Americans miss the boat with Indian food in the US! After traveling to India, my appreciation of Indian Food has skyrocketed. The first time we ate Indian food was in Laos. We had stopped by an Indian place in Phonsavan that got good ratings and figured we would give it a try. We fell in love with Indian food immediately and subsequently ate Indian food all over Asia. We had our favorite Indian Restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam called Namaste. We would eat it about twice a week. Once visiting India, we realized the typical curries and gravy we would order from Indian food wasn't exactly typical of Indian food, and we developed a greater knowledge of the food and regional differences.
Standard Indian Meal of Tikka Masala In The US
Indian Food In the US
The interesting thing is that most Indian food in the US is mostly Punjabi style with creamy curries and lots of ghee and not truly “Typical Indian Food”. If you go to a U.S. Indian food restaurant, you will get Naan and a creamy-curry based gravy, aloo gobi, paneer palak, dal fry, samosas, pakora, at times some biryani, and tandoori on the menus, but all the delicacies of India are not represented in the US, especially regional dishes or street food. Dosas are somewhat harder to find in restaurants across the U.S. as well.
Why Isn't Indian Food Popular?
The problem with Indian food is that it’s just not popular in the U.S. According to Dr. Krishnendu Ray of NYU Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, There are more than 40,000 Chinese restaurants, over 40,000 Mexican restaurants and only around 5,000 Indian restaurants in the U.S. Indian Food ranks number 9/14 in the most expensive immigrant food restaurant category, not making it the cheapest nor the most expensive in the US. French restaurants top that list, and at the bottom is Thai in 2014.
The popularity of Indian Food has many factors. Some believe it is too spicy, some feel that it's pricy for what you get. If you get a gravy, naan, and some basmati rice, you might pay around 15-20 US for this dish. This is in the mid-level meal price range. Many people in the US don't find this type of meal as filling as a burger and fries from a fast food restaurant and to pay more for less doesn't make sense at times. Many in the US are used to huge portions in comparison to most of the world's portion sized meals and Indian food is relatively small in portions (in comparison) due to the price of ingredients and skill in preparation that is required for good Indian food. The third reason why Indian Food isn't as popular in US / Western Culture may have something to do with science.
And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.
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You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself.
There is no unhappiness like the misery of sighting land (and work) again after a cheerful, careless voyage.
Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of the experience.
The saddest journey in the world is the one that follows a precise itinerary. Then you’re not a traveler. You’re a f@$%ing tourist.
If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.
Nothing can be compared to the new life that the discovery of another country provides for a thoughtful person. Although I am still the same I believe to have changed to the bones.
Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.
Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
…to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
How you live your life is up to you. You have to go out and grab the world by the horns. Rope it before it ties you down and decides for you.
To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.
Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.
Make voyages! Attempt them… there’s nothing else.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover
What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.
Too often. . .I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.
Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
Traveling outgrows its motives. It soon proves sufficient in itself. You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making you – or unmaking you.
One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.
No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.
Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you travelled.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.
A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not; but a man of superior talent will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place.
Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.
A wise man travels to discover himself.
Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.
I travel not to cross countries off a list, but to ignite passionate affairs with destinations.
The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.
A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.
We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey
A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.
Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.
NOT I – NOT ANYONE else, can travel that road for you, You must travel it for yourself.
If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.
Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.
I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.
At its best, travel should challenge our preconceptions and most cherished views, cause us to rethink our assumptions, shake us a bit, make us broader minded and more understanding.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.
I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.
Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travellers don’t know where they’re going.
Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.
Live life with no excuses, travel with no regret.
I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
Not all those who wander are lost.
If you’re… physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.
Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times.
A great way to learn about your country is to leave it.
Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.
To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.
The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.
I finally felt myself lifted definitively away on the winds of adventure toward worlds I envisaged would be stranger than they were, into situations I imagined would be much more normal than they turned out to be.
Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you- it should change you.
For the born traveller, travelling is a besetting vice. Like other vices, it is imperious, demanding its victim’s time, money, energy and the sacrifice of comfort.
I am a passionate traveler, and from the time I was a child, travel formed me as much as my formal education.
Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.
The journey not the arrival matters.
There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted
I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.
Flavor Pairing Chart
The Science of Flavor Pairings
It is possible that many Americans just don’t have the palate for Indian Food. Science in the last few years has been able to identify flavor compounds and why certain things taste good with each other. There is a whole theory that the way chemicals react in our mouths with our taste buds is a chemical reaction based on basic compounds and how they compliment and/or uncomplimentary react each other. Ever wonder why some people think cilantro tastes like soap and to others it's a delicious condiment for food?
Different country's cuisine has different rules as to how and why they are prepared. Science has revealed that Indian food is negative in complementary pairings while U.S. food is all about complementary pairings. A traditional Indian dish has a minimum of seven combined ingredients, so that each bite reveals different combinations of flavors that hit the tongue at different times in the chewing process. U.S. and Western cuisine tends to have overlapping flavor compound pairings which create a more "muted" combination of flavors and according to Anupam Jain at the Indian Institute of Technology in Jodhpur, Indian food is one of the most uncomplimentary in flavor pairings. There is an amazing interactive graph where you can find common pairings of food compounds in The Scientific American that illustrates this.
