Monday, August 30, 2010

Changing Food Landscape of India

I like to try out new things to eat every weekend. And I observed yesterday that everything I have experimented with over one month or so is within the space of European cuisine. There are mainly two reasons why I have grown to like European cuisine: the pleasant post-eating experience – where you feel light yet full - and their varied nature: pasta is very different from, say, a club sandwich. Chinese cuisine also has the same qualities but everything on the Chinese menu has been tried and tested many times over.

European cuisine is comparatively new for the average Indian. It was always available but only at select places and exquisite prices. Now there are countless outlets offering European food at affordable prices. As a result of which, it's gradually grabbing the place that Chinese food used to occupy until few year ago. Now European food stands for what Chinese food stood for once: delicacy and affordability rolled into one. Today a European restaurant is where you want to date.

Mughlai, on the other hand, has retained its position. You may have switched your loyalty from Chinese to continental but you still look forward to Biriyianis and Kababs. Mughlai is very rich and so the occasion has to warrant it. People still prefer Muhglai at weddings. But culinary space in anything that’s a little cosmopolitan – like a birthday bash – was a toss up between pizza and Chinese until few years ago but with Chinese on its way out and European still not having established itself as a favorite of all (European is still something you want to eat with your close friends whose taste you know), there remains a vacuum.

There are few more challenges Euro cuisine faces in India. One of them is lack of awareness. People often mix it up with American food. For the average eater, there is not much difference between pizza (which is basically an American food) and pasta. Both are foreign, both contain lots of cheese, and therefore both are same.

The names of continental dishes are difficult to remember and different outlets have different things on offer, so what is authentic and what is a localized version of its continental counterpart is difficult to work out. That’s why I have remained restricted to a few items despite my penchant for food adventurism. Perhaps the joints and brands offering European fare can educate people about Euro cuisine through the media.

But to become a household favorite, European food has to be more widely available through restaurants in all Indian cities and Indianize itself to convert the people who find it bland. There is space for both authentic and localized varieties. Some Chinese dishes are more Indian than Chinese.

Some of the places I frequent are Casapicola, Friends, Sweet Chariot etc. I also visit Subway outlets, to gorge on sub-sandwiches. There are many more. I have tried out many items by now but my favorites are club sandwiches, penne, pasta (not always since it’s very cheesy). I don’t remember more names.


Mark said...

it seems not many people appreciate continental food as it should be ;) I remember a trip sometime back to Goa during which for one of the lunch meals - I had nice spicy masala goan prawn curry with white rice. But since we were travelling as a group on rickety run down Honda activas, i guess my stomach could not handle it and i faced problems of indigestion. Later onwards just i just stuck to continental food (very protein heavy though) and I faced no tummy problems inspite of all the hectic travelling ;)Continental food may be fattening, but it sure is light on the stomach

indrablog said...

Hi Mark,
Ya, you also told me Goa has good continental food on offer. Thanks for sharing

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