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

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Brian S May 10, 2007 02:23 PM

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?

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  1. The Chowhound Team Nov 9, 2012 06:20 PM

    It appears that we've reached the point of agreeing to disagree. We're going to lock this thread now.

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    1. 1sweetpea Nov 1, 2012 12:42 PM

      Dahlias, your response surprises me. I spent 6 weeks in India a few years ago and definitely found that the most pleasant meal I had was at someone's home in Delhi. I had plenty of tasty food along the way, in the Gujarat, Rajasthan, in Varanasi, Delhi and Amritsar, but overall, no matter where we dined, dishes tended to be quite oily and made with very low-cost ingredients. The most exciting flavours were from street vendors making fresh foods while you watch (samosas, dhokla, chile peppers stuffed with potatoes and spices, breaded and fried, dosas, etc.).

      Interestingly, the family with whom I dined offered many dishes, some made fresh that day and others made in advance, preferred mild and gentle fare. The tastes were delicate. For health reasons they prepared foods with very little oil and ghee. There were no creamy, rich sauces. It was an impressive spread. I loved her homemade pickles.

      While in India, we heard over and over that most restaurants that are affordable for workers serve very cheap, low quality food. Expensive restaurants service the very wealthy, Indian travellers and foreigners. Ditto for hotel restaurants. Some restaurants had a higher priced menu and nice decor in one room, but also had another, simpler dining room with cheap set menus and rapid service. Foreigners were discouraged from eating in the simpler room. Any Indian we met told us the same thing: the best food is cooked at home. If someone is at home cooking, there is no need to eat in restaurants, except on very special occasions. Thus, most restaurants serve workers that have precious little to spend on extravagant meals. The busiest places were those that offered thalis with unlimited rice, dahl and veggie side dishes. People filled their bellies there, but the food was always standard issue pulses with few actual vegetables. We found that to stay healthy, we needed to supplement with yogurt, fruit bought at markets and fresh juice wherever someone was squeezing oranges or selling fresh coconuts.

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      1. re: 1sweetpea
        klyeoh Nov 8, 2012 09:06 PM

        Agreed - it is a great experience to be invited by Indian friends to their homes for home-cooked meals.

        That said, restaurants in India have really improved slowly but very surely in the past decade. I had some really, really good restaurant experiences in Chennai and also Bangalore recently. The resources available to these kitchens made their offerings very special indeed. Here's a small sampling of what I had:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844359

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844365

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844369

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844751

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/842973

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/843030

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      2. r
        Rahulk Nov 1, 2012 04:00 AM

        Hi Brian,

        I've always wondered about that myself. Being an Indian who is crazy about India's culinary diversity but finds it difficult to find great tasting Indian food, I'll have to say that the best way to sample Indian food is to befriend Indian families wherever you travel to (be it Varanasi, Mumbai, Madurai, Kashmir or Darjeeling par example) and request them if you could share a meal with the family. Unfortunately, few affordable and aesthetically pleasing Indian restaurants cater to clients with discerning or delicate palates. Most Indian food in restaurants tends to be a whitewashed version of the local cuisine and does not reflect the explosion of diverse cuisines extant in even a single neighborhood in one corner of a city. Since you've lived in India for a year, I don't have to tell you about India's linguistic, cultural, racial, ethnic and religious diversity. Every aspect of that adds a different fractal to the cuisine tree. The diversity of Indian cuisine is arguably the best kept secret in the country. And "Curry" ain't got anything to do about it !

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        1. re: Rahulk
          s
          shantihhh Nov 6, 2012 04:26 PM

          There is a wide choice of some pretty good Indian restaurants in our area.........but I might add we have a very large Indian population here in Silicon Valley. I have yet to find any that serve some of my favourite Awadhi dishes, so I still cook them at home. It is easy to find the ingredients here in the plethora of Indian markets including fresh local goat.

          One of my favourites in India is the Indian Chinese cuisine, wow makes regular Chinese fare pale by comparison IMHO.

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          1. re: shantihhh
            klyeoh Nov 6, 2012 11:36 PM

            Oh yes, "Indian Chinese" food, or what Hindustani Times' food critic extraordinaire Vir Sanghvi calls "Sino-Ludhianvi" is a cuisine unto its own. My personal first encounter with this cuisine was back in 1991 when, as a Singapore Airlines executive on a visit to the New Delhi office, I was brought by my local colleagues to a local "Chinese" restaurant to try "Chicken Manchurian". I'd never seen anything like it before - went back to Singapore and regaled my local colleagues about this new dish. "Is it from Manchuria", someone asked. "Nope, I was told it was invented by a Kolkata-born Chinese called Nelson Wang", another colleague remarked.

            In the ensuing 3 decades, I'd visited several other Indian cities and, whilst getting to sample their regional cuisines, I'm almost always inadvertently taken by local colleagues/contacts to have "Chinese" food at least once in each trip - Hakka noodles, Chicken Manchurian, etc., whether I'm in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore or Delhi.

            During my visit to Chennai this year, a couple of local colleagues told me that their favorite cuisine when eating out with their families is "Chinese food", meaning, of course, "Indian-style Chinese" food! I guess they look for something different when eating out. Personally, I only eat local food in whichever place I'm in :-)

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            1. re: klyeoh
              c
              Chowrin Nov 7, 2012 03:25 PM

              indo-chinese sounds pretty local to me. just like chifa.

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              1. re: Chowrin
                huiray Nov 7, 2012 05:48 PM

                "Indo-Chinese" food, also known as "Hakka food" [which is utterly confusing to folks who know only true Hakka (a regional Chinese) food], is found in many places outside India. Many folks from India who grew up eating "Indo-Chinese" food regularly apparently miss it and it would seem places have sprung up to cater to that hankering.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8733...

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                1. re: Chowrin
                  klyeoh Nov 7, 2012 06:11 PM

                  What I meant by "local" in the context of my visits to India was that I'd go for the regional dishes of that place/city I'm in, e.g. when in Bangalore, I'd concentrate on Karnatakan cuisine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuisine_of_Karnataka), when in Hyderabad, then the briyanis and other spicy Andhra dishes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telugu_cuisine), when in Mumbai, then Marathi cuisine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maharash...), etc. That's the beauty of eating out in India - so many choices, and always something new to savor when you visit the different cities in different states.

                  Of course, you also come across restaurants with signages which say "Multi-cuisine", whereby they'd offer dishes from various regions.

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              2. re: shantihhh
                huiray Nov 7, 2012 05:42 PM

                Well, "Indian-Chinese" food isn't actual/regular "Chinese" food...so comparing the two directly isn't quite kosher... :-)

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                1. re: huiray
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                  shantihhh Nov 8, 2012 11:17 AM

                  kosher? actually my agent that introduced me to Indian Chinese is Jewish :-)

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                  1. re: shantihhh
                    huiray Nov 8, 2012 12:23 PM

                    Heh. Well, I doubt he/she described it as Chinese-Chinese food. If he/she did, then he/she is ferdrayt and fertummelt. ;-)

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            2. e
              emu48 Oct 27, 2012 11:06 PM

              Can't speak to restaurant quality in India, having never been there, but in the U.S., something to keep in mind is the history of immigration. For several nationalities, including Chinese, Indian and Mexican, most immigrants to America originally came from only one or two regions of the home country. As a result, ethnic restaurants in the U.S. aren't necessarily a fair sampling of what's back home. And in all cases, obviously, there are adaptations to differences in available ingredients and perceptions of what American customers will enjoy or at least recognize.

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              1. d
                dahlias Oct 8, 2012 04:58 PM

                good question. because authentic indian cooking requires time. indians traditionally didn't eat out.

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                1. k
                  kishoripapa May 28, 2010 10:01 AM

                  You are entirely correct. Most Indian restaurants are not run for the benefit of the customer/diner. They are often the only economic opportunity for some immigrants. The money made from restaurants is then reinvested into other businesses, therefore, little $ is put back into the restaurant.
                  If you want good Indian food, you basically have to know the right kind of Indian person who enjoys eating out, whether that be in New York or New Delhi. There used to be really high-end Indian places back in the day that served excellent food. Most major US cities had them in one form or another. NYC might still have some but the prices are insane - $10 for 2 papadum. Most of these places now have lowered their standards to compete with the prices offered by the average passable Indian places. Your best bet are the South Indian vegetarian Indian places that most Indian people eat at when they eat out. Examples of which are Pongal in NYC, Viks and Udipi in Berkeley, and to a lesser extent Annapurna in LA. There are really good restaurants in India too, you just have to know local people who can afford to eat out who will show them to you. If you are in India and want really good food where the chefs care about the diners, head to any decent restaurant in Goa. You will be amazed. My father had some friends there and they took us to some places that served authentic Goan vindaloo, which is much better than the fake US version. It's made with goat and not lamb.

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                  1. w
                    Westy Jul 18, 2007 05:57 AM

                    Interesting. I spent a couple of months in Bangalore. I dreaded it, as I really was not impressed by the Indian food I had in the US. Most of my experience was in family-run places with buffet tables. I was absolutely amazed when I got to India. I think the key difference is cooking to order vs. cooking for a buffet. The buffet always seems sort of...leaden. Even when you order from the menu, places that are buffet-centric seem to have slower turnover, and the food tastes like it was just waiting to be heated up.

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                    1. re: Westy
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                      tvdxer Jul 20, 2007 01:41 PM

                      I've had a similar experience with Indian here.

                      The Indian buffets are targeted towards those who have little experience with the cuisine. They are always minimally spicy, to the point of being downright mild, and it seems as though they leave some of the ingredients out. Yet when you get take-out from the same place, you usually get at least a decent product, if not a very good one.

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                      1. re: tvdxer
                        psb Jul 21, 2007 12:53 AM

                        this might be kind of a stupid/bizarre question, but i havent been to an indian
                        buffet [except at somebody's house, at a wedding etc] ...

                        do they have meat dishes there? if so, how do they keep somebody
                        from picking out all the meat in one of the meat-in-gravy dishes?
                        i dont see how a buffet including meat would be viable if you can either
                        pay $7.95 for a chicken or lamb-in-sauce type dish [chicken makhani,
                        CTM, rogan josh etc] for like 5 pieces of meat, or you can pay $10, for
                        "all you can eat" meat. at $20, i imagine it would work out, but not at
                        the prices i've seen for the lunchtime buffets.

                        or do they only have the cheep dishes [dal, veg etc].

                        ok tnx.

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                        1. re: psb
                          k
                          KateC. Jul 24, 2007 11:21 AM

                          Sure, they have meat. I think most people take a little of everything because that is what is yummy, but you can take whatever you want.

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                          1. re: psb
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                            adrienne156 Jul 24, 2007 10:42 PM

                            I've been to maybe two other than at weddings or someone's house and it is exactly what keeps you from loading up there - other people are watching.

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                            1. re: adrienne156
                              psb Jul 25, 2007 12:35 AM

                              Of course part of the post-wedding/bowbhat activity is gossiping is about
                              "Can you believe Uncle X ate 10 pieces of fish and then asked for a
                              to-go plate" and "Cousin Y's office colleague (and future diabetic) ate
                              32 rosogollas" [I am not making those up].

                              I guess I'll have to try to make it to the half-price buffet and Khanna Peena
                              or that place on Fillmore up the street from the Kabuki.

                              ok tnx.

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                              1. re: psb
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                                adrienne156 Jul 25, 2007 11:40 AM

                                After eating 32 rosogollas, how can you not expect to get diabetes?!

                                I guess the Khana Peena buffet is worth trying if only to see what you can get for $4.95 and the coworkers really do rave about it... What place on Filmore?

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                                1. re: adrienne156
                                  psb Jul 25, 2007 06:59 PM

                                  >32 rosogollas
                                  >
                                  i dunno ... i dont really like rosogollas ... and i dont think
                                  the bengalis have evolved a rosogolla-tolerance gene yet.

                                  now switching to gulab jam, re: Fillmore ...
                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/383739

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                                  1. re: psb
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                                    adrienne156 Jul 26, 2007 12:38 PM

                                    There is 5 cups of sugar to 3 cups of water in your standard mishti syrup.

                                    Gulab jam - now that's the one mishti that I can make really well (I stuff em with ground pistacios and sultanas before I fry them), so we didn't buy them much, but I can tell you that whoever supplies Milan makes the worst ones by far.

                                    Here's a question - why are Indian sweets so popular if the ones that are most commonly found taste terrible?

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                                    1. re: adrienne156
                                      Brian S Jul 26, 2007 02:47 PM

                                      They are traditional holiday gifts. Also I like them.

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                                      1. re: Brian S
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                                        adrienne156 Jul 26, 2007 03:04 PM

                                        Right, but the ones you usually get in stores aren't any where near what they're supposed to taste like. The gulab jam for example are usually dense and somewhat dry, more bread-like than anything, and they are actually supposed to be soft and slightly spongy.

                                        New Yorkers probably have better access to decent sweets than the rest of us. The best mishti doi I've had outside of South Asia was definitely in Jackson Heights.

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                                        1. re: adrienne156
                                          psb Jul 26, 2007 04:13 PM

                                          I think many people have low standards for sweet things.

                                          i.e. asparagas has to be good quality or "tarted up" with oil/butter/fat
                                          for people to find it an hard to resist temptation ...
                                          but many people will eat a lot of so-so ice cream, so-so cookies or cake
                                          or donuts, so-so chocolate, soda ... or so-so mishti.

                                          i dont think i'd go so far as to say the store bought stuff is inedible,
                                          but sure, it's maybe like comparing fake syrup with real syrup on your
                                          pancakes.

                                          some non-indian friend i turned on to shon papri got really into those
                                          and that's their one request when i ask "do you want anything from india".
                                          i personally generally dont like the super sweet stuff [in syrup/"rosh"]
                                          and prefer less sweet, milk-based things. although there are definitely
                                          exceptions like good pantua/gulab jams. i wonder if the commercial/resto
                                          problem is they dont soak them long enough ... i have gotten some that
                                          are dry inside. although who can resist good hot jilipis. i think the
                                          closest i came to Instant Diabetes was from eat a large amount of
                                          mehidana ... it was pretty disgusting in retrospect ... have you seen mehidana
                                          here?

                                          i've found a lot of non-indians seem to like shon papri ... which
                                          these days you can get decent versions of here, so no longer a
                                          "special delivery" you have to hand carry back from india.