Some Asian Cuisine Philosophies
Flavor Pairing Chart Based On Country
The people of Vietnam believe that food should follow the 5 elements and have specific foods that pair or do not pair based on this model. Balance is the key and based on the elements, ambient temperature, texture and ingredients.
|The 5 Elements|
|Organs||Gall bladder||Small intestine||Stomach||Large intestine||Urinary bladder|
Thai Red Curry And The 5 Fundamental Tastes
Thai cuisine is more based on the balance of five fundamental tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, salty and spicy. For example, the basic ingredients of Thai red curry include; red chili paste (spicy), coconut milk (sweet), fish sauce (salty) and lemongrass or lime leaves (sour), eggplant and/or herbs(bitter) balancing the 5 fundamental tastes. The basis of Thai food much like Vietnamese is balance. All plates should have a minimum of 4 of the 5 fundamental taste elements shown below.
Sweet - cane or coconut palm sugar, sweet pineapple
Sour - lemon, lime, tamarind, paw paw/papaya, raw mango, sour pineapple or other sour fruits
Salty - sea salt, soy sauce, fish sauce or sardine and other fish pastes
Bitter - bitter melon or raw leaves from various plants and trees (either wild or cultivated)
Hot - different chili peppers, fresh and dried, and peppercorns, fresh, pickled or dried, and ground peppers too
South Indian Food In New Delhi
Indian cuisine is perhaps is the most complex due to why the food is prepared the way it is. Food isn't just sustenance, it has Ayurveda roots which classifies food into 6 basic tastes, 3 categories, and even 3 states of mind of the preparer which all create a mix of food tastes and effects for your body:
Six Basic Tastes
Sweet: strength to tissue and harmonizes the mind.
Salty: Salt aids digestion, clears obstructions in the nervous system and cleanses the body by sweating. Excessive salt causes wrinkles and gray hair.
Pungent: Helps indigestion and improves metabolism.
Bitter: Purify the blood
Astringent: Treat and prevent ulcers and also help with healing wounds.
Sour: Aids digestion and helps the heart function well.
Ayurvedic 3 Food Categories
Here are the main categories of food based in Indian cuisine.
Rasa: Food is categorized based on its tastes as listed above. Rasa means the taste.
Veerya: This is the food that provides potency to the body. Meat provides energy and vigour and hence, was given to warriors and kings. Brahmins and godly people were given food that did not provide heat to the body; thereby letting them meditate and stay in touch with God.
Prabhav: This is the food that has some special action on the body. This is known as tehseerin Urdu and it implies the hot and cold effects of food on body.
3 Human States of Mind
The human states of mind are also classified into three types. The food will actually taste different based on who prepares the meal in these 3 categories of people and their state of mind when creating the food.
Ayurveda classifies them as the following:
Satyavik: People who are intellectual, with a curious mind, strives for knowledge.
Rajasik: People are basically doers and not necessarily striving for knowledge.
Tamasik: People have no desire to learn or expand knowledge.
Mughal Dish Prepared in Udaipur, India
American food is all about comfort. What tastes good? They tend to have a much higher affinity for the fat compounds(4-methylpentanoic acid) and foods that contain glycosides bonds which are found in carbohydrates and other polysaccharides. In other words meat and potatoes! Americans love their meat and carbs. High fats and high carbohydrate diets dominate American cuisine. Yes we have condiments, however these condiments are many times complimentary in flavor profiles and are just that, condiments. Americans in general are more concerned with how many calories the food has, salt intake, and western medicinal reasons for why certain foods should be eaten or avoided. One year we are told by scientists it is healthy to eat eggs the next year we don't because a study shows they have too much cholesterol. Much of what we consume in the U.S. is based on what western studies say about dietary restrictions.
There is little need for Americans to concern themselves with the temperature outside, balancing 5 or 6 basic tastes, worrying about states of mind of the preparer or how they correspond with the 5 elements of the earth. Americans are really only concerned with the dietary restrictions set forth by science and does it taste good. A very different philosophy indeed.
Dosas In Delhi In Karol Bagh
The differences in philosophy of food in Asia including India, are deeply based in religion and centuries of cultural beliefs. American philosophy for food is based more on comfort and dietary restrictions. The food that people consume in Asian countries don't adhere as much to the flavor profiles and more based on external influences and belief systems and American cuisine is based on what "goes well together".
Speaking in huge generalizations, Americans simply don't have the palate for food that doesn't pair similarly. Of course there are Americans who love food from other countries and different compound mixtures, however the majority just aren't used to the flavors that other international cuisine offers. Go to the "bread basket" of the U.S. where wheat and corn are king and queen and you are hard pressed to find someone who really enjoys a good spicy Indian dish. This is changing. As the American palate grows to try new food combinations, the "tastes" that Americans have grown accustomed to with food changes. Indian food however still has a way to go due to its complex flavor profiles and will probably be in the minority of food choices for most Americans for decades.
Change in Perspective
We have learned to love food from other countries and not only rely on our roots of American/Western cuisine. It has taken an open mind to food and not having a fear of trying food from different lands to change this. Travel has opened our minds to not only other cultures, but the food that represents these cultures. We try it all now! Even if it looks unappetizing or smells unappealing, we try it to try to understand the culture from where it comes from. Some food has heat or tingling on your lips, some on your tongue, some in the back of your mouth based on how the cayenne pepper is paired with other spices and textures that make up what a country feeds it's inhabitants. Food is as multi-dimensional and layered as the people of a country. I doubt we would have figured this out if we hadn't traveled.
Food has such an endemic quality based on the culture of a country. It's easy to go to a U.S. Thai restaurant and think "hmm. yeah, Thai food is ok, but it's too spicy". When you begin to understand why Thai food is spicy and understand that it's equally bitter, sweet, and salty, you begin to understand the culture of balance in everyday life in Thailand, you appreciate the complexity of the food and the simplicity of it.
Our Godfather of food and travel Anthony Bourdain said; “Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed pope-mobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.” So do we Anthony... So do we!
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