30 November 2016

Mixing Indian flavors with American tastes

I've had a parade of visitors since we moved to India almost 2 1/2 years ago. Most of my guests are expats who have/are living abroad or friends of friends who are frequent travelers, but recently my parents ventured over as well as one of my besties from the US. This is when I realized that not everyone loves Indian food as much as I do (I do miss my weekly sushi and the variety of different cuisines in my diet, but I also happily eat Indian for the majority of my meals daily). While many expats and frequent travelers love to immerse themselves in the food and culture of a new place, many Americans can't handle all of the richness and flavors. (I have a test case of a Polish-American expat (aka Buffet Queen for long-time readers!) coming to visit this week to compare - she grew up on barely any black pepper and can't handle spicy, but she has lived abroad for many years - we'll see how much Indian cooking she can endure.) 


I think the reason that I love Indian food so much is because it's made from so many familiar flavors. I grew up in Texas eating a healthy amount of Tex-Mex and Mexican food for as long as I can remember, and those flavors of cayenne, onion, chili peppers, cumin, bell peppers, garlic, and coriander/cilantro, amongst others made Indian cuisine feel a little bit more like home. That said, there was an article on WaPo last year discussing the science behind what makes Indian delicious, and it was mostly because they combine flavors completely differently than we do in American food. Another aspect of it is the fact that Indian food isn't just a few dishes, it's literally thousands of different meals (not that our cook realizes this ... I need Curry Delight back in the kitchen). 

So all of this led me to think more about how India "Indianizes" American foods and how the US "Americanizes" Indian foods to meet individual taste expectations. Sometimes this is done successfully resulting in deliciousness (visit The California Boulevard in Gurgaon to experience a delightful fusion of flavors) and sometimes it ends poorly with an over-masala-ed mishmash of seasonings or a weird, wannabe bbq sauce/Ranch dressing. So my plan is to take my favorite American dishes and "Indianize" them. While I'm no expert on flavors, I'm hoping I can't screw up this experiment too badly since Indian food is supposedly all about combining things with nothing in common. First up is baked potato. Check back for how I changed the traditional bland American version into a more flavorful dish using Indian spices!

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