Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beyond Tandooris and Butter chickens in Australia

As a person who lived in the U.S and Africa and travelled and stayed in various parts of Europe, I always wondered why the average Westerner was so fascinated by a few items from the Indian cuisine and thought that was it.It always intrigued me as to why the Tandoori chicken and Butter chicken was all they knew and wanted to know about Indian cuisine.If I told them that Indian cuisine was much more than these two items,they would be flabbergasted and view me with suspicion and horror as if I had uttered some blasphemy. In Australia it was the same story with my colleagues at work and I was tired of hearing that they had Butter chicken or Tandoori chicken for lunch.Before I embarked on enlightening them,I thought it would be prudent to enlighten myself.After all the teacher has to know the subject himself before he can profess.From my research I learnt that the Tandoori Chicken goes way back to India's pre-partition days and a gentleman called Gujral.He was a restaurateur and he experimented with his Tandoor.A Tandoor is a bell shaped oven which is fixed into the ground and is heated by coal or wood,and the temperature inside can go up to 900 degrees.Now the tandoor was usually used to make Roti(round shaped Indian bread) or Naan(a longish bread). Mr.Gujral put chook's(chicken) into the tandoor for a change,obviously the chook's were marinated with yoghurt and tandoori masala.In this style of cooking in the tandoor the chicken came crispy on the exterior and soft and juicy in the interior and a light charcoal smell.It became immensely popular and when the riots during partition happened,Gujral migrated to India took his restaurant to Delhi and opened it in Darya Ganj.The first Prime Minister of India,Nehru ,it seems popularised it with all his visiting dignitaries from the U.S and Russia and Middle east as well as Asian countries.Probably that's how it got famous in the West as well as other parts of the world.
Now coming to my dear Australia, I believe its the back packers and the tourists to India in the 70's who brought back tales and recipes from India.Now contrary to popular belief Indian cuisine is so much beyond Tandoori's and Butter chicken's.India like Europe has many regions but its heritage is similar.India has North Indian cuisines like Butter chicken,South Indian Like Dosai, East Indian cuisine which has a mix of hot veg and non-veg and Western cuisine which has bhelpuri and dhokla.Then last but not the least the Central region has an amalgam of all neighbouring regions.Isn't that fascinating?Indian cuisine is a lot,to me, like Italian cuisine which is heavily regional.
Sydney(where I reside) has some good restaurants which can give any food aficionado a taste of the other cuisines of India.Like Malabar in Crows nest can give you a taste of Malabar region in Kerala.For tasty Northy fare and light on the purse you can try Surry hills area and I would recommend Mayas strongly as they have tasty food which is not expensive.They have three restaurants to choose from.Saravana hotel in Croydon is quite popular for both South Indian and North Indian.There's Casa de Goa in Dulwich hill for Goan food(Western Indian Cuisine) which going by the reviews is quite good. The list goes on and on, in fact in South Indian cuisine itself there are four regional cuisines to choose from.So, don't be shy and go out and try the other cuisines from India, as there's more to Indian cuisine than just Tandoori or Butter chicken.These two are my favourites too,having grown up in Delhi,but there's more to India. !!

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