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                                          1. re: psb
                                            k
                                            KateC. Jul 27, 2007 10:29 AM

                                            Freshness is everything with the milk-based sweets.

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                                            1. re: psb
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                                              adrienne156 Nov 4, 2012 11:24 PM

                                              5 years later... I only recently learned of mihidana and had never seen it at any of the local mishti stores before. ...BUT, I may have a source for you if you feel compelled to revisit your sugar coma - an aunty in the Bangali community has begun making sweets out of her home to order and labels the boxes "Mishti Ghor" (Sweet House). I can ask if you want.

                                              Btw, there's a mishti that I can never remember the name of in Bangla and have been desperately trying to figure out the name of in Hindi - it's milk based and I'm sure it contains besan and ghee. Darker on the bottom (caramel-ish) and gets lighter toward the top. When made well, it has a chewy, slightly dense, brownie-like texture, but can be hard and crumbly if overcooked and often is. Any ideas?

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                                              1. re: adrienne156
                                                r
                                                Rasam Nov 5, 2012 07:17 AM

                                                Do you mean Mysore Pak (a South Indian besan-fried-in-ghee concoction)? Here is a link with a picture: http://www.vahrehvah.com/Mysore+Pak:92

                                                I agree with what Rahul and others have said: the term "curry" is a misnomer that alas, has taken on a life of its own.

                                                The spice mixes sold in Indian stores are all customized each to its own dish (e.g. sambar powder, chana masala mix, dhansak masala, etc etc) though people use it creatively.

                                                What is also annoying is the use of the term "curried" as a descriptor of a food technique- e.g. "curried vegetables" - like steamed, sauteed, etc. Used regardless of the actual name, spicing, and technique of the dish!

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                                                1. re: Rasam
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                                                  adrienne156 Nov 5, 2012 08:06 PM

                                                  YES! Thank you! Although I am absolutely horrified after watching that video. Last I was in Asia I literally sat there next to my grandmother and ate myself sick off of it because she had made it specially for me.

                                                  I agree with the use of the term "curried." Cold curried chicken salad sounds really foul.

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                                                  1. re: Rasam
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                                                    Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 01:11 PM

                                                    I agree !! I've heard of 'curried lamb' ! I'm assuming they mean 'spiced lamb' where the spices and the method of cooking is distinctly Indian. However, it is easier to use "curry" whenever you're talking about ANYTHING to do with Indian food. Just like "snake charmer", "Hindoo", "dothead" and "tech-support", curry has become a one-word description for anything Indian ! I remember cringing during an episode of an American sitcom I used to watch when a guy said "I'm going to have curry for dinner !" when he was talking about sleeping with an Indian girl ! I stopped watching that show shortly after. The ignorance and the reductionism was too annoying to bear.

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                                                    1. re: Rahulk
                                                      c
                                                      Chowrin Nov 6, 2012 03:36 PM

                                                      you should see what the japanese call curry...

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                                                      1. re: Chowrin
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                                                        Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 10:31 PM

                                                        The Japanese have every right to call their food whatever they want. My problem is with the WESTERNERS calling INDIAN and other south asian food "curry". Our foods have names and I don't think it is too much to ask for them to learn their names.

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                                                        1. re: Rahulk
                                                          klyeoh Nov 6, 2012 11:12 PM

                                                          True, and the Japanese also generally acknowledged that "Japanese curry" originated from "British curry" - or more specifically, from the British Royal Navy's kitchens, first encountered by Japanese emissaries sent on fact-finding missions to the West during the Meiji Restoration era in the late19th-century.

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                            animesh372 Jul 17, 2007 01:35 PM

                            Dear Brian,
                            Well no issues in having a frank discussion.
                            True Indian food is strongly typeset to the indian palate. It can be very spicy, made from local ingredients that you need to grow up with. I think!. For example both north and south indian dishes can be is very spicy and probably have only local appeal. I personally dig both but especially south indian.
                            Many of my american friends do not care for it. Which is fine.
                            Really the curry, biryani and tikka that India is known for is not true indian food. Indian cuisine is primarily vegetarian.
                            I notice in your blurb that nowhere do you mention that you actually like indian or this that dish.
                            Maybe you just don't like indian and haven't found any you liked because it is not out there....:)

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                            1. re: animesh372
                              Brian S Jul 17, 2007 04:30 PM

                              Oh I'd like it if I could find it. When I said "the glory of Indian cuisine" I meant it.

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                              1. re: animesh372
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                                adrienne156 Jul 18, 2007 01:12 PM

                                How is curry and biryani not true indian food?! That statement is completely false.

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                                1. re: adrienne156
                                  r
                                  Rahulk Nov 1, 2012 04:13 AM

                                  Curry is a British Invention. There is no such thing as "Curry" in Indian food. The word "Curry" is a poor calque of a Tamil word for meat. It was picked up from Tamil traders who traded with the British in Madras in the 1600s. British Generals who were returning from India probably missed India's culinary diversity (who wouldn't?) and urged their chefs to whip up some "Curry" (the same way reductionist perceptions of Chinese food exist in America even today in the form of "Panda Express" and "P.F.Chang's"). Unfortunately, it is an awful generalization and simplification of India's immeasurable culinary diversity. As an Indian and a food lover, I believe the word "curry" is a slur. It has no place in a food lover's forum.

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                                  1. re: Rahulk
                                    Perilagu Khan Nov 1, 2012 07:03 AM

                                    That's odd, because curry powder is manufactured by Indian companies in India and is sold in Indian markets. The word "curry" may have the etymology you describe, but its various meanings have certainly been assimilated into modern Indian cuisine.

                                    And a "slur"? Please.

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                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                      r
                                      Rahulk Nov 1, 2012 09:08 AM

                                      I request you to check this link out....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curry_po...
                                      As I mentioned, curry and curry powder are British inventions. The word "curry" is thrown about as a casual adjective to describe any gravy with an "indian" flavor (I'm assuming they mean anything containing a blend of cumin, coriander, fenugreek, turmeric and red pepper in varying concentrations), however, it is important to know that just like "phall curry" and "chicken tikka masala", "curry powder" and the use of the word "curry" to discuss ANY indian food item, is incorrect. We have paneer butter masala...or shahi korma...or kadhi or aloo tukra. If a dish is called Chicken Curry, it cannot be accurately identified to any distinct culinary group in India, because there is no part of India where "chicken curry" is made. In south india it may be a kozhambu or varuval and in north india it may be a tukra, makhni, korma, masala or jalfrezi. A dish called "chicken curry" has to be 'made up'. And depending on the mix of spices that are used, it would either be a mish-mash somewhere between a korma and a masala or it would be fusion cuisine. No authentic Indian dishes are called "curry". It is an english word for "Gravy with indian spices". Finally, the reason I called it a slur was because calling Indian gravies "curries" is like calling someone with an Indian name like Markandeya or Venkatraman "Mark" or Mr. V. The English speaking Gentry did the same thing to the names of people, cities, deities and many other Indian cultural and ethnic entities. Mumbai became Bombay, Kanpur became "Cawnpore" and Mangalapuram became "Mangalore". They did not use authentic Indian words because it was too difficult for them. On the other hand, if we called London Lundanabad or Lundanapur I wonder how they'd take it. Just like insisting that "Chennai" be referred to by it's actual name is not in itself a crazy suggestion. Similarly asking people to refer to tandoori chicken or chicken karahi or chicken korma as such and not as "chicken curry" is not unreasonable.

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                                      1. re: Rahulk
                                        Perilagu Khan Nov 1, 2012 09:39 AM

                                        Again, curry powder is manufactured by Indian companies and is sold in Indian markets. I sincerely doubt its consumers are exclusively westerners. My very strong suspicion is that, over time, Indians have come to use curry powder, primarily as a convenience. Thus, while curry powder is a western riff on Indian spice blends, ti has become incorporated into Indian cuisine, just as Hakka cuisine has been assimilated into Indian and is now extremely popular in many parts of India.

                                        Regarding the term curry as a synonym for Indian stews, this is merely a catch-all that helps non-Indians grasp a subset of Indian cuisine. Just because the term itself is foreign to Indian culinary nomenclature, does not make it wrong.

                                        Finally, curry is not a slur because there is no malign intent behind its deployment. You may consider the term incorrect in a strictly Indian context, but that makes it an error, not a slur. And if you wish to call London Lundanabad, I have no problem with that whatsoever. Just don't expect the Brits to call it that, although given their pusillanimity and cultural abdication, I wouldn't be surprised if the do at some point.

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                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                          r
                                          Rahulk Nov 1, 2012 12:16 PM

                                          I have absolutely no problems with nor do I refute the fact that some Indians in India might use curry powder(The curry powder of British origin). However I'm confident that a large majority of Indians use specific spice mixes unique to their cultures. Aam chur powder, goda masala, kaala masala, Panch phoron, sambar masala, rasam masala, idli masala(milagai podi), tandoori masala and chaat masala are probably much more widespread since they originated in India and are characteristic to a single linguistic, religious or ethnic group in India. Curry powder and it's French cousin Vadouvan are probably largely sold for export as frankly there are no traditional Indian recipes where their use would be required. However, just as Indians have coopted various Persian and turkish elements in their food, I. Don't see how we wouldn't concoct new dishes where curry powder would feature prominently. But what I would like to reiterate is that the use of the word curry to refer to any gravy with a mix of Indian spices is incorrect and it seems to give westerners the illusion that Indians cook nothing but curry. Since India, her people , cultures, religions and practices have always been viewed and portrayed with a reductionist slant that omits any semblance of variety and nuance and relies heavily on offensive stereotypes(poor, monkey brain eating, snake charming, cow worshipping, caste obsessed, dirty, taj mahal having, Gandhi idolizing, Pakistan hating, woman oppressing, irrational dark-skinned rapists or unnaturally lascivious and slimy meek vegetarian call center workers who speak heavily accented English in a song song voice), I can draw parallels between the stereotype of black people's love for fried chicken

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                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan
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                                            Rahulk Nov 1, 2012 12:44 PM

                                            pig's feet, ham hock, collard greens and okra. Every culture likes to put others in a box. And it seems that a large segment of the western populace has put Indian food in the box labeled "curry". This is something I feel needs to be addressed. I feel so strongly about this because "curry" is not even originally Indian. The British came up with a misnomer, spread it around the world and the whole world thinks Indians eat mostly curry. No we do not ! An analogy would be for the Americans to call pizza "parmesan", make and sell thousands of pizzas by that name to the point where Italians are asking themselves what's wrong in calling their Pizzas "parmesans". Parmesan (in this instance) is the generic name for Pizza. Similarly, "Curry" is a generic term that originated in the west for a gravy with Indian spices. In India, the word curry has no inherent meaning. If you asked an english educated Indian what the word "curry" meant, he will invariably refer to the reductive western meaning. If you ask a farmer in a village in Bihar or Tamil nadu, he'd say he's never heard of that kind of food, because it isn't native to India. The spices that make up the "curry powder mix" may be from India, the spices and vegetables that go into making a "curry" may very well be from India. That doesn't make it Indian. And it certainly shouldn't be okay to label all AUTHENTIC indian gravies "curries". That's like Indians calling themselves "dotheads", "towelheads", "coolies" or "hindoos". That's what the westerners call us. It's a caricature of us. Why celebrate it and legitimize the ignorance and the mockery ?

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                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                              boogiebaby Nov 1, 2012 01:38 PM

                                              Rahulk is correct about thr word "curry" and curry powder being British inventions. From what I've read in the past, it was their odd pronunciation of the word "kadhi" (the chickpea/yogurt sauced dish). Curry powder was invented as as a shortcut because the British were intimidated by using so many different spices and wanted a quick easy "all in one" mix.

                                              Nowadays, various "curry" powders can be found throughout India and in any Indian store. It's just like "chicken tikka masala" -- a British invention that's now found on almost every Indian restaurant menu, India included.

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                                              1. re: boogiebaby
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                                                Rahulk Nov 1, 2012 02:46 PM

                                                Actually boogiebaby, the word "curry" is a corruption of the tamil word "kari" which is actually a word for a meat based gravy. It was adapted by the british and extrapolated to include any gravy with indian spices in it. And, not to nitpick, but the various "curry" powders you find throughout India have their own names. They're called chaat masala mixes, garam masala mixes, kaala masala or milagai podi. Calling them all "curry" powders would be incorrect. They're all spice mixes. That would be a more accurate and less maligned term for them.

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                                                1. re: Rahulk
                                                  boogiebaby Nov 5, 2012 07:24 AM

                                                  I don't count chaat masala, garam masala et al as curry powder. I'm talking about the stuff like Madras curry powder, MDH brand chicken curry masala, etc.

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                                                  1. re: boogiebaby
                                                    Perilagu Khan Nov 5, 2012 09:38 AM

                                                    Deep also makes curry powder. I use it whenever I make good old fashioned retro chicken curry. Is it a dish likely to be found in a kitchen in Shimoga? Certainly not. But it's delicious all the same and has many Indian flavors I love.

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                                                      boogiebaby Nov 5, 2012 01:32 PM

                                                      Exactly. Just because it's not authentic doesn't mean it's not good. I use the Shan Chicken Curry Masala sometimes, and also use Baba's Meat Curry powder from Malaysia. Why? Because they taste good to us. It's not because I don't know authentic from inauthentic. I do know my Indian food. But I do think that many ready made curry powders out there are delicious.

                                                      While I appreciate the history lesson from RahulK, I think it's a bit presumptuous to assume that anyone who refers to a dish of chicken in a curry sauce as "chicken curry" is not fit to be on a food board (as implied in a previous post). I know the difference between a Chicken Korma and a Chicken Chettinad, but when speaking to others who are not familiar with Indian food, I will and do describe the dishes as a Chicken Curry type dish.

