in India) probbably didn't have much to offer in the way of restaurant food. I live in So. CA and I'm sure 25 years ago people didn't eat out as much so the choices were limited. Now we have thousands of restaurants to choose from, many with memorable food.

                                          2. I lived abroad for 5 years - 4 in London and 1 in Sydney. Prior to this I'd only eaten Indian food in New Jersey and didn't like it at all. I've been back from London for 7 months and I'm desperately trying to find restaurants in New Jersey and NYC that come close to the food I've eaten abroad. It's been very hard to come by. I feel that most ethnic cuisine served in the US are the fast food, dumbed down versions of their true selves. It's definitely that way with Chinese food. You really need to get good recommendations from people that really know the food and culture. I love spicy food but I've yet to find a vindaloo that comes close to the versions I've had overseas. From the various articles I've read and the numerous cookbooks I own, all that I can ascertain is that true Indian food takes time to prepare and stew. Perhaps the restaurants I've tried use alot of shortcuts to make the business prosperous. I feel for you because I'm in the same boat.

                                            1. On this thread "Life-Changing Indian Food" http://www.chowhound.com/topics/391698 from just a little less than a month ago, which addressed the issue of Indian food in the South Asian areas of Queens, missmasala wrote an interesting reply to a comment of mine that was unfortunately deleted.

                                              Here is an excerpt from her post:

                                              "When I'm in India visiting my family, a lot of the food I eat in restaurants is mediocre, and certainly not nearly as good as I would get in my family's home. why? several things come to mind. One, women cook at home, and, in general, men cook in restaurants (i don't think it's coincidence that people like mina, where a woman cooks.) secondly, I don't think that Indians have the same restaurant culture that SEasians and chinese have. For many devout hindus, there are all sorts of caste issues that come into play about which restaurant you could or could not eat in, depending on who is doing the cooking.
                                              Also, the South Asian community here is newer than the community in London, so perhaps they have not had time to develop that restaurant culture in New York's Hindu community.
                                              I also find that the things Indians would eat out in India (ie. chaat, south indian snacks like dosa/iddly, tandoori stuff at high-end places) can be found in decent quality here, tho strangely, the best purveyors aren't in JH.
                                              Also, many westerners are looking for a kind of Indian food that only exists in punjabi places and punjabi households, and I'm not sure this new wave of Indian immigrants is as punjabi heavy as the older ones were. Many Indians (and I admit I am generalizing from those I know) like to eat their own regional food and are reluctant to go out for other stuff, whether because of caste issues (is a brahmin cooking that food?) meat-eating/veg issues (perhaps they can only eat in a pure-veg place) or just plain taste issues (my maharastrian family, if eating out, usually has to go to gujurati restaurants in bombay, and my aunt always complains because she doesn't like it as much as her own food. But to most westerners, the differences are often subtle at best.)"

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: Woodside Al

                                                The tiffen box system of Mumbai is indicative of this Indian preference for home cooked meals over restaurant ones.

                                                paulj

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  There is no question that the best food I ate in India was in private homes, not restaurants...and that is true of Indian food here in the US as well. I think the caste/religious issues you mention do play a part in that.

                                                  To me the interesting thing is that my husband has trouble getting even his relatives to cook his favorite Indian meals. When we go to his brother's house, we know we will have a wonderful meal, because my SIL is the best cook I know. Nonetheless, there are certain dishes he always craves (kitcheree with kadhi is one) that he practically has to beg her to make. She feels that dish is too "homey"; too plain to serve to guests (even if they are relatives). She feels embarrassed to serve it, as it is something she might make only for her immediate family on a Sunday afternoon. Same with dal dhokli. Both of these are basically one-dish meals, and to my SIL any guest (even a relative) should be served a full Gujarati thali meal. Nothing wrong with that, but its frustrating to my husband who wants simpler food sometimes.....

