Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Mexican, Thai, Italian, Oh My!



In restaurants in touristed areas (particularly beaches), I have noticed a trend (It's hard to miss, actually). The restaurants advertise their capability to create nearly any cuisine you can imagine, from Israeli, to Continental, to Chinese, Thai, Italian, Pizzas, and more. Indian is very rarely on this list. Furthermore, when you sit down you are presented with an extensive menu of at least 8 pages (usually closer to 15) with a dizzying variety of options, and yes there are Indian items on these menus. There will be a row of 15 or more restaurants on the same beach with exactly the same apparent versatility and type of menu.

However, there is a catch. It seems that roughly half the items we attempt to order are simply "not possible." Reasons range from the Tandoori oven not being fired up (understandable, both wood and charcoal must be stoked just right and often aren't at 2pm), to simply "we opened the hummus this morning and it smelled sour, so we threw it out." While I appreciate not being served sour hummus, you might be able to imagine that this sort of statement erodes the confidence a bit, especially after some gastronomic misadventures in other provinces.

As long as you don't have your mind set on anything in particular, you can always pick something else. However, this can be difficult because of the very friendly but also insistent nature of Indian service. Indian servers want to know your order right now, if you've had the menu for a minute and a half before you're asked, you're lucky. so when you place your order and it isn't possible (these are the words used), you better be able to pick something else soon. we have started selecting alternates.

The other confusion I have is about the variety of ethnic possibilities. The kitchen is never something you see in a restaurant in India. So I'm trying to imagine whether there is a Chinese woman, an Italian guy, a Thai grandmother, and a rather Continental chef back there. somehow this seems unlikely. So my question becomes, where did whoever is back there learn to cook all this stuff? It's a question that remains unanswered.

But my bigger question, really, is what is wrong with good Indian food? Look, I can see someone from Israel craving an Israeli breakfast after you've been in India for a month and a half, but most of the travellers here in Goa seem to be down from europe (lots of brits) for 2 weeks tops. You'd imagine that at least a few of them might like to try a good Indian dinner while they are here, wouldn't you? But I have yet to see a restaurant in a tourist area that features Indian center stage.

Please understand that none of this is criticism of India or even the restaurants themselves, it's just an interesting phenomenon. We have chosen from so many beach restaurants almost at random and certainly ignored their signage, and seemingly against all odds the meals have been great everywhere. My pork vindaloo at the "Thai specialty" place was very authentic. My chicken tikka masala at the fresh seafood griller was exceptional. The Naan (fluffy but hearty Indian flatbread) we ordered at a place featuring Pizza and Pasta was perhaps the best we've ever had. We must admit, however, that we love Indian (especially north Indian/Punjabi) cuisine and order it much more often than the mysterious foreign options. "When in Rome" works great for us here!

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aunt Mary - I got up at the crack of dawn this morning and got mother to the airport to meet Johnny, All went "Swimmingly" - she seemed a fairly calm "travelling Sally" but excited in a good way too. I think travelling with Johnny is the "best possible" for her. I all your "food" talk. I had no idea you were such a "gourmet" Andy. Johnny always talked about how you loved to go to "Country Buffet" when you were a little kid - I think, that is what he really likes! Well, I am not sure you are getting my comments but I will keep trying. Love, M

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Mary Skaret said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous mary Skaret said...

I still didn't get it right. "I love all your food talk."

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Andy for letting me know you are getting my comments. Did Tiffany get the stuff I wrote about the fabrics? Appropriately, I am reading a book right now about India, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. It is great and you would love it but it is big and heavy so wait until the U.S. Love and enjoy. M.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Andy for letting me know you are getting my comments. Did Tiffany get the stuff I wrote about the fabrics? Appropriately, I am reading a book right now about India, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. It is great and you would love it but it is big and heavy so wait until the U.S. Love and enjoy. M.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:01 AM  

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