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                                                      1. re: boogiebaby
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                                                        Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 11:54 PM

                                                        We are not discussing the tastiness or the "goodness" of various curry powders available worldwide. I am sure that the "Phall curry" or the "Madras curry" are some of the most delicious foods out there. I have nothing against the eating or purchase of curry or its ingredients. However, what I am objecting to here is the use of the word "curry" to describe any south asian food. My previous post implied that it is incorrect to call a traditional Indian chicken dish "chicken curry" as the dish is of british origin. I don't think any westerner who calls "tiramisu" a cheesecake or refers to spaghetti as "ramen noodles", refers to hot dogs as "sausages" or uses ham, bacon, prosciutto, bologna, salami and pepperoni interchangeably to mean ANY cured slice of pork could ever in his life be on a food board. Then I wonder why one who would refer to an Indian chicken dish as "chicken curry" should be coddled to think it is okay to mistake Indian food for british fusion cuisine. If you are speaking to someone who is not familiar with Indian food, it would be better to describe kormas the way Indians do when westerners travel to India and try Indian food. We do not use the phrase "curry-type dish" to describe Indian masalas, kormas and other gravies. We describe the gravies by explaining their contents viz., (Chicken Madrasi - boneless pieces of chicken cooked with fresh bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes with touch of coconut). You could try that the next time, instead of using the word "curry". You don't have to, it's just a suggestion.

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                                                      2. re: Perilagu Khan
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                                                        Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 12:55 PM

                                                        I'm glad you've finally come round to accepting that "Chicken curry" is not an Indian concoction !

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                                                        1. re: Rahulk
                                                          Perilagu Khan Nov 6, 2012 01:17 PM

                                                          As if I ever denied that...

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                                                      3. re: boogiebaby
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                                                        Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 12:13 PM

                                                        Madras curry powder is unfamiliar in "Madras" the state(Tamil Nadu) and the city(Chennai). Having lived and travelled extensively in Tamil Nadu, I can assure you that there is no dish called "Madras Curry" or condiment mix called "Madras Curry powder" in Tamil Nadu. It is a british invention that was probably an adaptation of a recipe that was used by traders in "Madras"(Chennai) to make a meat based gravy in the 1640s. That being said, in today's globalized world, I cannot assert with certainty that not one person in Chennai cooks "Madras Curry" at home(we have a lot of expats from Britain in Chennai) neither can I say that it is not offered in restaurants. However, if it is called "Madras Curry" or "Madras Curry Powder", I can bet my bottom dollar that it was imported from Britain or made primarily for import to Britain. MDH and other spice export companies make numerous spice mixes for export to the western world based on demand. However, these mixes are rarely popular in India. I can promise you that if you walk into ANY restaurant in Chennai(MADRAS) and ask the chef if he can whip up some "Madras Curry" for you, he'd look at you in bewilderment. The word "curry" is not used to describe any specific item of Indian food in India by anyone other than WESTERNERS. Let's come to "Chicken Tikka Masala". The british have sadly co-opted and then subsumed this dish as a "truly British dish". However, Punjabis have been making Chicken Tikka masala in India for over 150 years now. Chicken tikka masala isn't british, punjabi immigrants from India popularized it in Britain. Curry is a british word for a gravy dish with Indian spices. John Lloyd and John Mitchinson's, "The Book of General Ignorance" deals with this issue. It's a riveting read. Also, I'd request you to go through this article where Indian chefs have taken umbrage over the fact that the British wanted to usurp this uniquely Indian dish. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddri...

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                                                2. re: Rahulk
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                                                  Harters Nov 1, 2012 09:42 AM

                                                  There is some truth to Rahulk's assertion in that much of the food served in the West purporting to be south asian tends to have come via the UK. Although to attribute any lack of authenticity of the food to the Anglo customers, rather than to the south asian chefs and restaurant owners seems just plain odd.

                                                  Even then, it is of course rare to see a dish simply called "curry" here - invariably there will be something more descriptive - perhaps korma, massala, etc. as the menu of this restaurant a few minutes away from me in North Cheshire. http://www.dilli.co.uk/menus.asp

                                                  As how I might react if foreigners called my capital city a name from their own language rather than mine, then we've been used to the French calling it Londres for centuries.

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                                                  1. re: Harters
                                                    Perilagu Khan Nov 1, 2012 09:45 AM

                                                    "Even then, it is of course rare to see a dish simply called "curry" here - invariably there will be something more descriptive - perhaps korma, massala, etc. as the menu of this restaurant a few minutes away from me in North Cheshire."

                                                    Excellent point. And it also applies even to the "benighted" wilds of west Texas: http://maharajafineindiancuisine.com/

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                                                    1. re: Harters
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                                                      Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 01:02 PM

                                                      I have no problems with foreigners calling Indian cities by the name of their choice. However, the problem arises when westerners call Indian food "curry" and then assume that all Indians eat "curry" and hence "curry" is authentically Indian ! The analogy would be for Indians to refer to all american baked food(pizza bases, pie crusts, cakes, muffins, cookies) by a single word, say "Chadda" and then reductively lament that Americans eat nothing by "chadda". This is exactly what happens to Indian food today. Indian food is reductively called "curry" by westerners and as a corollary every Indian eats curry for every meal of every day !!

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                                                      1. re: Rahulk
                                                        Perilagu Khan Nov 6, 2012 01:22 PM

                                                        But Indians do eat what Westerners CALL curry. And nobody is "lamenting" that fact. You manufacture offense where it does not exist.

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                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
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                                                          Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 11:07 PM

                                                          95% of Indians outside of Indian restaurants in the UK do NOT eat "curry". They eat Indian food (which curry is not). They eat their shahi kormas, their tikkas, their masalas, their sambars, their posthos, their rasams, their kadalakaris, their molis and their jalfrezis. The 5% of us that eat curries do so because we want to try British fusion cuisine. Just because Chinese people in China may enjoy a bowl of "General Tso's Chicken" doesn't mean that's ALL they eat or that their own authentic food can also be called "General Tso's Chicken". I am not manufacturing offense. As an Indian who has spent 2 years in the US, Canada, Germany, UK, France, Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium I am acutely aware of how widespread the notion is that "curry" is "mostly" what Indians eat at home. Unfortunately, WESTERNERS do know less about South Asian food than they do about East asian food. They don't call sushi "raw fish rolls". They don't call kimchi "korean sauerkraut". Similarly, they shouldn't call Chicken Chettinad "Chicken Curry". They are not the same. One is an authentic south Indian dish and the other is British fusion cuisine.

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                                                          1. re: Rahulk
                                                            Perilagu Khan Nov 7, 2012 07:21 AM

                                                            95% of Indians outside of Indian restos in the UK do not eat curry? I'd like to see proof of that.

                                                            Westerners do not call chicken chettinad, chicken curry. There is a specific Indian-inspired dish we have dubbed chicken curry.

                                                            "Curry" is simply a harmless Western catch-all term for Indian stews. Similarly, pasta is a catch-all term for spaghetti, lo mein, mai fun, capunti, strozzapretti, capunti, taglionloni, etc. No Westerner who has even a passing acquaintance with Indian food would call tandoori chicken or mango kulfi "curry." The fact that the term is of Western provenance does not make it wrong. In the English language, it is perfectly correct.

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                                                            1. re: Rahulk
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                                                              shantihhh Nov 7, 2012 01:49 PM

                                                              OPPS! General Tso's Chicken is American, not Chinese! Chinese cooks would never turn out such an icky sweet dish.

                                                              The real roots of the dish lie in the post-1949 exodus of chefs to the United States. The dish is reported to have been introduced to New York City in the early 1970s as an example of Hunan cooking, though it is not typical of Hunanese cuisine, which is traditionally very spicy and rarely sweet. The dish was first mentioned in The New York Times in 1977.

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                                                          2. re: Rahulk
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                                                            Harters Nov 6, 2012 02:25 PM

                                                            It is, obviously, entirely a matter for you whether you regard how I might describe something as a "problem" for you. However, I'll be carrying on describing food from south asia as I have in the past.

                                                            In doing so, I note that you continue to make assertions about how people like me might desciribe something without taking into any account my own culture - into which food from your culture forms a part (only a small part of course). You have also ignored my earlier comments that, in my culture, we do not generally regard south asioan food as simply "curry". You are finding a "problem" when there is nothing there.

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                                                            1. re: Harters
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                                                              Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 11:37 PM

                                                              Not once on any post have I said "people like you" especially since I do not know anything about you. I have no Idea where you live or what kind of food you eat. I have no idea how food from "my culture" would form a part of yours(By that I'm assuming you mean Indian culture although no such thing exists. In a country with over 1.2 billion people with people speaking over 18 official languages, our "cultures" differ based on language, religion, geography and unfortunately caste. There is no monolithic "Indian Culture"). However, if you were from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Nepal I guess the physical proximity of the countries would have led to the spread of Indian food to your country. It is also entirely possible that you are from any of the handful of countries that have had indentured plantation laborers from India (Suriname, British Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Mauritius, Fiji, Malaysia or Sri Lanka). If that's the case, I understand how Indian food forms part of food from your culture. I understand that people from your country(again, I have no idea where you live) may not consider south asian food "curry" and kudos to them for being well informed about Indian cuisine, but in the WESTERN hemisphere, over 80% of people believe "curry" is South Asian and also that all South asians eat "curry" or "curry" based food for most meals every day. I have not met a SINGLE westerner (in my 2 years outside India including stays in the US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland or Belgium) who did not refer to Indian food as "curry". So as an Indian who has been to all of these countries and does not refer to spaghetti as noodles or hot dogs as sausages, I believe I feel westerners don't accord food from India the same privileges they accord ceviche, burrito, kimchi, pad thai, wonton, kebab, hummus, tapenade or bratwurst. Whenever westerners eat these foods, they always use the correct words to describe them, but with Indian food, it's just "curry"(mostly... there are of course exceptionally well traveled people like you who seem to know that curry is british fusion cuisine and not Indian food). This double standard is what Indians find painful. And I can assure you that I'm not the only one. It is just that many Indians do not frankly speak to westerners about things that would run the risk of them being labelled a petulant child. However, I have no such worries seeing as I don't work or live for or with anyone in this forum. Indians do not like it when their food is called "curry". You can call it ANYTHING you please. I also encourage you to call spaghetti "noodles", paella "pilaf" and champagne "white wine". It doesn't matter whether it is the correct word, or do Westerners have different standards for South Asians and their food ?

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                                                              1. re: Rahulk
                                                                h
                                                                Harters Nov 7, 2012 01:24 AM

                                                                Whilst my experience is not your experience, I accept that your belief is that all of us westerners call south asian food "curry" , without further description. I have tried to point out that it is simply not generally accurate. But, let's suppose it was. We eat south asian food in restaurants owned by south asians. If they were to call a dish "chicken curry", then we would be likely also to call the dish "chicken curry". But they don't. They give it further description - and so do we. Here's soem more examples for you to look at:

                                                                http://7spices.co.uk/index.php/main-courses

                                                                http://cafespice.co.uk/menus/ala-carte/

                                                                Now, of course, it may have been the case that, when south asians first immigrated to the UK and opened restaurants, that they may have called a dish "chicken curry". But that's 40 years ago and things have changed a lot in that time. But here's another menu. It does, indeed, describe a few dishes as "curry". You'll find them in a tiny section of the menu called "old school favourites" which does tend to support the view that these are old fashioned descriptions, not in general use. http://akbars.co.uk/manchester/akbars...

                                                                I'd also accept that, in British English, "curry" is used as a generic term (although in parts of the country, "balti" woud probably be used instead) in the same way as a multitude of dishes in British cuisine are generically called "stew". It's the same generic use that leads us to describe south asian restaurants here as "Indian". Whereas, in fact, most south asian restaurants are owned by folk from Bangladeshi or Pakistani backgrounds, rather than Indian or Sri Lankan.

                                                                The generic use is no different than if I first decide I am going to have "stew" or "pasta" for dinner before deciding exactly what I'm going to cook or order in a restaurant.

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                                                                1. re: Rahulk
                                                                  h
                                                                  Harters Nov 8, 2012 03:44 AM

                                                                  I couldnt comment on their choice of menu descriptions. It is what it is.

                                                                  I find it signifciant that you now want to criticise south asians restaurant owners for their choice of words - particularly as their choice of words is exactly the descriptions that you have earlier suggested are the correct descriptions.

                                                                  By the by, our last south asian meal was at a restaurant actually owned by an Indian, rather than a Bangladeshi or Pakistani as most restaurants are. We ordered samosa ki chaat, chicken 65, bhuna gosht and gosht banjara. Those are the menu descriptions. Not a mention of "curry" amongst them - which is no surprise as restaurants RARELY describe dishes as "curry"

                                                                  I'm starting to form the view of your posts that you don't want to let facts get in the way of your prejudices.

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                                                                  1. re: Harters
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                                                                    Rahulk Nov 8, 2012 02:02 AM

                                                                    I just have one question. Have you ever been to India and had "curry" at an Indian restaurant ?

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                                                                    1. re: Rahulk
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                                                                      Harters Nov 8, 2012 03:46 AM

                                                                      I have never been to India.

                                                                      I can't recall ever having "curry" in the UK. As I keep trying ot point out to you, it is rare that dishes are so described in the UK. I keep offering evidence to that effect - why are you choosing to ignore it? The evidence that I present is what south asian restaurant owners are calling their dishes - it has NOTHING, repeat NOTHING, to do with British customers (of whatever ethinic backgound - we are a multi-cultural society in the UK) who eat the food. Why do you choose to ignore the evidence? Is it that it doesnt support your prejudices?

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                                                                      1. re: Rahulk
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                                                                        cresyd Nov 8, 2012 04:56 AM

                                                                        "The use of the word 'curry' to collectively refer to south asian food has significantly diminished the perceived diversity of south asian cuisine."

                                                                        I would dispute this completely. I am from the US - and so while the term curry is less pervasive than perhaps it is in the UK - the term 'curry' to describe a heavily spiced thick stew (that is often served with rice, bread, or other carbohydrate) is commonly used. Perhaps the cultural significance of the term is lost on the US population given the migration of the word.

                                                                        While the Jamaican use of the term curry is most likely related to a UK linguistic migration - in the US you see curry used to describe thick stews including Indian, Jamaican, Thai - but also food from places like Ethiopia.

                                                                        Personally, if you tell me that you're having Chettinad Chicken for lunch - aside from the "chicken" - that means nothing to me. For me the "curry" puts it into a huge range of context. It means a stew, that may be thick enough to be served on a plate or a thinner broth that needs a bowl. It may be just the chicken and sauce, or it may have other "visible" ingredients. It will be spiced/flavored. From that point, I'm open to being educated. If anything, the greater globalization of the term "curry" can really work in your favor.

