As Indians are travelling abroad and getting a taste of international tastes, specialty cuisine from worldwide is being served at desi restaurants. Here’s a look into some popular cuisines of the world.

Exposure through travel, television, news media and social media is making Indian’s experiment with food habits and explore newer cuisines.

Chinese, being the closest in taste and spices, was the first to get accepted by an average Indian. So much so that all Udupi restaurants feature spring rolls, fried rice, manchurian and noodles on their regular menus. Well, the fact that these are turned into Indianised versions with spices to make them locally palatable is another thing.  Chinese bhel has become a popular street food in Mumbai.

Americans are great influencers in the world and the popularity of their cuisine is not an exception. Burgers, rolls and pizzas along with frizzy colas invaded Indian taste buds, especially the young population and remains a favourite of the neo-rich, modern people.  Multiplex cinema growth into India has also followed with exclusive availability of these foods    along with pop corn and samosa.  

Italian cuisine followed first with the American version of its pizzas and went on to serve a taste of pastas. In Italy, authentic pasta is always prepared fresh, just like our chapattis. In India though, cooking up pre-cooked pasta at a live station with choice of ingredients seemed an easy option, especially at events. Pasta at common restaurants is limited to pizzas and spaghetti, but specialty restaurants serve variety pastas with original ingredients. They also have thin crust, coal baked pizzas. Olives and olive oil have created a craze as health foods.

Continental food is considered bland by Indian taste buds. But classic soups, salads, and variety potato preparations do attract gourmets. French cuisine uses a lot of mustard, which makes the food hot and spicy. French fries have become a world food. Potato soup in Europe is rich and heavy, making a full meal with some salads and hotly baked bread. Yes, freshly baked bread variety is the best from a European kitchen. Their cheese options are great too.

South East Asia cuisine is a feast for seafood lovers. Coconut or hot chilly based curries taste good with rice. Not many will prefer the strong shrimp paste flavour in all dishes though. Savouring exotic food in Hong Kong or China may limit to a visit of a live food market, which can be interesting. Snake soup is considered a delicacy and health food during winters and snakes are displayed in cages at the specialty restaurants for customers to pick. One can pick scorpions into a plastic bag with the help of tongs. Expensive bird nest soup is worth its weight in gold.  It’s difficult to assimilate the fact that Koreans love their dog meat as well as a fried baby octopus as a soup topping. One can easily settle for khimchi and rice- for khimchi is close in taste to an Indian pickle.

Hummus, the chickpea paste base and falafel, a softer version of Indian dal vada from Middle East easily blend into Indian tastes. So is its shawarma (kebab).  The region is credited with the origin of the word ‘masala’ and that explains its cuisine flavours. Pita bread makes a good pocket for a spicy roll. Lavash is akin to our own rumali roti.

African palette is still a bit alien but can make an exotic choice for the adventurous gourmet. If visiting Kenya on a wildlife tour, a visit to the Carnivore restaurant in Nairobi can be exciting, for it serves a few wild meats like that of zebra, deer and even crocodile meat. The huge skewer is brought from the live coal barbecue and sliced straight onto the plate at the table. Restaurant at a crocodile farm in Mauritius also serves crocodile fritters. People of Indian origin in Mauritius cook-up tasty dhal purie (actually soft, dal paratha) and gataux pima (literally meaning chilli cake, is a dal vada) for street food.

Likewise, there’s plenty of choice in sweets and desserts too- from simple and exotic tropical to winter fruits and variety chocolates of the west. Asian deserts are rice and coconut based while European desserts are flour and egg based and baked-like cookies and cakes. Ice-creams, puddings, jellies and pancakes are also sweet options.

Talk on food can be a never ending topic. Trying a new dish when there’s an opportunity may add more options to your diet. Wherever you travel, try and enjoy at least a few of the local dishes. Bon apetit!

Authored by
Anand & Madhura Katti

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