September 27, 2010

Thinking aloud

So few days back, as I was leaving California, I went to an Indian restaurant with some friends. We landed there around lunch time, and as almost all the Indian restaurant in states have buffet for lunch hour (really, what’s up with that?), we opted for that. None of us had a clue whether this restaurant was a north Indian or south Indian cuisine and they had both north Indian and south Indian dishes in buffet menu. I first attempted some dosa with sambhar in my first round which, btw, was delicious. However during the second round, I went for north Indian dishes and realize that this was in fact a  south Indian restaurant (and a non-vegetarian one on that. They could have fooled me). Reason you ask? The baigan bharta had jeera (cumin) as well as curry leaves in it. Seriously! Jeera with curry leaves.

Honestly, I don’t get why south Indian cooks insist on mixing south Indian spices as curry leaves or rai (mustard seeds) in any and all north Indian dishes they prepare. I will never add jeera in a sambhar instead of rai (mustard seeds). EVER. Just imagine how will that taste like? So now can you understand my distaste when I discover south Indian spices in north Indian food? They simply don’t taste right. Period.

Normally I refrain from ordering a north Indian dish in a south Indian restaurant or a south Indian dish in a north Indian restaurant. If I want to eat north Indian dish, I will go to a north Indian restaurant and vice-versa. Simple. But I am not sure what to order when they prefer not to specify which cuisine they subscribe to, and the name of the restaurant is not obvious, and then, to top it all, they offer both options. I don’t have problem with either cuisine. I just want them separated from each other. Please don’t mix them up. They both have some great tasting . Why spoil any of them?

P.S.: 1. This reminds me of an ex-room-mate of mine (she was south Indian) who insisted that I don’t know how to make rotis (aka phulka), as I don’t put any oil on it. I tried to explain that that’s how we make roti in north India. She wasn’t convinced. And then one day when I was making parthas, she started screaming at me that I lied to her and we do in fact put oil on our rotis. I tried to explain to her that this is what we call a partha and not a roti. We don’t normally put oil on it unless you count people who like to put ghee on it afterwards (we, as in our family, normally don’t unless we have guests). But she was intend on proving me wrong and telling me how I don’t know my own culture and food habits! Needless to say, we went our separate ways soon after.

2. I should also mention that I have some great south Indian friends and this post is not about south Indian culture or people. I just don’t like people mixing the spices like that.


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5 responses:

Neha said...

I once went to a south indian restaurant here in Boston, and ordered chaat. It freaked me out to find fresh grated coconut in my chaat!! I am no food expert, but being from near mumbai, I have literally grown up eating chaat everyday, and i can (almost) swear my life on the fact that you NEVER put coconut in a chaat preparation. But i have quite often seen the mixing of spices phenomenon in many restaurants here.

Sunil Deepak said...

I didn't know cooking and while living outside India, started to try Indian recipes, that I found in books and over the past decade, in blogs. I never worried if the book/blog was written by a bengali or kannada or marathi or whatever and that's why I find myself mixing things from different cuisines from India all the time! I even take things from non Indian cuisines.

Bhagwad Jal Park said...

Ah - the variety in India! Can't beat it can you?

I don't think this scenario will arise for any other country where you say "I want to go to a North xyz restaurant instead of a south one!"

Richa said...

@ Neha: That must have tasted horrible. But sadly thats being done in quite a restaurant i have been too. I usually ask about which cuisine the restaurant belong to before ordering.

@Sunil: At least you cook for yourself and not in a restaurant. I understand where you are coming from but a professional chef should know better. Guess I am too big a snob to tolerate such discrepancies in restaurant where I pay my hard earned money to get good food.

@ Bhagwad: Guess you haven't tried the southern food in US yet (I am a fan of southern cuisine here) . They are completely different from the rest of the US. they subscribe to spicier (and tastier) side of food and have very different dishes. Like a pecan pie belongs to Southern cuisine. They are also a bit heavy on steak and beef dishes though Louisiana is famous for it's seafood varieties.

And US does offer a lot more choices in cuisine than India. You can always find a restaurant with Mediterranean cuisine or Greek cuisine or Italian cuisine or Mexican or Chinese or Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Indian. You name it and you will find it here. I can't say the same for India. The variety is definitely more in US than India and thankfully they don't mix up different cuisines.

Sunil Deepak said...

I didn't know cooking and while living outside India, started to try Indian recipes, that I found in books and over the past decade, in blogs. I never worried if the book/blog was written by a bengali or kannada or marathi or whatever and that's why I find myself mixing things from different cuisines from India all the time! I even take things from non Indian cuisines.

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