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                                                                        1. re: cresyd
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                                                                          Harters Nov 8, 2012 06:16 AM

                                                                          Speaking of globilisation, Madhur Jaffrey uses the word "curry" to describe some dishes in her, ahem, "Ultimate Curry Bible" book. For those unfamiliar with the book, it includes recipes not just from the countries of the sub-continent but from other places as well - Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Trinidad, Japan, Guyana, UK, Kenya, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar. For thos eof us with an interest in the food, it makes for a good read - seeing how styles remain basically the same, but adapted to suit local conditions and ingredients - the sort of adaptations you'd expect with any cuisine moving round the globe

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                                                              2. re: Rahulk
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                                                                shantihhh Nov 7, 2012 10:50 AM

                                                                I love reading what you have written and could be heard probably by my neighbours yelling YES! YES! I am forever miffed when I hear westerns calling many Indian dishes curry, and even more frustrated that Indian restaurant owners have given into this incorrect nomenclature themsel es. I am forever correcting friends that Indians do not cook curry! Then I try to explain about masalas for various favoured dishes. At least my children understand and never say Indian curry. Of course my daughter worked in my office in Delhi for awhile, and she had many Indian and Paikistani friends in her MBA class.

                                                                I have been fortunate to have fallen in love with Indian cusine back when I was an 18 y/o student in London. I literally filled by suitcase with Indian ingredients purchased in London and brought them home to Sunnyvale to cook for my family what I had learned. Ironically now there is an Indian Cash & Carry shop on almost every street now in this once agricultural haven.

                                                                I use to travel on business to both NYC and Chicago and quickly sought out some great Indian eateries. There used to be one on W. Devon St. I think it was called Mohti Mahal. It was tucked in the back of a little Indian grocery. I'd grab a cab and pay heartily to be taken there from my hotel (Hyatt or Hilton downtown). This was like 25 years ago-before my first trips to India in the late 80's.

                                                                Reading here is making me miss Mother India so much. I must take a holiday there again and savour favourite dishes, visit old friends, asnd familiar places, and of course discover new ones. I was so fortunate to travel to India several times a year with my job :-) My love affair with Indian cuisine began early on when I had a best friend from India when we were 10, and my insatiable thirst of learning more and more about the diverse cultures of Mother India goes on and on fueled by each trip to India, and each new recipe I make.

                                                                This is a wonderful thread to have come upon and I know I will learn of tucked away hidden gems of true Indian culinary delights in the SF Bay Area.

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                                                        2. re: Rahulk
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                                                          adrienne156 Nov 4, 2012 10:59 PM

                                                          You're absolutely right - the word "curry" does overly simplify the glory of S. Asian cuisine, but I tend to take a softer approach with those who love food and who may just be beginning to find their love of S. Asian food and refer to dishes as "curry."

                                                          In general, curry is the generic word that I use for torkari (that's Bangla, btw) and I knew the dishes that animesh was referring to that are commonly found in restos - the vindaloos, the kormas, the rezalas, etc. - which are dishes I know you know are found in the S. Asian subcontinent. The korma sitting in my fridge is certainly real "Indian" food. That was more my point.

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                                                          1. re: adrienne156
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                                                            Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 01:06 PM

                                                            And I encourage you to wean yourself from using the word "curry" and describing Indian food by its actual name. We call pizzas, calzones and spaghetti by their original names.. We don't call all italian food "pasta". However, when it comes to Indian food, it's some "curry" or the other made with veggies, meat, chicken or fish ! Who cares if "sambar", "korma" or "Kadahi" all mean very different things, all originate 1000 miles apart and include very different ingredients ?? As long as it's Indian, I can call it "curry", right ? I believe that it is this ignorance of India's diverse palate that can be frustrating to Indians..

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                                                            1. re: Rahulk
                                                              Perilagu Khan Nov 6, 2012 01:26 PM

                                                              Westerners use terms such as tikka masala, biryani, ras malai, rogan josh, jalfreezi, kofta, korma, sambar, makhani, thali, gulub jamun, kulfi etc. all the time. Please don't "reductively" assert that the only "Indian" culinary term we know is curry. This is frustrating to Westerners.

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                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan
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                                                                Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 10:55 PM

                                                                Lol...If that were really true, we wouldn't be having this discussion !! 100% of westerners I've lived with, met, worked with and generally hung out with (a mixed bag of doctors, engineers, PhDs and undergraduate students from all parts of the western world including Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the UK, the US and Canada) have affirmed my belief that the WEST sees British fusion cuisine as Indian food ! Of the thousands of westerners I've spoken to about Indian food, not ONE could call Indian food anything OTHER than "curry". ONE gentleman who had spent 6 months in India could give me the name of a SINGLE ITEM OF FOOD he ate there for 6 months.. When Indians go to the US or anywhere in Europe for a week and come back, we gush about all the tiramisu, the insalata caprese, the beef bourguignon, the paella, the yorkshire puddings, the poutines and the baby-back ribs that we've tried and loved. We don't reduce western food to a single word. When I meet ONE westerner who can talk to me about INDIAN or South ASIAN food WITHOUT using the word "curry" to describe it, I will stop "reductively" asserting that it is the only "Indian" culinary item of food they know. Until then, don't hold your breath.

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                                                                1. re: Rahulk
                                                                  Perilagu Khan Nov 7, 2012 07:29 AM

                                                                  I find your post, shall we say, hard to swallow. You've spoken to "thousands" of westerners about Indian food (that claim alone is dubious) and "not one" knows Indian food by any other term than curry? All I can do is chuckle. In this thread alone you are communicating with several Westerners who give the lie to your assertion. And I'd say that probably half of the Westerners who I know well are perfectly capable of distinguishing between Indian food in general, curry more specifically, and individual Indian dishes even more minutely. Your hyperbole negates your credibility.

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                                                                  1. re: Rahulk
                                                                    s
                                                                    shantihhh Nov 7, 2012 11:09 AM

                                                                    Rahulk, I dare say you have greatly over simplified Westerners knowledge of Indian cuisines.
                                                                    :-)
                                                                    Have you traveled to Silicon Valley? I think you just might put a different slant on your opinion. Many hereie non-Indians have learned and are quite knowledgeable on the diversity of Indian cuisine. Hey if you rub elbows with fellow team mates, and break bread together you do learn :-) We are a diverse lot here in SV and certainly not closed minded that food is only McD's

                                                                    Indian cuisines have become a staple for many of us whether shopping at the local farmer's market where even moringa (drumstick) can be purchased, and such as Suki's is sold in Costco, and fresh nan and idli are easily found at even Costco, etc. LOL We aren't as dumb as you think. Many have been awakened to the delights of the Indian table. Last I read there are over 1 million Indians in the SF Bay Area, perhaps we have learned from them to open our palates!

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                                                                2. re: Rahulk
                                                                  boogiebaby Nov 6, 2012 01:41 PM

                                                                  RahulK, I think it's very presumptuous to assume that the posters on this board are all non-Indian. I am Punjabi, and I know adrienne's husband is Indian from her previous posts. Not everyone here is an ignorant non-Indian who doesn't know their food names. If you want to educate people, then do so without talking down to them.

                                                                  I'm done with this thread.

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                                                                  1. re: boogiebaby
                                                                    Perilagu Khan Nov 6, 2012 02:18 PM

                                                                    And not all non-Indians are ignorant of Indian food. Many of us have taken significant pains--so to speak--to learn about this beloved cuisine.

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                                                                    1. re: Rahulk
                                                                      k
                                                                      Kat Nov 7, 2012 05:45 AM

                                                                      Interesting discussion. When I used to live in the UK, my British friends would ask if I wanted to go for a curry, which initially confused me and then struck me as definitely a Britishism. Where I grew up and live now, in the eastern US, no one would say that and most people would not even know what you meant. It is as though the spice name is synonymous with the cuisine of the country.

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                                                                      1. re: Kat
                                                                        h
                                                                        Harters Nov 7, 2012 06:10 AM

                                                                        As I noted upthread, we Brits might use "curry" as in say "would you like to go for a curry", in the same way as we might say "would you like to go for a pizza/steak/burger". We might also say "would you like to go for an Indian" in the same way as we might ask "would you like to go for a Chinese/Italian/Lebanese". We might also ask "would you like to go to a movie" - doesnt indicate we think all movies are the same.

                                                                        It's a generic shorthand - nothing more, nothing less. And, as I've already suggested, naming of restaurant dishes is a matter for restaurant owners. Don't blame British (presumably the intent is to refer to non-asian Brits) customers for using the same description as dishes named by the Bangladeshi/Indian/Pakistani restaurant owners.

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                                                                        1. re: Rahulk
                                                                          h
                                                                          Harters Nov 8, 2012 03:52 AM

                                                                          Nah, you've completely lost me now. Of course, "curry" is an English word.

                                                                          I note you "don't see" how "let's go get some curry" would mean "let's go have some Indian food". It is not important that you "see" this or understand it - it is simply a fact that it does.

                                                                          Your posts are becoming repetitive. In response, so are mine - as in restaurant menus do not generally refer to dishes as "curry". They refer to them as masalas, kormas, etc. I have provided you links to several menus which provide evidence of this. I suspect there is nothing further I can offer to you to correct your prejudices in this matter. Facts are facts. Your prejudices and incorrect statements are a matter for you.

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                                                                          1. re: Harters
                                                                            Paprikaboy Nov 8, 2012 04:23 AM

                                                                            I was going to make a similar point.
                                                                            The argument appears to be that we "westerners" view Indian cusine as monolithic and label it all as curry. However what we might call bog standard restaurants with anglisied versions of dishes don't call them curry but specify korma, dopiaza, dhansak etc.
                                                                            However what we might term more "authentic" places that serve a wide variety of dishes do you use the term curry(see link)
                                                                            At which establishment am I more likely to get a better understanding of something of the breadth and variety of the cusine?

                                                                            http://www.suvai.co.uk/source/curry_v...

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                                                                  2. re: Rahulk
                                                                    a
                                                                    adrienne156 Nov 6, 2012 09:25 PM

                                                                    Rahulk, you're missing my point. Animesh referred to a group of dishes that are typically found in [Indian] restos in the US. These dishes are referred to as "curries" colloquially. These dishes are actual dishes found in S. Asia whether they are from Mumbai, Kolkata, Utter Pradesh, Punjab, or where ever. My point was that these dishes are "true Indian food." And btw, where did I call sambar "curry"? If I was going to make a generalization, I'd call it daal. ;o)

                                                                    And for clarification, my parents are from Bangladesh, I am first-generation Bengali-American, and my SO is the same (thanks, boogie). I speak Bangla fluently, but as a first-gen, there is a bit of Bangl-ish spoken at home (hence the "curry" for torkari). Regardless, I know what I'm saying when I say it and I think I'm going to stick to my style of communication, especially because I like to encourage people who are unfamiliar with S. Asian food to try it, become comfortable with it, and then try new things. It's fun for me.

                                                                    Also, If I were feeling argumentative, I might take issue with your use of the term "Indian food" to refer to the food of the entire S. Asian subcontinent.

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                                                                    1. re: adrienne156
                                                                      r
                                                                      Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 10:27 PM

                                                                      Hi adrienne156, I have always been talking about Indian food on this forum and the generous and incorrect application of the word "curry" to anything Indian. I completely agree that the word "curry" may also be applied to any food from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. I would say none of that is acceptable to me. Each country has it's unique cuisine (with striking similarities between regional Indian cuisine closest to the borders) and must be considered as such. I get your point and I repeat, I do not like it when Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani or ANY S,Asian food is called "curry". Curry is what the British make with "curry powder". S. Asian foods have their own names. I think westerners who enjoy Indian foods could learn their names just like they've learned to say "wontons", "pad thai", "sushi" or "dim-sum". They don't call them by their own made up transcripted over-generalized terms which have degenerated to mean all the food from the entire region (like curry has). I don't think dishes from Indian restaurants should be called "curries" the same way I wouldn't want a restaurant to call pizza by an anglicized name. When westerners can comfortably enjoy sushi, creme brulee, bratwurst, dim-sum, pad thai, hummus, kebabs, gyros, ceviche, burritos and wontons while saying their correct names, I see no reason why south asians ALONE need to be okay with them using "curry" for any and all of our foods. If westerners REALLY want to try our food(and thank God for the millions that do) they can learn the names of our masalas, kormas, karahis and koftas. I don't see how "masala" is any more difficult than "ceviche" for Westerners. And you really don't have to justify your opinions based on where you were born and raised. My opinions on the abuse of the word will not change, but thank you for keeping the argument civil !

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                                                                      1. re: Rahulk
                                                                        a
                                                                        adrienne156 Nov 7, 2012 10:07 AM

                                                                        Because the food found in your typical "Indian" restos tend to include popular dishes from many different regions in the S. Asian region, when people refer to "Indian" food I think more in terms of regions rather than the arbitrary post-partition borders. If I invited you over for dinner and made korma from my mother's recipe that has been passed down through the generations, I am willing to bet you would come in and say "Oh, what a lovely korma" and not “What is this this Bangladeshi dish I've never seen before”? That's why I say S. Asian.

                                                                        I don't want to get into a bigger conversation about word usage, but I think it is important to point out that a few of the examples you use - sushi, kebab, dim sum - are also generalized terms referring to groups of individual dishes and not the dishes themselves. Yes, they are words that appear in the host language, but a kalmi kebab is not a shami kebab which is not a kakori kebab. Is there a word for meat dishes in sauce in Hindi?

                                                                        I understand what you are saying about the word curry and while I do agree with you that dishes should be called by their names, I can understand why the misnomer exists and really feel like it is more part of a learning phase than a slur meant to degrade or dismiss the food of S. Asia. I have never felt that its use is derogatory. Maybe our experiences differ in this respect? I think it is helpful to look to the history of other ethnic cuisines that are now popular - Italian, Chinese, or Mexican - to see that each one of these cuisines experienced a period where there were generalizations made about them that have changed as people have learned more about the cuisines. People come to love the food for what it is, they dig deeper for more things they may like and learn important differences. The leap from Chop Suey to Szechuan-Style Spicy Water Boiled certainly took time. http://www.memrise.com/item/14951/boi... You would probably be more likely to have the history of when "Indian" food first appeared in the West, but in my own dining out, I would say that it has only actually become widely popular within the last 15 years (or maybe that's when I started going out to eat on my own, lol).

