This picture shows a plate of food made in the Mumbai business office for employees. The men and women that make this come in everyday around 9am to prepare and cook for about 60 people. The reason for this is that in Mumbai, depending on where you office is, it’s extremely difficult to pop out for lunch and be back within a reasonable time. It is far cheaper for the company to bring in a cooking staff than to lose precious work hours.
What you also see is a fully vegetarian meal. In India many people are vegetarian so meat is served during lunch only 2x a week. What you see is Potato, starch, rice, lentils, yogurt, onions and lots and lots of spices. If you were to imagine the best Indian restaurant in the US you might (I stress the might part) get close to the level of food you can have in India on a casual daily basis.Of course the workers in Mumbai told me how “just ok” this food was but to my western taste buds it was on another level.
Why is the food different? There are many things that could explain this but my personal opinion is that if American had access to food this good they would probably only eat it once in a blue moon. Not because of the lack of desire for Indian food (Indian restaurants are on the rise around the country) but because of the amount of spices mixed in the food. In Indian restaurants outside of the US it’s normal to pick spices out of your food as you eat it. Whole cloves, whole peppercorns, bay leaves, star anise and various other shrubbery that if you bit into them you would get a seriously rude awakening (I know, I’ve done it) are all foreign concepts to the american diner. Because of the desire to just “close our eyes and eat” we tend to miss out on the depth of flavor offered particularly in Indian cuisine. Our challenge as an importer is to find the best compromise between how Americans want to have their dining experience and the most authentic manufacturers of Indian spices and ingredients.