                                                  1. re: janetofreno

                                                    > I think the caste/religious issues you mention do play a part in that.
                                                    >
                                                    i really dont think that is true [i am an indian/hindu btw].
                                                    for example, many members of my family will not eat beef, but
                                                    even in my parent's generation, i dont know anybody who
                                                    keeps a brahmin cook. now two-three generations up, maybe
                                                    a different story.

                                                    but i agree and have said myself "i dont think india is really
                                                    a restaurant going culture". i also think this is changing.

                                                    >re: kichuree embarassment ...
                                                    >
                                                    that is really funny. this is one of those situations where people out
                                                    of some sense of obligation do something that is suboptimal for both
                                                    parties. although i can understand the embarassment. wouldnt you
                                                    consider it a little funny if you invited people over for a fine china and
                                                    formal dining table type dinner and served them a big bowl of
                                                    sphagetti and meatballs and some french bread? [that was the
                                                    best analogy to kitchuree i could think of]. it's hard to explain the
                                                    "rainy sunday afternoon" resonsnace of that dish]. say you you'ld
                                                    been living in china for year and you went to your SIL's house and
                                                    asked her just to make a good hamburger for dinner and she said
                                                    "come on, be serious" ... burger, coke and potato salad can certainly be
                                                    a fine meal for a backyeard bbq ... but might be kinda funny for an 8pm
                                                    sitdown dinner with the Limoges.

                                                    1. re: psb

                                                      LOL: "rainy Sunday Afternoon resonance of that dish"...that is EXACTLY when my husband craves Dal Doklhi..on rainy Sunday afternoons!!!

                                                      The funny thing to me is that my SIL is pretty casual: usually when we eat at her house its outside (if its winter; they live in Orlando. Too hot to eat outside in summer...of course, I try not to visit her in summer :-). And I don't think she OWNS limoge. Meals at her house are served on metal thalis; except breakfast which is plastic plates. Yet still she balks at serving one-dish meals....

                                                      My husband can sometimes get these types of meals IF we've been staying there awhile and its the fourth or fifth day and we're starting to feel more like part of the family and not guests. But he practically has to beg....and sometimes he plays sneaky and pretends not to like whatever she was planning to cook that day.

                                                      (SIL: " I thought I'd make a __________ sak today" DH: "I don't like ____. " SIL: "How about _____?" DH: "No, I don't think Janet would like that. I know, why don't you just make kitchuree?")

                                                      It IS hard to explain unless you've been through it, huh?

                                                    2. re: janetofreno

                                                      I realize that this thread is from 2007, but since someone else revived it, I'll add my 2 rupees. As someone whose German parents came to America before 1930, I was raised on meat-and-potatoes. Spaghetti and meatballs was as exotic as homemade meals got. Though my culinary repertoire dwarfs Mom's, I was middle-aged before having my first meal in an Indian place (outside of Boston). I have never been to India or the U.K. But just yesterday, I went for the first time to a vegetarian restaurant that is truly a hidden jewel, being located at the rear of an auto supplies building, with inobtrusive signage facing a side street. Ritu Ki Rasoi has a dinner buffet one night a week, each time featuring a different regional Indian cuisine. Mine was the only white face in the busy restaurant, where I enjoyed dishes with names I'd never encountered, including dal dhokli and kadhi. See my post at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/760544 for the list of Gujarati buffet items. How well these dishes were executed, I have no clue other than the fact that the place was full of Desis of all ages, dining singly, in pairs, and in families.
                                                      There are several Indian and pan-Asian markets in the area so it appears that access to ingredients is not as great a challenge as it might be elsewhere. It may be that there are more places like this than non-Indians realize. I would never have found it had it not been mentioned on CH. When I got home, I looked up recipes for a few of the dishes I liked best, curious to see what the ingredients were. This was not a big help, since most of the ingredient names, fenugreek excepted, are "Greek to me" ;-D. Guess they are some of those mysterious packets and jars that my eyes gloss over at when I browse an ethnic market. No problem - I'll just let Ritu and her crew prepare them when I return to her restaurant, which will be often.

                                                      I should mention that there are better-known, (non-vegetarian-only) restaurants in the Boston area that feature pan-Indian menus, too.