                                                                        I referred to my background because it seemed to me (and a few other posters on this thread), that your umbrage toward the use of the word "curry" was connected to the idea that people use the word as a kind of derogation of S. Asians and S. Asian culture. It’s a terrible argument to say "I can't be racist because I'm a member of that race," but I think I was trying to communicate that my intent in using the word was not to degrade my own people. I've had (rather belligerent) conversations with other posters on this board about S. Asian food where the other poster assumed that because my handle includes my American name, I had no idea what I was talking about or was missing some deeper point that a non-S. Asian might not be able to understand. I kind of hate that I did that because the people on this board are those people that take the time and make the effort to understand food and where it comes from. Many know as much if not more about S. Asian food than I do regardless of ethnicity. In any case, everyone here is open to education. I think you will find that you can have very productive and enriching discussions here if you choose a less aggressive approach.

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                                                                        1. re: adrienne156
                                                                          Paprikaboy Nov 7, 2012 12:07 PM

                                                                          Well said.
                                                                          I was going to make the point about Italian food.
                                                                          10 years ago it was assumed that it was all pasta and tomato sauces. I think that for myself and in London at least there is a better understanding of the differences between north and south Italy, Sicily , Sardinia etc and many restaurants market themselves by their region of Italy rather than as generic Italian restaurants.

                                                                          I'm lucky that I live in a city where I can have Kearalan, Chettinad, Punjabi or many other regional Indian cuisines. Often I will order poori masala, idly or the dish by name.However often the dishes are labelled Chettinad fish curry or Keralan fish curry.The term curry is used as shorthand so the customer knows there will be a sauce as opposed to the dry "frys" you would get in say a Keralan place,

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                                                                          1. re: Paprikaboy
                                                                            r
                                                                            Rahulk Nov 8, 2012 12:38 AM

                                                                            The use of the word "curry" to describe ANY food from Chettinad is incorrect. The correct terminology would be "Chettinad fish kozhambu". The keralan fish "curry" is actually called "fish moli".

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                                                                            1. re: Rahulk
                                                                              j
                                                                              JFores Nov 8, 2012 01:24 AM

                                                                              Fish moilley and Keralan fish curry are two completely different dishes. As someone who has lived around a lot of Keralans and Bangladeshis over time, I can say that curry is very commonly used as a short hand term by even recent immigrants to the UK. More so towards white people, but it is quite an acceptable word when dealing with certain Keralan dishes. Bangladeshi food, less so. It is also much harder to throw a very wide range of Bangladeshi dishes into a "curry" cookie cutter definition. With Keralan food, the term is hard to escape when dealing with simple "curries" of beef, chicken, and fish (the thin, read, cocum loaded one; not fish moilley.) I know the specific names of pork based dishes because they are more rare, but even asking for a Malayalam translation of curry has generally just gotten me "name of meat + curry in a heavy accent" and I was living with two Keralan families (at the same time) for three months.

                                                                              Curry is a British word, but its use has become far more common among South Asians as well.

                                                                              Returning to Brian S' original issue, the quality of Indian restaurants has been steadily improving across the two cities I deal with most. London and New York. The former stills kills New York in this regard, but I can get decent food in both. London supplies me with a far wider range of food, better prices (20 pounds for a 1 week meal plan at a Keralan restaurant that covers most of the menu is cheaper than groceries and its not even non-veg) and so on. New York has a solid Gujju place as well as a solid Punjabi place, but Keralan food there is vastly inferior. Decent Chettinad food, serviceable dosa, etc.

                                                                              It's really a matter of having a male dominated community or a family environment in terms of the actual makeup of a South Asian enclave. In the case of East Ham or somewhere like that in East London, the sheer number of bachelors actually served to create an excellent food scene before the number of families had as strong an influence. I would imagine Tamil restaurants serving dosa and Indian Chinese food rose more directly due to the large presence of North Indian (though largely or partially British born) families in the area, but Keralan and other regional cuisines have undoubtedly been driven by the sheer number of males who are coming without women. I can say from experience that a lot of these guys (the closest person in age to me at my last house was 25) are hilariously bad in the kitchen because they are so used too having someone else cook. That gives us restaurants.

                                                                              Now you add alcohol to the equation (most Tamils drink and the entire male population of Kerala from 16-80 does as well if they haven't given in, called themselves alcoholics and quit yet) and these restaurants become major communal focal points for overwhelmingly male crowds. Far more women have arrived in the last five years, but this is the foundation which built (and builds) a lot of South Indian communal restaurant scenes. I'm sure North Indian cuisines in London developed similarly, but many restaurants have been open for so long that I can't really trace their development with any meaningful insight (Chawallah on Green St for example, which is actually a pretty good Gujju place.)

                                                                              Cuisines then tend to start faking it. New York is the victim of a lot of this while London invented it. Relative newcomers to South Asian cuisine that otherwise seem to regard themselves as foodies might go "oh but I don't want that fake curry... I want..." and fake Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants are born. This is something you see on Brick Lane where a large collection of horrible Indian restaurants has now given way to a few which have accompanying Bangladeshi menus which are completely fake. Sure, the menu will have a tilapia cooked in mustard oil, but it ends there. At the same time, there's a place there called Gram Bangla which is exceptionally good and this is largely because it serves as a major community hot spot where a lot of people from East London Mosque and Brick Lane Mosque go. There are generally more guys in there drinking tea or chewing paan than eating, but the food is very good. Arguably better than what you'd get in Bangladesh (in terms of a risk vs reward structure) for some dishes (their fish chutney is ridiculously good and I have not been able to duplicate it nor have I even had a better home made version and I'm a Bangladeshi food addict.)

                                                                              IN SHORT

                                                                              Excellent South Asian restaurants develop out of community based drivers which are 100% internalized within an individual migrant network. If there are lots of Keralan guys who can't cook and who want too drink copious amounts of whiskey you end up with BYOB Keralan places serving both thali and a wide range of "drunk food" (beef fry, deviled stuff although this is technically Sri Lankan, fish fry, etc.)

                                                                              Dosa places and Indian Chinese places seem largely family driven if they are not in, around or directly associated with temples or lower priced canteen style establishments. If you have a Saravaana Bhavan locally, it's not because there's a lot of single guys. It's because Indian families only eat out if it's their own cuisine that they can cook at home, dosa or Indian Chinese. This is a broad and sweeping statement, but I can honestly say it applies to something like 50 South Asian families I have known well in NY and London.

                                                                              This is a big part of why London has a much more developed Indian food scene than New York. The family thing has turned into a driver for practically everything EXCEPT when it comes to Bangladeshi and Pakistani food. That behaves in a more London like way where places to eat, drink tea, etc become more important.

                                                                              With the NYC Indian community concentrated in extremely rural suburbs, it becomes far more difficult to do this. East Ham is about as urban as it gets for London and that means that a huge community can live across an area and genuinely interact across it without cars. This is not the case in anywhere but Bangladeshi Jamaica, Bangladeshi Parkchester, Jackson Heights, the Pakistani section of Coney Island Avenue, and Bangladeshi Church Avenue in Brooklyn. Going beyond simply "it's urban and close together so it works", recently arrived Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in New York (and London) look for outlets where they can hang out. This gives way to places like Gram Bangla where half the restaurant is just drinking tea or chewing paan (numerous places in Queens such as Ghoroa, Parkchester in the Bronx, etc.) It's a certain cafe culture inherent to South Asia which many Indian migrants seem to give up for some reason. I would imagine there were more Indian establishments like this in NYC when the community was younger and less affluent. In London there are plenty.

                                                                              In a lot of ways, it seems like much of the New York Indian community reached a level of affluence and a distance from such urban environments so quickly that a food scene never developed in quite the same way.

                                                                              /essay lol

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                                                                              1. re: JFores
                                                                                r
                                                                                Rahulk Nov 8, 2012 02:23 AM

                                                                                In kerala and in parts of tamil nadu, the word "kari" is used to refer to the meat from fish, chicken, goat or beef AND to the dish that they form part of. The confusion with the use of the word 'curry' here arises from the fact that the british word was loaned from the tamil and malayali word for meat (kari). So, when south Indians use the word for meat based gravies (karikozhambu) or sauces(kadalakari), the word 'kari' is incorrectly transliterated as 'curry'. Also, not to nitpick here, but the correct adjective for fish curry is malayali, kerala or keralite not keralan).

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                                                                                1. re: Rahulk
                                                                                  j
                                                                                  JFores Nov 8, 2012 02:39 AM

                                                                                  The Keralan vs Keralite thing is WIDELY debated, though Malayali is definitely more correct. I've seen Keralan vs Keralite arguments playing out for years on here and in person. It's another case of "I know a lot of Malayali people who say Keralan." Most of the local community organizations in East Ham (the Keralan Catholic and Hindu societies as well as a couple others) use "Keralan."

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                                                                          2. re: Rahulk
                                                                            c
                                                                            cresyd Nov 8, 2012 03:57 AM

                                                                            I think you have a point - I would just encourage a different approach. I think for some people India is still exoticized, for others they've taken the time to learn a little history and culture of some regions, others are experts, others are lucky to find India on a map.

                                                                            If the point you want to raise is "stop using the word curry" (unless refering to the British derived dishes) - then you may just end up with people not talking about Indian food at all and not taking the time to learn anything else.

                                                                            There are many kids in the US over the decades who have been introduced to Italian food through public school cafeteria lasagne. Through microwave frozen lasagne and Olive Garden. Some grow up, and they're good with just that. Other's grow up and learn about completely different worlds of Italian food - both in the Italian-American context and the Italian in Italy context.

                                                                            I think what a lot of people are trying to point out regarding the word 'curry' is that you're going to win over more people to become more educated and appreciative if you give them something they're used to (like calling Indian stews 'curries') and build from that. Maybe this just isn't the battle to pick.

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                                                                          3. re: Rahulk
                                                                            M_Gomez Nov 8, 2012 08:13 AM

                                                                            I just found out my favourite cookbook by Camellia Panjabi may not be authentic Indian but British then ....
                                                                            http://books.google.com.my/books/abou...

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                                                                            1. re: M_Gomez
                                                                              huiray Nov 8, 2012 10:29 AM

                                                                              Heh. Ditto the well-received book "660 Curries" by Raghavan Iyer...
                                                                              http://books.google.com.my/books?id=g...
                                                                              ;-)

                                                                              Harters above says something too about Madhur Jaffrey and her use of that dreaded word "curry"... :-)

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                                                                              1. re: M_Gomez
                                                                                Perilagu Khan Nov 8, 2012 11:36 AM

                                                                                Then there's Curry Lover's Cookbook by Mridula Baljekar.

                                                                                And Chicken and Curry: Pakistani Home Cooking by Asiya Bajwani.

                                                                                And Curry Cuisine by four authors including Vivek Singh.

                                                                                And the Ultimate Curry Bible by Madhur Jaffrey.

                                                                                And Curry without Worries by Sudha Koul.

                                                                                And Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking by Skiz Fernando.

                                                                                And Curries and Kadhis by Tarla Dalal.

                                                                                And Curry and Spice by Kakoli Dasgupta.

                                                                                And Serving Crazy with Curry by Amulya Malladi.

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                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                  r
                                                                                  Rasam Nov 8, 2012 02:35 PM

                                                                                  Those lists of titles don't support the idea that 'curry' is a widely used/accepted term among desis.

                                                                                  Huiray: When we just discussed 660 Curries on COTM, one of the first criticisms was his preposterous use of the term "curry" in the title. Everything from rice to raita is "curry"?

                                                                                  Though the book itself is magnificent, the title is offputting to most desis. We guessed RI (the author) titled his book such because he was marketing the book in the US, i.e. outside India. So he picked a catch all term that would be grasped by his target audience. But accuracy is IN the book where every dish is given an English-translated name, and it's Indian regional name. We thought he couldn't have titled his book: "660 dals, sabzis, meats, and etceteras" or "660 delicious desi dishes" or whatever so just picked a word his buyers would 'get'.

                                                                                  PK: the same goes for the list of books you mentioned. Almost all the books you mention, with the exception of Tarla Dalal (maybe 1-2 others?), are marketed / intended outside India. Most cookbook authors and restaurant owners seem to have given up fighting the ' curry' battle, and are going with "if you can't beat them, join them, and sell to them" strategy. This does not imply their deeper endorsement of the term.

                                                                                  The majority of desis don't regularly use the term 'curry'. That said, the term is creeping into the Indian-English lexicon, especially when interacting with people unfamiliar with desi food.

                                                                                  Even within the chowhound community, other than an (increasing) handful of people who are into desi food, most still use the terms "curry", and "curried" as defaults, unless they are specific fans of subcontinental cuisine and into the details.
                                                                                  And, the general public outside foodie boards, outside India, just uses those words any old how, and they have very stubbornly taken root in the language and I doubt can be eradicated despite RahulK's evangelical zeal :)

                                                                                  I do share RahulK's irkedness to some degree with the way the C word gets tossed around.
                                                                                  And I will add another peeve of mine, people saying "chai spices" or "chai tea", when they mean "spices for tea" or "masala chai" respectively. Chai just means tea. If you want spiced tea, or want to use the spices used to make spiced tea (which vary by recipe, and are typical spices many cooks have in their kitchens), then say so please.

                                                                                  And don't ask me about the back-and-forth I had just last summer with my local Whole Foods (in a region of the US with lots of desis and a highly educated population) to get them to stop marketing their "helichrysum italicum" plants as "spicy smelling leaves can be used in Indian curries". :)

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                                                                                  1. re: Rasam
                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Nov 8, 2012 02:58 PM

                                                                                    I suspect you may be largely correct about the marketing aspect of Indian cookbooks, Rasam. But I must say that neither do I detect anything like a monolithic revulsion to the word curry among Indians either. My guess is that most Indians look upon that word with a certain bemusement more than anything else.

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                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                      r
                                                                                      Rasam Nov 8, 2012 04:17 PM

                                                                                      With an in-country population of 1.2 billion (India alone) and adding fast, and a diaspora of dunnomany millions, there isn't a monolithic anything among desis :)

                                                                                      Among the subset of foodie desis, the "revulsion" or "strong dislike" of the term may be much more. Among the rest, bemusement, don't care, whatevs, justgimmethegrub, all shades of attitudes. Among the marketers it's "I'll call it what you like just buy the product" is I think the main motivator.

