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Blog // Travel
October 2, 2005

Navigating The Irreducible Absurdity Of Indian Cuisine

As an ex-pat, trying to get a handle on Indian Food is mind-numbing task. No amount of take-out curry can prepare you for the culinary assault that India brings. It is not just navigating the non-western names and presentation, or the labyrinthine range of regional variety, two things which in and of themselves are challenge […]

As an ex-pat, trying to get a handle on Indian Food is mind-numbing task. No amount of take-out curry can prepare you for the culinary assault that India brings. It is not just navigating the non-western names and presentation, or the labyrinthine range of regional variety, two things which in and of themselves are challenge enough. You also have to face the wildly variable results of ordering exactly the same dish in more than one restaurant, the even wilder variation in quality and the unimaginably wild folk-history and culinary explanations that go with most traditional dishes.

This is why I am thankful for the weekly column, Rude Food, from Vir Sanghvi, of the Hindustan Times. Sanghvi is a well known journalist whose stock-in-trade is hard-hitting, yet witty and ironic current affairs reporting. He is also a very well known and successful television topical interviewer. Vir Sanghvi is a man of many media-talents.

Moreover, he is also a man with a passion for good food and for a better cultural understanding of Indian cuisine. His column isn’t just restaurant reviews and witty critique, which is good news since the whole post-A.A.Gill form of over the top restaurant review that has infected so much media these days is just so tired and well, so 1998! By contrast Sanghvi likes to explore the place of food in Indian culture, it’s relations to Asia in general and to history and politics in particular.

I have found his column compelling at times, not least because he is willing to take an unpopular position on a number of food-topics, in particular, that unless you are in someone’s home or a very small handful of locales in India, the best Indian food is to be found in the UK (with the added conundrum that many traveling Indians do not recognise the quality because culinary standards in India are dropping faster saris in a modern bollywood movie!). However, it is not all negative, as Sanghvi is quick to praise the intricacies of the regional cuisines, the rich history of Indian food and the great pleasure of traditional (read: time consuming) dishes. There is also great insight to be had into the minds of Indian food consumers, especially in terms of what they like and dislike about non-Indian foods.

Sanghvi has a collection of his columns available in a book and I would encourage anyone interested in better understanding Indian Cuisine to take a read.

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