Blogger and gastronomy writer Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal helped her mother plan a conducted tour of Australia a few years ago. She came back with an unusual experience. The tourists had specifically asked for Indian cuisine to be added to their packages. But upon landing at the airport down under, all the food was seized by the custom officials. What followed was a frantic daily hunt for restaurants in Australia that offered authentic Indian cuisine.
“When Indian food is first assimilated in cultures abroad, they begin using simpler dry ingredients like spices. But applying those spices to the local food of that country only creates a dialect which is not authentic,” says Ghidiyal, recounting her experience and adding that the trip proved how difficult it was to get authentic desi food in foreign lands.
While places with a high Indian diaspora such as the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada and Dubai do offer travelers multiple options when it comes to Indian meals, one cannot expect to find the staple dal-chawal combo in countries such as Finland, Vietnam and remote areas of Australia. To prove her point, Ghildiyal adds, “I also remember this weird incident that took place once.
A Caucasian chef at a restaurant in Cairns (Australia) started crying when no one ate the Gulab Jamuns he had made. He just couldn't understand why we thought they were bad. After all, he had followed the recipe."
But the problem doesn't end when you do find that elusive restaurant. Sanjay Jha, a businessman who travels often, points out another deterrent: the price. “The cost of Indian food in Europe, Australia and even Dubai is on the steeper side as it is considered exotic. Also, the options are limited for vegetarians,” he says.
That’s probably one of the reasons why several local communities prefer traveling with tour operators that offer Indian food. Frederick Divecha, head tour operating B2C, Kuoni India, says, “People exploring the Far East and Europe prefer Indian food while holidaying. They are more comfortable travelling with fellow countrymen and eating desi delicacies every day.”
But for those who wish to travel alone, Karan Anand, head-relationships, Cox & Kings says there is hope, “Today, the Indian cuisine is available in most destinations. There are almost 1,000 Indian restaurants in UK and close to 70 in Paris alone. Also, all international tourism boards have websites that list Indian restaurants in that specific country.”
Where can I eat?
Here are some options to try out across the globe.
Slovenia: Walk into the pint-sized country’s only Indian restaurant, Namaste, for the best Paneer Butter Masala, Pineapple Raita and Naan.
Rome: Be sure to book a table at the Surya Mahal in Trastevere. The popular spot is known for its great location and ambience.
Estonia: Visit the new restaurant called Chakra in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. TAIwan: Taipei, the capital of Taiwan has a great selection of Indian restaurants. Visit Andy Arya’s Out Of India — a small, unpretentious joint that serves good North Indian food.
USA: In Chicago, try the Naan and Mango Kulfi at India House. Shree Vegetarian Restaurant also has a great lunch buffet and is known for its Avial and Tamarind Rice. Gaylord offers delicious Hariyali Chicken Tikka and Chicken Tikka Masala. In San Francisco, go to Bombay Garden, Pakwan, Amber India, Tandoori Cafe, Fusion India, Shalimar or Turmeric (a local favourite).
France: Gandhi Restaurant in Paris has excellent Naans. Sarvanna Bhavan in the same city has excellent and
authentic South Indian thalis.
Switzerland: Shahi, the Indian and Pakistani restaurant offers good Indian food in Geneva. It is quite expensive though.
Oman: Mumtaz Mahal serves good Indian food while Great Kebab Factory is a must-visit.
United kingdon: Veeraswamy in London is known for its awesome Indian food, especially the Hyderabadi-style Lamb Biryani. One could also go to Masala Zone for the
Khichdi and Undhiyo. Dishoom reminds people of Brittania in Mumbai and is known for its Berry Pulao, Kheema Pav, chaat and wine in cutting chai glasses.
DUBAI: At 250 AED per person (R3,500), the Indian breakfast at Burj Al Arab has got to be among the most expensive meals in the world. But unfortunately, it’s not worth it. From tasteless gulab jamuns and rock hard paneer tikkas (yes, for breakfast) to soggy parathas, the meal at, what is often called “the world’s only seven star hotel”, is a huge disappointment.
Also avoid: Countries with a strong or well-defined local cuisine like Greece, Sri Lanka, China, Vietnam and Indonesia and those not on to the average tourist’s radar like Finland, Brazil, Paraguay and Russia, may not be some of the best places to visit for Indian cuisine.