                                                                                      I wish the moderators had allowed RI to stay around long enough to answer this question, and if he is still lurking on chowboards, I wish he would give his view on the topic.

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                                                                                    2. re: Rasam
                                                                                      r
                                                                                      Rahulk Nov 8, 2012 04:54 PM

                                                                                      I could not have put it better myself ! I hope more south asians express our dislike for the overuse of a foreign word to describe Indian food. To many desis worldwide, curry is very much a four letter word. If westerners genuinely feel that Indians don't mind its imposition on the Indian culinary lexicon, they only need ask Indians(living in or recently emigrated from India).

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                                                                                      1. re: Rahulk
                                                                                        r
                                                                                        Rasam Nov 8, 2012 05:12 PM

                                                                                        I don't think of it as a foreign misnomer. A desi misnomer would be equally grating to me. I object to the C word as being inaccurate and a lazy catch all word.

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                                                                                        1. re: Rasam
                                                                                          klyeoh Nov 8, 2012 05:53 PM

                                                                                          Rasam, Rahulk - I can understand the frustration of desis at the often stereotypical view of Indian cuisine encountered in the West, as well as the abuse of the word "curry".

                                                                                          But I think Indians in India do not have any hang-ups about the use of the word "curry" when they are speaking in English - either to other Indians or to foreigners. "Curry" is just another English word for them, with no prejudicial or negative connotation attached.

                                                                                          For example, see the description used by G. Padma Vijay in her cookbook "101 Kerala Delicacies" which I bought from Higginbothams bookshop in Chennai a few months back. The cookbook is targetted at the local market in India.

                                                                                           
                                                                                           
                                                                                           
                                                                                           
                                                                                           
                                                                                           
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                                                                                          1. re: klyeoh
                                                                                            klyeoh Nov 8, 2012 06:00 PM

                                                                                            Ditto the "Goa Portuguesa" cookbook by Deepa Awchat, which I bought from the Bangalore University bookshop earlier this year. The word "curry" is used for the English translation of the dishes.

                                                                                             
                                                                                             
                                                                                             
                                                                                             
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                                                                                            1. re: klyeoh
                                                                                              r
                                                                                              Rahulk Nov 8, 2012 06:05 PM

                                                                                              I completely agree that some Indians are guilty of frequent misuse of the term curry too! In the case of dishes from south India many dishes are called 'Kari' in the local languuage. In Kerala this may be incorrectly transliterated into curry. However 'stew' or 'sauce' would be a more accurate translation.

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                                                                                              1. re: Rahulk
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                                                                                                Rasam Nov 8, 2012 06:18 PM

                                                                                                Kyleoh: Yes, the word has crept into the Indian English lexicon. Many of the printed dishes have their Indian name, then translated into English as 'curry'.

                                                                                                RK: when I was growing up in S. India (though I spent much time in other regions too): kari in our Tamil meat household and those of all our neighborhood and community was not a meat stew, it was a short form for 'karamadhu' - a dry veggie side dish. So, when home from school we would ask what's for dinner and mom would answer something like: "vengaya sambar and beans kari" i.e. onion sambar and beans kari. Then I heard meat described as kari. Then I saw resto menu items translated - e.g. murghi masala as chicken curry, though other dishes were specifically named, e.g. saag paneer or aloo gobhi rasedaar. Then moved overseas and encountered 'curry' and 'curried' to describe anything desi - well, I give up. I avoid the term as much as possible myself and none of my family or friends use it except in very limited and specific ways, very rarely.

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                                                                                                1. re: Rasam
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                                                                                                  Rahulk Nov 8, 2012 06:52 PM

                                                                                                  As an iyengar tambram I am well aware of the word karamadhu !!! I cringe whenever I hear people transliterate 'karamadhu' or 'kozhi kari'(chicken meat) as 'c***y. Could not be more wrong !!! Unless I'm having british style c***y I avoid the c word

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                                                                                                  1. re: Rasam
                                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Nov 9, 2012 07:42 AM

                                                                                                    Rasam, among Western devotees of Indian food whom I know, curry is used to describe Indian stews specifically, not Indian food in general. I agree that the latter would be gratingly ignorant.

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                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan
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                                                                                                      Rahulk Nov 9, 2012 10:49 AM

                                                                                                      Actually, there is no accepted definition of curry in western circles. The Oxford dictionary defines curry as ANY DISH (not a stew) that is cooked in an "Indian-style" sauce with STRONG spices. That would drag most chutneys, pickles, stews, gravies, soups, raithas and even the odd sambar vada into the umbrella term 'curry'. An what exactly is an Indian-style sauce?? What exactly qualifies as a STRONG spice? Gumbo and chili are VERY similar to indian food. Can we call these two 'curries' ? Horseradish and wasabi are pungent. Can we call them Indian 'curries' ? According to Webster's dictionary, curry is any item of food in Indian cuisine that is cooked with strong spices. That would be 90% of Indian food!!! A samosa or a biriyani would be eligible to be called the 'c' word !! do you see the ambiguity here?

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                                                                                                      1. re: Rahulk
                                                                                                        paulj Nov 9, 2012 11:17 AM

                                                                                                        Gumbo and chili don't remind people of India, regardless of whether they have only experienced India via American (or British) restaurants, or lived there.

                                                                                                        Associations are more important than strict definitions.

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                                                                                                        1. re: Rahulk
                                                                                                          Perilagu Khan Nov 9, 2012 01:34 PM

                                                                                                          According to Bing dictionary: highly spiced dish: a dish containing meat, fish, or vegetables in a highly spiced sauce.

                                                                                                          This dictionary omits the Indian context altogether.

                                                                                                          Merriam-Webster: a food, dish, or sauce in Indian cuisine seasoned with a mixture of pungent spices; also : a food or dish seasoned with curry powder.

                                                                                                          This definition conflicts with general usage in America, I would argue.

                                                                                                          Dictionary.com: a pungent dish of vegetables, onions, meat or fish, etc., flavored with various spices or curry powder, and often eaten with rice.

                                                                                                          Again, the Indian context is omitted.

                                                                                                          Wikipedia: a generic term primarily employed in Western culture to denote a wide variety of dishes originating in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Thai or other Southern and Southeastern Asian cuisines, as well as New World cuisines influenced by them such as Trinidadian or Fijian. Their common feature is the incorporation of more or less complex combinations of spices and/or herbs, usually (but not invariably) including fresh or dried hot chillies.

                                                                                                          There are many other definitions, too. At any rate, the term curry seems to be so vague and broadly applicable as to be of limited utility. Nevertheless, it certainly is not pejorative, and if anything, reflects a certain linguistic sloppiness rather than ignorance. And I would argue that the definition of curry has broadened over time, thus diluting its usefulness. Perhaps someday it will just fade away. On the other hand, I'm not enamored with linguistic developments in the Anglophone world, so perhaps it will stick around. Insha Allah.

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                                                                                                    2. re: Rahulk
                                                                                                      klyeoh Nov 8, 2012 06:18 PM

                                                                                                      Rahulk - there is such a growing confidence among Indians in India these days, and it permeates throughout everyhing they do. I caught up with some old friends in Bangalore recently - some of them can speak in French or German, due to their experiences of working abroad.

                                                                                                      Back to the misuse (abuse?) of the word "curry", I guess living in India, one does not have to contend with racial prejudices & stereotypes, so the word has simply taken on a generic term used by locals. For example, even my fave Indian TV host & cookbook-writer (I have ALL his cookbooks), Sanjeev Kapoor, uses the "C" word, as seen on his website:
                                                                                                      http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com/malai-ko...

                                                                                                      But I fully understand how you feel - being Chinese-Singaporean, there've been instances when American friends would joke "Please don't eat my dog", "That restaurant probably used cat meat", and Chinese food to them would be "moo goo gai pan", "mushu pork" or "chop suey" :-D

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                                                                                    3. re: Rahulk
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                                                                                      adrienne156 Nov 6, 2012 09:41 PM

                                                                                      Welcome to Chowhound, btw.

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                                                                                      1. re: adrienne156
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                                                                                        Rahulk Nov 6, 2012 10:28 PM

                                                                                        Dhanyabad ! (Thank you in Bengali !)

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                                                                                      2. re: Rahulk
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                                                                                        shantihhh Nov 7, 2012 10:59 AM

                                                                                        I am frustrated that Westerns not only use the word curry to describe any Indian dish with a sauce, but that they also "assume" if the word curry is used it is Indian. I cook, write, and teach about Thai cuisine, and yes making of curry pastes. Why folks get Indian and Thai "curry" so mixed up I don't know. Now Thai curries are popular in some restaurants in India, but quite honestly Thai curries have little in common with Indian gravy/masala dishes. While both may share a few common ingredients such as garlic and chiles, from there they take a divergent path.

                                                                                        Thai curries are quite simple with just a few fresh ingredients that are used to make those balanced sweet-hot-salty-sour+bitter in Isan cooking. Indian masalas are a combination of dried and fresh ingredients of what is referred to as sweet and savoury. In some complex Indian dishes there can be upwards of 30 different spices, toasted, ground, and added in steps to a long cooking dish. Indian cuisine is far more complex in taste and cooking than any Thai curry.

                                                                                        BTW I love both Indian and Thai cuisines, oh and Indian-Chinese :-)

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                                                                                        1. re: shantihhh
                                                                                          huiray Nov 7, 2012 05:33 PM

                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2971...

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                                                                                2. re: animesh372
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                                                                                  owhosane Sep 6, 2008 04:36 PM

                                                                                  Animesh, the idea that biryani and tandoor items are not "true Indian" dishes is ridiculous. Spoken like a true dravidian purist.

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                                                                                  1. re: owhosane
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                                                                                    Rahulk Nov 1, 2012 04:07 AM

                                                                                    I agree. The tomato, potato, coffee and chili pepper all came to India from Mesoamerica or Arabia. Yet the authenticity of Indian cuisine containing these ingredients is never questioned. Yet the tandoor which has hung around the subcontinent for the better part of 3500 years (as evidenced by archeological evidence from Makran and Mohenjodaro) and the biriyani which are local adaptations of what used to be considered haute-cuisine by Mughal nobelmen is suddenly considered un-Indian ? Really sad...

                                                                                    BTW...I'm a dravidian who is comfortable with India's status as a melting pot of various Asian cuisines. That's what makes India AWESOME !

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                                                                                    1. re: Rahulk
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                                                                                      shantihhh Nov 7, 2012 01:57 PM

                                                                                      oh dear, chiles, potatoes, tomatoes origin, please recheck your facts, think south America, do some research :-) Chiles were brought to India! Interesting trail of the capsicum from pre-Colombian roots, tanken by explorers to Europe, ahhhh Portugese brought them to Goa......................:-) Facinating history of tomatoes and potatoes too.

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                                                                                      1. re: shantihhh
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                                                                                        Rahulk Nov 8, 2012 12:04 AM

                                                                                        Let me tackle this one by one. After the fall of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan to the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes, the tomato (which was then native to MESOAMERICA) was introduced to Europe in 1521. The chili pepper was also first domesticated in MESOAMERICA around 7000BC before it spread all over the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus may have been instrumental in taking it back to Europe from where it spread to India via the portuguese. Coffee originated in Ethiopia, but it was in the arabian peninsula(specifically Yemen) that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed, like we do even today. I don't think your replies are directed toward me. You are trying to say pretty much the same thing I am, except that you sound condescending and rude when you write your posts. Just a recap, Tomatoes and chili peppers CAME FROM MESOAMERICA (also called pre-columbian central america). Coffee spread worldwide from Arabia.

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                                                                                  2. re: animesh372
                                                                                    r
                                                                                    Rahulk Nov 1, 2012 04:22 AM

                                                                                    "Indian cuisine is primarily vegetarian" - Absurd and patently wrong !! From the pickled pork of Mizoram, to the spicy chettinad mutton gravies of Madurai, from the fried spicy hilsa fish dishes of West Bengal to the Goan Pork Vindaloo, from the Hyderabadi mutton biriyanis to the Sheek kebabs of Kashmir, there is nothing VEGETARIAN about Indian food. Indians are not a homogeneous group. We don't all speak hindi and eat just vegetables. Stop looking at India from an upper caste Hindu perspective. (I'm saying this as a Hindu Brahmin myself). Indians have cooking and eating beef, pork, fish and other varieties of game meats and sea food for thousands of years. It's too bad if some upper caste stuck up men (who were probably instrumental in stratifying India into a rigid caste based society since the Manusmriti) decided that meat was too "impure" for their tastes. Indians all over the length and breadth of the country have loved and eaten meat for thousands of years. Deal with it.

                                                                                    P.S. - Biriyani and Tikka are as Indian as the idlis and dosas of south India or the rotis and dal makhanis of North India. Why you feel otherwise is beyond my comprehension. Ciao.

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                                                                                    1. re: Rahulk
                                                                                      s
                                                                                      shantihhh Nov 7, 2012 02:12 PM

                                                                                      Primarily vegetarian? Oh dear who said this?

                                                                                      I'll agree that a Jain cuisine is a strict vegetarian diet limited to never include root vegetables IE things grown below the ground, and also some Hindus are vegetarian of various limitations, but oh dear Indian is a very diverse culture with many meat dishes.

                                                                                      Some of my favourites Indian dishes include goat! Sikhs eat beef, and so do Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists, etc. Many Hindus do eat non-beef meat, fowl, and fish, so not all are vegetarians/Shakahari (usually lacto-vegetarians)

                                                                                      So for the record NOT ALL Indians are vegetarians, actually not even most are vegetarian.

                                                                                      31% of Indians are vegetarians, while another 9% consumes eggs. Among the various communities, vegetarianism was most common among Jain community and then Brahmins at 55%, and less frequent among Muslims (3%) and residents of coastal states.

                                                                                      Other surveys cited by FAO and USDA estimate 20%–42% of the Indian population as being vegetarian. These surveys indicate that even Indians who do eat meat, do so infrequently, with less than 30% consuming it regularly, although the reasons are partially economical.

                                                                                      1.1 billion people, the Hindus account for 80.46%, Islam 13.43%, Christian 2.43%, Sikh 1.87%, and the Buddhists 0.77%. The Indian religious spectrum contains Zoroastrians, Jews and Bahaiis too. Those who do not disclose their religion also live in India and their percentage is 0.07.

