Between chicken tikka masala and gobi manchurian; two tent poles of "Indian cuisine", lies a tragedy: The tragedy of whittling down Indian food to a few flagship items.
"Bastardised Punjabi food passes off as Indian food across the world," said journalist Samar Halarnkar, at a panel discussion on Sunday. "No one wants to take a bet on Indian cuisines."
Even at local eateries in small towns, the ubiquitous Indian chinese option surfaces, he added.
Halarnkar was speaking with journalist and food writer Vikram Doctor at "Writer’s Menu" at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival on Sunday.
From Bengali vegetarian dishes to the many-hued, many-flavoured brain curries and liver dishes to the poorly publicised joys of dried fish, the story of Indian cuisines are all too many, but all too little known, said the panelists.
"We don’t know our own foods in India," said Halarnkar. "The tragedy of Indian food, is you get to sample so little of it," he later added.
Halarnkar, who recently wrote "The Married Man’s Guide To Creative Cooking", started off his experiments in the kitchen with a little hot plate in the ground. Vikram Doctor began his culinary journey at home with cakes and bread. Now he scours city neighbourhoods to zone in on unique ingredients and local specialties, tapping his network of "informants" from time to time.
But restaurants are unable to put these weird and wonderful things on their menus. "They’re strained by institutional constraints," he said.