The next time you are in China and order tandoori roti, spare a thought for the tandoor’s journey past the Great Wall of Chinese regulations.
Tricky laws are not, however, stopping the new wave of Indian food on the Mainland. Curries and naans are starting to show up on tables in luxury hotels, and not just a few restaurants.
The next Marriott slated to open in Beijing around January, will have a fine-dining Indian restaurant serving Lucknow and Awadh cuisine made by a team of expat chefs. “It will be the first luxury hotel in China with a fine-dining restaurant for Indian cuisine,’’ Tarun Varma, Director of event management at the Beijing Marriott City Wall, told HT.
Indian menus in China are still basic and forced to innovate with limited ingredients, like samosa folded in shortcrust pastry. At a recent Hyderabad-themed Id party at the India Tourism office in Beijing, the restaurant catering for the event had to send their Garhwali chef to a senior official’s house, where his wife demonstrated how to cook Hyderabadi biryani and mirch ka salan.
When the Beijing Marriott City Wall opened in August during the capital’s pre-Olympics hotel boom, the kitchen team included one Indian chef to serve kathi kebabs and parathas in its restaurant — where sushi is the staple order from a predominantly Japanese, Thai and Hong Kong food menu.
“Indian food is the hottest thing in London, so why not bring it to China?’’ says Rauf Malik, General Manager at the hotel, one of China’s largest going by the number of rooms.
His chef served chole and chicken curry to Sonia Gandhi and family during the Olympics, but his tandoor is still navigating through government paperwork.
“Getting approval for a tandoor takes time in China, because there are detailed rules about burning open coal,’’ says Varma. “Meanwhile, we don’t want to use an electric oven like some restaurants prefer to.’’
But the hotel’s own Taj Mahal arrived before the tandoor. It’s a giant thermocol sculpture that made its debut during the Indian Embassy’s Olympics party, and remains locked up for the next India event.