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                                                                                      1. re: shantihhh
                                                                                        huiray Nov 7, 2012 05:38 PM

                                                                                        "Primarily vegetarian? Oh dear who said this? "

                                                                                        --- I think animesh372 said that, not Rahulk, who was refuting animesh, just as you did.

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                                                                                        1. re: shantihhh
                                                                                          r
                                                                                          Rahulk Nov 7, 2012 11:46 PM

                                                                                          I believe your reply should be directed to animesh372. I did not say Indians are primarily vegetarian. He did. I was trying to refute his statement that Indians are primarily vegetarian.

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                                                                                          1. re: Rahulk
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                                                                                            shantihhh Nov 8, 2012 11:16 AM

                                                                                            correct I hit reply at the end of the thread.

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                                                                                    2. Brian S Jun 3, 2007 03:36 PM

                                                                                      Thank you all for keeping this interesting discussion going. Something I thought of today: if there is a site like Chowhound in Mumbai or Delhi, someone might well be posting right now, "millions of Americans visit India and tens of thousands live here, so why can't you find a good American restaurant in Delhi? All we have is McDonald's and Pizza Hut!"

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                                                                                      1. re: Brian S
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                                                                                        maniche Jul 3, 2007 11:32 AM

                                                                                        Actuallly there are a couple of fairly good American restaurants in Delhi and other Indian Metros. Have you ever been to Gurgaon, Vasant Vihar or South Ex area of Delhi? They've got Ruby Tuesday, TGIF etc there. Even Connaught Place area should have a few. Link http://www.gurgaonshoppingmalls.com/p...

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                                                                                      2. Sam Fujisaka May 15, 2007 02:09 PM

                                                                                        With more than a couple of years (spread over several years) in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Bhutan; I agree that oddly enough it seems difficult to encounter great restaraunts in the sub-continent.

                                                                                        My favorites are: a) Tandoor style restaraunts in India and Myanmar serving the lower and "backwards" castes, b) simple meals prepared in remote villages by farm families, and c) highway restaurants in Pakistan. Food served in our partner agricultural research insitutes was usually better than that found in restaraunts. My last trip to Delhi was somewhat disappointing foodwise.

                                                                                        In other countries I would give high marks to London and moderate to Kampala.

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                                                                                        1. re: sweetTooth
                                                                                          Sam Fujisaka May 15, 2007 04:51 PM

                                                                                          I put "backward" in quotes because my Indian colleagues used the word much to my bemusement. You're right about diversity: an old Indian colleague once said, everything you're ever thought about India is true...and its opposite". We worked with farmers of all castes and the landless--and the diffferences in remote rural areas are quite maintained.

                                                                                          As to the restaurants I enjoyed (such as in Orissa), again my Indian colleagues warned me away saying that such places were for the lower castes. My fellow diners never included the more affluent, the well dressed, the English speaking. Singlets, wrap arounds, and flip-flops for men; bright synthetic fabric saris and no gold but many plastic bangles for women--the few that were ever present. Bench seating.

                                                                                          As an agricultural anthropologist I inevitably got into converstations (translated to and from Telegu or Oriya in the work in eastern India I'm fondly thinking about by colleagues) with other diners spanning from class and caste to food. Such animated converstations were also a reason I enjoyed the food so much--dining experiences far different from eating in a posh restaraunt in Delhi.

                                                                                          Regarding the Indian restaurant disappointments: here at home I roast, toast, grind, and mix my spices. My naan and pappadams are from scratch. I prepare and serve food, coordinating my "curry" bases with the dish, cooking times, and service. I do what I've learned in the homes of the rural poor in India and Nepal, but with less oil. If I had a tandoor oven, I would make that type of food--simple, hot, fresh, and healthy!

                                                                                          Restaurants in urban India and outside of India serve me food that I often feel was cooked ahead of time with prepared spices (one size fits all dishes) and often with overcooked vegetables and too much oil.

                                                                                          I've never been able to get that heavenly taste of a fresh tandoori roti from rural Orissa! A dough ball thrown sidehand onto the interior of the tandoor oven wall like a pro-softball pitcher, spreading by itself, emerging as the world's best bread, bar none.

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                                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
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                                                                                            sweetTooth May 15, 2007 06:03 PM

                                                                                            Heh heh. They removed my post with the ranting. Ok, so looks like you were in rural parts and your colleagues did specifically categorize those restaurants as catering to lower castes. I'd say your colleagues biases definitely colored their labeling and their proscription. Very likely they did not want to eat at those establishments and more importantly "be seen eating at *that* kind of joint". I stand corrected.

                                                                                            Regarding disappointments - I understand what you're getting at now. I think what does those urban restaurants in, is the jack-of-all-trades-is-king-of-none syndrome. I bet that those Tandoori style places in rural India (we call them dhaaba in Hindi), weren't serving a dozen different curry base variations each for veggies, chicken and mutton. Their menu probably offered three curries of the day, a daal or two, rice, roti, pickles and a plate of onions and tomatoes. Plus, their clientele was not likely to change much being the working man on the street who needs a source of nourishing food. In the cities though, restaurants want to serve every curry they've heard of everyday. They also want some chinese and snack like stuff on the menu. Their clientele is not as reliable as it has much more choice and chooses to eat at a certain place depending on what suits their fancy. With that kind of business model, food quality is bound to suffer. To find good food in the city, you need word of mouth recommendations for particular spots worth hitting and ones to stay away from.

                                                                                            Sigh. I know what you mean about that heavenly tandoori roti fresh from the oven. I've also never had egg bhurji (Indian style scrambled eggs) as good as from a dhaaba. Those chickens running around on the trash heap sure lay some tasty eggs!

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                                                                                            1. re: sweetTooth
                                                                                              Sam Fujisaka May 15, 2007 07:20 PM

                                                                                              sT, yes, yes, yes-- you and I have to go eat together at a dhaabi--simple delicious food from the tandoor, a curried vegetable and daal, some acharas, and the beautiful roti and meats from the tandoor--heaven!!! You can introduce me to to bhurji made from trash heap chicken eggs. In Cuttack there was a white Brahma cow that was always seated out front. My Oz friend grew to like her.

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                                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                QueenB May 16, 2007 08:07 AM

                                                                                                You guys are making me hungry. Thanks a lot!

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                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                  s
                                                                                                  sweetTooth May 16, 2007 01:57 PM

                                                                                                  Heh. Alright, I'm buying my tickets for India! :P

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                                                                                                2. re: sweetTooth
                                                                                                  boogiebaby May 16, 2007 10:50 AM

                                                                                                  Is this the part where I can brag that we have a tandoor at home? Well, actually my parent's house. We imported it from India. We make fresh tandoori naan and meats almost every weekend! :)

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                                                                                                  1. re: boogiebaby
                                                                                                    Sam Fujisaka May 16, 2007 12:27 PM

                                                                                                    It certainly is! I'm green with envy. I'm thinking of building one at a new house we're constructing.

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                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                      Leucadian Feb 14, 2008 11:46 AM

                                                                                                      Curious about your intended tandoor. did you make it? Could you post about it?

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                                                                                                3. re: Sam Fujisaka
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                                                                                                  anthead Jun 1, 2007 06:28 AM

                                                                                                  No kidding! Tandoori roti from rural Orissa? Are you sure you were in Orissa and not in Punjab? Most folks in rural Orissa have never seen a tandoor - in fact they probably haven't even heard of one. Most probably you ate at a Punjabi run dhaba on the national highways that runs through Orissa.

                                                                                                  Orissa's food mixes elements of Bengali and Andhra cuisine. Lots of freshwater and sea fish, rice, and seasonal vegetables. It is fantastic food, but perhaps not really what you ate. I'm curious, what part of Orissa were you based in?

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                                                                                                  1. re: anthead
                                                                                                    Sam Fujisaka Jun 2, 2007 07:59 PM

                                                                                                    In my personal experience, tandoor ovens and cooking certainly extend from Cuttack and Bubaneshwar in eastern India through Calcutta and into Burma. In Orissa we were everywhere rice is grown--covers a lot of territory. Where they came from originally, I don't know. I've worked a lot in the Punjab, however, where I didn't encounter tandoor cooked foods.

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                                                                                                    1. re: anthead
                                                                                                      Sam Fujisaka Jun 4, 2007 07:40 PM

                                                                                                      anthead, I take that back: I've eaten tandoor cooked foods like chicken in the Punjab that were then further elaborated in curries. Great. And of course more Moghul than farther east. Just a personal preference, however: I like the tandoor meats and roti just as they come out of the oven--more common in eastern India and points even further east.

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                                                                                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                      k
                                                                                                      Kagey Jun 6, 2007 02:38 AM

                                                                                                      Late to this thread here, sorry! But your post inspired me. I would love it if you'd post some of those recipes for naan, pappadams, and "curry" bases on Home Cooking!

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                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                        k
                                                                                                        KateC. Jul 20, 2007 02:14 PM

                                                                                                        Indeed, the Jackson Heights restaurants do mostly seem to cook using frozen spinach, other pre-prepared ingredients, and to re-heat things. I second the recommendations here for Dosa Diner and Spicy Mina's. I also recommend takeout curries at Kebab King -- it's very down home, not at all fancy, but very carefully homemade. Pakistani comfort food. Try the beef, peas, vegetable somosas, any pureed green dish, and the sweets.

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                                                                                                        1. re: KateC.
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                                                                                                          KateC. Jul 20, 2007 02:51 PM

                                                                                                          P.S. At Kebab King, they make the roti to order in the tandoori ovens right in front of you behind the counter. There are guys sitting there throwing bread dough around all night. However, I'm not going to claim their roti is superior, merely good. Also, of course, the three restaurants I mentioned are all vastly different: Hindu vegetarian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani Muslim.

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                                                                                                          1. re: KateC.
                                                                                                            k
                                                                                                            kishoripapa May 28, 2010 10:12 AM

                                                                                                            But this is true not only of Indian places but most restaurants in NYC. Fresh ingredients in NYC are hard to come by, canned mushrooms on pizza dominate. Even gourmet, critical darling restaurants in NYC might have great chefs but terrible ingredients at unimaginable prices.
                                                                                                            If you want REALLY good Indian food, wake up early on Sunday and take the train out to the Indian strip in Edison. Yeah, it takes 45 minutes each way, but the food is like home cooking but made to a higher standard. Even my super picky relatives praise the food out there.

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                                                                                                            1. re: kishoripapa
                                                                                                              thew May 28, 2010 07:07 PM

                                                                                                              what? what what?

                                                                                                              there is no lack of fresh high quality ingredients in NYC. WHy do you think there are so many restaurants in striking distance of the green market?

                                                                                                              upstate NY has a plethora of farms, all of which provide for NYC. Pennsylvania as well. It is also one of the most major shipping hubs on the planet.

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                                                                                                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                          Brian S May 15, 2007 04:43 PM

                                                                                                          Kampala? I was there in 1977 and worked upcountry in 1980 and you'd be lucky to get matoke.

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                                                                                                          1. re: Brian S
                                                                                                            Sam Fujisaka May 15, 2007 09:39 PM

                                                                                                            I don't know. I like rural food from eastern Uganda and western Kenya, but didn't find much better in Kampala in the late-80s to late-90s than some of the quite good Indian restaurants.

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                                                                                                            1. re: Brian S
                                                                                                              Hoosierland May 16, 2007 07:58 AM

                                                                                                              I love the Indian restaurants in Kampala, from the high end places like Haandi to the thali joints in Old Kampala. A lot of Asians have come back in recent years with skills and business sense learned in the cities of Europe, Canada and the US. The service and food at most of the Indian places in Kampala was far superior to anything else. Plus I love the fact that I could get a filling thali for 4000/= with a refreshing, spicy salt lassi and tamarind water.

                                                                                                              I also quite like some Ugandan food. Matoke not so much, but luwombo, grilled pork, nsenene, boiled peanuts, groundnut anything and that brown, sticky paste made from millet the western Ugandans love so much.

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                                                                                                          2. John Manzo May 14, 2007 12:55 PM

                                                                                                            Why do so many posters presume that Indian = Hindu? Maybe in the states, which has an "Indian" population comprising less than 1% of the country's population and where "Indian" food is largely unknown and exotic. But in Canada, which generally has much better Indian restos than does the US (speaking of cities here), "Indian" is almost always Punjabi (meaning Sikh, meaning beef on the menu and lots of it) or, in Calgary at least, Ismaili Muslim (and more beef). I cannpt think of a single "Hindu" owned Indian resto here and we have dozens of Indian restos.

                                                                                                            Anyway, Brian, go to Toronto for good Indian.

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                                                                                                            1. re: John Manzo
                                                                                                              paulj May 14, 2007 02:32 PM

                                                                                                              I heard on the radio (the Splendid Table interview with Madhur Jaffrey, I think) that much of the restaurant scene in New Delhi, has its origin with Punjab refugees, with their tandoori cooking (March 17 episode, about 20 minutes in).

                                                                                                              She also talks about meals for an extended family of 40 people. That size of group is not going to eat at restaurants very often.

                                                                                                              paulj

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                                                                                                                sweetTooth May 14, 2007 04:41 PM

                                                                                                                Madhur Jaffrey grew up in a different India - she's a grandmother now. Extended families of 40 people are hard to come by in urban India these days. She is right about tandoor cooking having come from Punjab. Delhi is and was predominantly Punjabi anyway, I'm sure even before partition took place and refugees came in. Villages in Punjab used to (and probably still do) have communal tandoors that the women would take their dough to, and cook their naan/tandoori roti in every evening. Even in the urban town/city I grew up in, when mom was unwell and we kids were too young, we could take our dough to a roadside eatery around the corner and have them cook thick, crisp tandoori rotis for us. Dad made an awesome egg curry to go with it. The sheer size and heat output of a tandoor mandates it's use in a kitchen that dishes out a lot of food.

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                                                                                                              2. re: John Manzo
                                                                                                                Woodside Al May 14, 2007 04:27 PM

                                                                                                                Almost any city of any size in the U.S. has some South Asian population, and will have several South Asian restaurants.

