Sunday, January 24, 2016

Why stick to Indian food when abroad?

Why do you keep looking for Indian food when abroad? Why don't you try something local? Why do you go all that far just to eat South Indian meal?

These are the question lots of people keep asking me. This preference is also true with many Indian families-first thing they check while planning a holiday is about food arrangements. So why this approach? Why not everyone forgets home food while on the move and eat whatever is available locally? In this post, I try to answer this question, based on my personal experience and observations.
An Indian Restaurant in Amsterdam

Food is a necessity, not luxury.
For most Indian families, daily food is merely a necessity. As long as I get something I like and it fills my stomach, I am happy. Doesn't matter there were 10 other food items I could have tried. I think it is the same thought for most families. "Let us try some local food" never appears on the list to "To do items" at a destination abroad. Special foods are usually made on festival days or special occasions and special foods also will be Indian. Indian families going out to eat in to try Chinese or Italian or Thai or some other cuisine was NOT a common phenomenon. It is only in recent years since the entry of international food chains, eating food has been associated with being fashionable, better lifestyle etc. Concept of taking photo of pic before eating and telling the world what we are having for breakfast, lunch and dinner didn't exist few years ago. May be I belong to a bit older generation of people who didn't have too much expectations about food.

Being Vegetarian: 
Vegetarians usually have very limited options abroad. Many times trying to identify if a food is veg or non-veg is very painful. Many countries (such as Thailand) may use ingredients sourced from animal (example fish oil) and may declare a food vegetarian because there is no meat added to it. Unless you have a local host who can explain what is veg/what is not, it is difficult to ascertain. So going to an Indian restaurant makes it safe bet.

Tourists are typically tight on budget. Buying some food without knowing how it tastes, what it consists of etc carries a small risk that you may not like the food and all money spent will go waste. Going for proven Indian food items makes it safer bet. Indian food items are also cheaper at times. 

Knowledge and customs: 
Knowledge about food habits in various countries, table manners, how to eat various stuff and what side dish goes well with what item-these things are not well known to most of the house-holds. Usually that is never in their agenda or list of interests. We are lazy by default and most of the time prefer to stick with well known/proven items than experiment.

Yes, trying out local food is a good habit. We should try that once a while. Just that different people will have different priorities.

Personally I can't call myself a foodie. I can't describe food like the way I can write about cars or hotels or travel stories. Haven't been very experimenting on this department yet. Will try in future.Of course there are many others who love experimenting and trying different kinds of food. No disrespect meant.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts.

Similar: Indian Restaurants in Europe open very late * Banana Leaf Apolo, Singapore * The real food on Killiney road * Nalan Singapore * Noma- world's No. 1 Restaurant * Dinner at Khumkhantoke, Chiang Mai *

Post written and published in Changi Airport, Singapore


Arun Prasadh said...

I used to eat only south indian food in my first couple of trips. Now i dont, i try different food and i like it. As long as there is no direct meat in it i am fine.

Aravind GJ said...

Interesting post. Being a vegetarian, I am not left with many options other than having bread with cheese or fruit. But nowadays I do try various cuisines and I see that veggie options are increasing (or I may be exploring more!!)

I have seen many times hat non veg people also prefer Indian food because of "spice" factor.

Badari said...

Trying out local food seems to be cool idea.

But for hardcore South Indians it will be really difficult.Always our mind will be
pondering whether the food has non-veg content mixed with and always have the feeling that same kitchen prepares both the food.

Mridula said...

Being a vegetarian I am in the same boat! But I do try to eat local, even street food if I get the veg option. And I learned to take that fish sauce in stride!

Anonymous said...

This is total crap! Learn to write!

Raveesh Kumar said...


I agree with you on most points. Although I am a non-vegetarian, I am averse to experimenting for the reasons you mentioned above and sometimes, even though they say it is a Indian dish, preparation is entirely different and may not suit one's taste! If south/north Indian meal is available, I will immediately pick it up! This applies even when I am travelling in India!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks. Good to know I have company. Some of us are just not born to be foodies.

@Anon- looks like a generic comment. Any specific feedback I am happy to take.

@Mridula- Good to know. Yes, if we can be very sure that something is veg and not that expensive, we might be willing to try out once a while.

@Badari- Thanks

@Aravind- thanks for your comments. In some countries it is easy to find something veg, in some it is very difficult. Veg burgers are available in few, some pizza places make veg pizza if requested. Or just live on fruits. Last resorts I must say,

@Arun- Good to know you are trying out.

Anonymous said...

Learn to write about things that matter. These are really lousy, flimsy, temporary topics. (I call them temporary for want of a better word). You obviously write well. But you should take a stance on serious-er topics. Food, travel, cars and movie reviews are for people willing to make a quick buck. If you're one of them, then fine.

The writings don't feel heart-felt. They're written with some level of detachment.

Sorry if I come across as rude. I feel it is the most effective way to get my point across. Don't take it personally.

- the anonymous guy (Or you can call me 'Carthago' )

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Point taken. Most of my posts are usually analytical/factual or experience driven. I can't bring too much emotion and sentiments into the posts. That is not my strong area. Also I do not write in my blog about family members, work related matters etc.

I understand there are burning issues out there but there are lots of people already writing about it. I don't have anything unique to add. That is why I usually do not write on various news item topics. If I have to take a stance (like example If BJP is right or Congress) I will need right information. Information in public domain is usually flamed by media, not adequate to declare someone good or bad.

I think for now current pattern would continue. Will try if I can do anything different.

Anonymous said...

Not saying you have to take up news! A book review, or perhaps something of the sort.


Shrinidhi Hande said...

I have written many book reviews, occasional posts on politics and other topics

Ranjana's craft blog said...

I agree with all points. Also some food ingredients may be allergic to us.
But still once we can try out the local food.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Ranjana

Yes, I think no one is closed to the idea of local food if it fits above criteria- like we know it is purely vegetarian, is affordable and worth the money etc. Particularly if there is a local host who can help us understanding the food then it is easier to try. Otherwise many usually stick to their comfort zone

Katie said...

True. The thought that some other cuisine may be tasty and appeal to our palate is by itself a million dollar question. But for my daughter, I would have never gone out of the South / North Indian vegetarian dishes. Being a vegetarian, find it pretty hard to eat in a non-vegetarian restaurant but yes, now do it in upscale restaurants though not a preference.

Could connect so much with you as I was enquiring about availability of Indian vegetarian food for a Europe trip we were planning.


Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Katie for your comment. Good to know I have lots of company w.r.t vegetarians..