Carrying your Maharaj

Does your cook travel with you when you roam the world? For an increasing number of affluent Indians, the way to travel is to eat vegetarian Indian food prepared fresh by their own ‘Maharaj’ – Indian chefs, who take over sections of the kitchen in the restaurants. Apparently, this is a fad mainly with Indians and the Chinese. The rest of the world seems perfectly ok with eating local food when they travel. But we don’t just carry this obsession with our own food abroad, we even practice it at home. Changing even the most established cuisines in the world to suit our palate. The food served in Chinese restaurants in India is as far away from real Chinese as Mumbai is from Shanghai.

The same is true of continental food served in India. Only the 5 star restaurants stay true to the original. But we abhor blandness. We want spice dosed liberally into every dish so that it becomes a ghost of the original. There are now, ‘Indian pastas’, concocted by restaurants to cater to their clientele. So, while they claim to be different, most restaurants only maintain a facade of what they serve. Smart tour managers recognised this long ago. While some of them searched and tied up with Indian restaurants at the destination, Raj Tours and Travels carried Indian cooks with them, so that their guests would not have to pine for ‘dal-chawal’ and ‘roti’ on foreign shores. Indian tourists apparently want the foreign experience to stop at sights and sounds and not go all the way to their stomach

We may declare that we want our food experiences to be different. But whether we go into Italian, Mexican or Lebanese restaurants in India, the first question after the waiter explains the dish is – ‘Is it spicy? And the answer usually is ‘We’ll make it spicy for you’