                                                                                                                Many, if not most, of the Indian restaurants in NYC (including the much-discussed Spicy Mina) are run by Bengalis, who are primarily Muslim. Many other restaurants here are run by Punjabis or Muslims from southern India. But they almost never serve beef, since Hindus would then not eat there and they would lose business (most of the southern Indian restaurants are vegetarian and thus avoid the whole issue). This is certainly the case in India itself, where beef is never served by anyone (buffalo maybe, but never cow). To do so would most likely invite violence.

                                                                                                                In any event, I'm not really sure what the type of meat available has to do with the overall quality issue, especially since most Americans aren't going to an Indian restaurant with any expectation of eating beef dishes anyway.

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                                                                                                                  sweetTooth May 15, 2007 03:21 PM

                                                                                                                  Bengalis are not primarily Muslim. Bangladeshis are usually Muslim. Bengali culture is shared equally by the mostly Hindu Indian Bengalis and the mostly Muslim Bangladeshi Bengalis. I don't think your information that most restaurants in the US are run by Muslims is correct. Most are run by Punjabis, Gujaratis and now increasingly South Indians mostly because those are the communities most immigrants are from. I don't think any of these populations in the US are predominantly Muslim.

                                                                                                                  I do agree with your comment that the type of meat available can't have much to do with quality of food.

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                                                                                                                  1. re: sweetTooth
                                                                                                                    Woodside Al May 16, 2007 10:01 AM

                                                                                                                    I'm talking only about New York City here. I really don't know the situation in the rest of the country. And many many Indian restaurants in NYC - including most of the smaller places - are run by Muslims from Bangladesh or nearby parts of India. In fact, one of the most often heard complaints about Indian cuisine in NYC is that a lot of it is northern Indian food poorly prepared by Bangladeshis who don't really know how to cook those styles properly and/or take a lot of cheap shortcuts.

                                                                                                                    But that is not to say that all such places are necessarily bad, since, as I state above, one of the most lauded South Asian restaurants on this board, Spicy Mina in Woodside Queens, is run by Bengalis and bills itself right on its awning as "Bangladeshee Cuisine."

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                                                                                                                    1. re: Woodside Al
                                                                                                                      boogiebaby May 16, 2007 10:47 AM

                                                                                                                      Bengalis are from the state of Bengal, in India. Bangladeshis are from the country of Bangladesh.

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                                                                                                                      1. re: boogiebaby
                                                                                                                        Woodside Al May 16, 2007 11:52 AM

                                                                                                                        But however they are geopolitically divided they are the same ethnicity and speak the same language.

                                                                                                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bengali_...

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                                                                                                                        1. re: boogiebaby
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                                                                                                                          anthead Jun 1, 2007 06:24 AM

                                                                                                                          No, we are all Bengalis period. However, there are Indian Bengalis and there are Bangladeshi Bengalis.

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                                                                                                                          1. re: anthead
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                                                                                                                            adrienne156 Jun 2, 2007 04:16 PM

                                                                                                                            I agree with Anthead. I'm not Bangladeshi as I was born and raised in the States. I am however, half Bengali.

                                                                                                                            That being said, Woodside Al is right. Most of the "Indian" restaurants in the US are either Northern/Punjabi or specifically South Indian. Jackson Heights does have a large Bangladeshi population and the number of Bangladeshi restaurants there is fairly uncommon in the rest of the US.

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                                                                                                                          2. re: boogiebaby
                                                                                                                            psb Jul 18, 2007 01:49 AM

                                                                                                                            Mr. Boogiebaby, "bangladesh" is literally "land of the bengals" in the
                                                                                                                            Bengali language, in fact "bangal" is a word in bengali referring specifically
                                                                                                                            to somebody from east bengal [now bangladesh].

                                                                                                                            Bangladeshi: nationality
                                                                                                                            Bengali: ethnicity [e.g. Kurds can be turkish or iraqi], unified by
                                                                                                                            language, not religion.

                                                                                                                            In fact a good way to start a (mostly) friendly argument among Bengalis
                                                                                                                            is to proffer an opinion about the superiority of East vs West [or technically
                                                                                                                            "ghoti vs bangal"] cuisine, sweets etc.

                                                                                                                            See e.g.
                                                                                                                            http://www.telegraphindia.com/1050428...

                                                                                                                            I've done a lot of speculating on CH about the "somewhat lamentable
                                                                                                                            state of indian restaurants here" ... the explanations can range from
                                                                                                                            immigration patterns, to low margins for quality and ingredients
                                                                                                                            [high quality vegetables here are $$$ ... you arent going to get
                                                                                                                            chez pannisse level veggies in your $6.95 entree].
                                                                                                                            I think the main effect of the demand is not "there is no demand for
                                                                                                                            good india food" but there is a lot of demand for the "standard repertoire"
                                                                                                                            [saag paneer, chicken tikka masala, dosas, begun bharta etc] and no
                                                                                                                            exposure to the "long tail" of indian cooking.

                                                                                                                            [BTW, (east) bangal cooking is actually better :-)]

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                                                                                                                            1. re: psb
                                                                                                                              boogiebaby Jul 18, 2007 03:12 PM

                                                                                                                              I'm actually Ms. Boogiebaby. :)

                                                                                                                              I stand corrected. I had a Bengali friend growing up and my definition was based on what she had told me. But I do understand your post. It's like Punjabi cooking -- there are Pakistani punjabis and Indian punjabis and the cooking styles are different.

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                                                                                                                    fara May 11, 2007 09:58 AM

                                                                                                                    as for Queens, try Dosa Diner in Jackson Heights. Only place I've had good Indian food in Queens. Also, I like Utsav's on 46th st. Not everything is great, but it's pretty good, it's in a nice atmosphere (views of off-time square). it's sort a not-too upscale Indian date place. i recommend the biryani, appetizers, or vegetarian entrees.

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                                                                                                                      cheryl_h May 11, 2007 07:11 AM

                                                                                                                      In an interview I read, Madhur Jaffrey said the best Indian food is found in Indian homes, she never eats in restaurants. This is also the opinion of an Indian couple I know. They refuse to eat Indian food anywhere but at home and in the homes of friends. I love the food and make it frequently at home. I'm surprised at the difference in taste between my own amateur efforts and that of restaurant food which is definitely inferior. About all we eat at restaurants now are dishes made in the tandoor oven which can't be replicated in most homes.

                                                                                                                      Chinese cuisine has always had an equivalent to French haute cuisine. There are some banquet dishes few home cooks will attempt. I don't know if there's a similar parallel in Indian cooking.

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                                                                                                                      1. re: cheryl_h
                                                                                                                        Megiac May 11, 2007 08:33 AM

                                                                                                                        Although she is a consultant to Dawat in Manhattan, which is the best Indian food I've eaten in a restaurant.

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                                                                                                                      2. z
                                                                                                                        Zatan May 10, 2007 07:23 PM

                                                                                                                        I just got back from London and there I had Indian food (again) such as I cannot find in Boston. A place near me had simply the best tandoori dishes I have ever had, and the sad, red-dyed, dried out chicken legs sold here in the States just are not even close. Also, the spicing in the UK is not as toned down as it is here, so you can expect your Vindaloo to burn.

                                                                                                                        So, yes, the Indian restaurants near me fall short, though they do serve tasty foods. I am lucky to have some Indian groceries in my neighborhood and they encourage and help me to make the real stuff at home. But this all reminds me of the Chinese food situation here, a decade ago, one could only find American or "Cantonese" restaurants, even in Chinatown, but now (mostly outside of Chinatown) we are seeing authentic Sichuan and Shanghainese and other regional styles being well prepared, mainly catering to the demands of the immigrant community but also gladly serving chowhounds. Hopefully the same will eventually occur with Indian, though it may be a better idea to travel there and learn how to make the real thing at home.

                                                                                                                        I tried to male the tandoori meats myself last weekend, and they were not as good, those chefs in the UK are very deft with their spices.

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                                                                                                                        1. Woodside Al May 10, 2007 05:31 PM

                                                                                                                          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.)"

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                                                                                                                          1. re: Woodside Al
                                                                                                                            paulj May 10, 2007 06:45 PM

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

                                                                                                                            paulj

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                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj
                                                                                                                              janetofreno Jul 20, 2007 10:29 PM

                                                                                                                              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.....

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                                                                                                                              1. re: janetofreno
                                                                                                                                psb Jul 21, 2007 12:46 AM

                                                                                                                                > 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.

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                                                                                                                                1. re: psb
                                                                                                                                  janetofreno Jul 21, 2007 10:02 AM

                                                                                                                                  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?

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                                                                                                                                2. re: janetofreno
                                                                                                                                  greygarious Nov 1, 2012 10:32 AM

                                                                                                                                  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.

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                                                                                                                              dealop May 10, 2007 05:20 PM

                                                                                                                              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.

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                                                                                                                              1. boogiebaby May 10, 2007 04:49 PM

                                                                                                                                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.

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                                                                                                                                1. re: boogiebaby
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                                                                                                                                  veganish May 10, 2007 04:55 PM

                                                                                                                                  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.

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                                                                                                                                  1. re: veganish
                                                                                                                                    Brian S May 11, 2007 08:54 AM

                                                                                                                                    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.

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                                                                                                                                    1. re: veganish
                                                                                                                                      greedygirl Sep 7, 2008 01:37 AM

                                                                                                                                      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.

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                                                                                                                                      1. re: veganish
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                                                                                                                                        shantihhh Nov 6, 2012 04:20 PM

                                                                                                                                        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.

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                                                                                                                                          h
                                                                                                                                          Harters Nov 7, 2012 12:58 AM

                                                                                                                                          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"

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                                                                                                                                      2. re: boogiebaby
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                                                                                                                                        sweetTooth May 10, 2007 05:13 PM

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

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                                                                                                                                        1. re: boogiebaby
                                                                                                                                          Brian S May 11, 2007 08:47 AM

                                                                                                                                          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.

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                                                                                                                                          1. re: Brian S
                                                                                                                                            boogiebaby May 11, 2007 01:23 PM

                                                                                                                                            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.

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                                                                                                                                        2. w
                                                                                                                                          wayne keyser May 10, 2007 03:09 PM

                                                                                                                                          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.

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                                                                                                                                          1. re: wayne keyser
                                                                                                                                            Eat_Nopal May 10, 2007 03:25 PM

                                                                                                                                            "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.

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                                                                                                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                                                                                                                              Brian S May 10, 2007 04:14 PM

                                                                                                                                              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.

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                                                                                                                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                                                                                                                                paulj May 10, 2007 06:38 PM

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

                                                                                                                                                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

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                                                                                                                                                1. re: paulj
                                                                                                                                                  Eat_Nopal May 10, 2007 06:49 PM

                                                                                                                                                  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.

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                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                                                                                                                                    paulj May 10, 2007 07:04 PM

                                                                                                                                                    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

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                                                                                                                                                2. re: Eat_Nopal
                                                                                                                                                  EWSflash Jul 17, 2007 04:53 PM

                                                                                                                                                  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".

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                                                                                                                                                3. re: wayne keyser
                                                                                                                                                  Woodside Al May 10, 2007 03:40 PM

                                                                                                                                                  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.

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                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Woodside Al
                                                                                                                                                    ccbweb May 10, 2007 03:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                    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."

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                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ccbweb
                                                                                                                                                      Brian S May 10, 2007 04:18 PM

                                                                                                                                                      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.

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                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Brian S
                                                                                                                                                        ccbweb May 10, 2007 04:25 PM

                                                                                                                                                        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.

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                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Brian S
                                                                                                                                                          boogiebaby May 10, 2007 04:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                          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.

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                                                                                                                                                            sweetTooth May 10, 2007 05:15 PM

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

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                                                                                                                                                            1. re: boogiebaby
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                                                                                                                                                              sweetTooth May 10, 2007 05:16 PM

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

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                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sweetTooth
                                                                                                                                                                Brian S May 11, 2007 08:44 AM

                                                                                                                                                                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.

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                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Brian S
                                                                                                                                                                  s
                                                                                                                                                                  sweetTooth May 14, 2007 04:30 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  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.

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                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Brian S
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                                                                                                                                                              sweetTooth May 10, 2007 05:07 PM

                                                                                                                                                              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.

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                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sweetTooth
                                                                                                                                                                Brian S May 14, 2007 11:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                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

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                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Brian S
                                                                                                                                                                  s
                                                                                                                                                                  sweetTooth May 14, 2007 04:27 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  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.

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                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Brian S
                                                                                                                                                                r
                                                                                                                                                                Rahulk Nov 1, 2012 04:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                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).

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                                                                                                                                                              3. re: ccbweb
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                                                                                                                                                                adrienne156 Jun 2, 2007 04:27 PM

                                                                                                                                                                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.

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                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ccbweb
                                                                                                                                                                  thew Sep 6, 2008 04:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  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

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                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Woodside Al
                                                                                                                                                                  sandrina May 10, 2007 07:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  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.

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                                                                                                                                                                3. re: wayne keyser
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                                                                                                                                                                  sr44 Nov 6, 2012 04:46 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  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.

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                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sr44
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                                                                                                                                                                    shantihhh Nov 7, 2012 01:09 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    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...

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                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: shantihhh
                                                                                                                                                                      huiray Nov 7, 2012 05:05 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      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. :-)

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                                                                                                                                                                4. ccbweb May 10, 2007 02:30 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  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.

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                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ccbweb
                                                                                                                                                                    Brian S May 10, 2007 02:37 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    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

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                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Brian S
                                                                                                                                                                      ccbweb May 10, 2007 02:49 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      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!).

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                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: ccbweb
                                                                                                                                                                      chaddict May 10, 2007 05:35 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      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.

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                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chaddict
                                                                                                                                                                        ccbweb May 10, 2007 05:41 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        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 :)

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                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ccbweb
                                                                                                                                                                          Brian S May 11, 2007 08:28 AM

                                                                                                                                                                          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.

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                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: chaddict
                                                                                                                                                                          c
                                                                                                                                                                          Chowrin Oct 8, 2012 05:30 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          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.

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                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Chowrin
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                                                                                                                                                                            Rick Nov 5, 2012 07:43 AM

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

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                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Rick
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                                                                                                                                                                              Chowrin Nov 5, 2012 03:15 PM

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

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                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chowrin
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                                                                                                                                                                                Rick Nov 6, 2012 08:53 AM

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

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