Finding Desi Taste In A Foreign Land

thali
A Punjabi Thali

What is that first thing an Indian searches for once he or she leaves the country. Adventure? Progress? New opportunities? No way !

The only and the very first thing they look for, in an unknown territory, is the Indian food.

This is exactly what happened to us. Having landed in United Kingdom few years back and after coming to our senses post all the shifting and settling in, we started craving for Indian food desperately.

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The Various Spices Used In Indian Cooking

Sandwiches and pasta and the likes, for us were not food but the means of survival. It did not have the flavour we were looking for and wasn’t served hot. What is the fun in eating your food when eyes do not water with all that spice!

One day while grocery shopping I was overjoyed to see green chillies and onions. To my utter surprise the onion pack had only three pieces in it. WHAT!

Anyhow, It was our first delicious food in days.

And then began our search for Indian restaurant. Voila!  We found one very soon. We were overjoyed and went to try it in a few minutes time.

south-indian-meal
South Indian Platter

As our order approached us the whole environment was filled with delicious and familiar aroma. We were on cloud nine. But our enthusiasm soon faded as the food tasted a bit weird. It was like Chinese product, copied and unoriginal!

Later on, we realised that most Indian food restaurants, especially if they advertise it to be authentic, are definitely run by Bangladeshi migrants. And with no offence to the Bangladeshi community but this was not authentic ‘Indian food’. Funnily enough, everyone, even the non-Indian nationalities, came to realise this.

After the UK, we headed to Australia and embarked on another Indian food exploration, in yet another country. Thankfully here, the so-called Indian restaurants were better than the UK. However, here Indian restaurants were owned seldom by Bangladeshis and often by Sri Lankans but the food tasted closer to the food back home. What a respite it was!

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The Popular Indian Snack: Samosa

Not only this, all supermarkets have Indian food sections with lots of prepared spice mixes (wet and dry) for Vindaloo, Korma, Rogan Josh, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka etc. There are also plenty of accompaniments like Poppadoms, Dal and Naans.

Now we are settled  in Egypt and have tried various Indian restaurants. Unlike other countries, these are run by Indians. For this reason, they do not advertise the place to be ‘authentic’. However, the places I have tried so far have been utterly disappointing. What is delectable for many has been unpalatable for us. The quality, taste and presentation is no where close to Indian food standards.

Now , I have friends recommending other places for Indian food but you need to be a brave-heart for further experimentation. It’s not easy to have your heart broken more than once.

On a positive note, the phrase ‘Indian food’ carries a lot of weight which answers the reason behind the unauthorised use of the word. There is even a suggestion of a “curry college” to train British people to become chefs in Indian restaurants.

Here’s hoping to taste better ‘Indian food’ abroad, some day.

deepti-rana
Deepti Rana

The author, Deepti Rana, currently resides in Cairo and is a food enthusiast.

 

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