"Indian" Food

On Sunday evening, homie A joined B + I to meet homies L + B, down from Salem for a long weekend. B is getting his PhD in American history at Davis. He was part of the gang at UO when I was getting my master's. His lovely wife is an architect. When they come down to Cali to check in with B's adviser(s), we line up some fooding, usually in the middle-ground of Berkeley.

We ended up at Ajanta, north of the UCB campus. The food was really good and really interesting; it broke with the usual fare that constitutes "Indian" food in Indian restaurants in the US, with the standard red curry for every dish at varying degrees of heat. Instead, there were a bunch of interesting proteins and veggies (scallops, lamb, these great little veggie ball things) in different kinds of curries that were more brown in color and complex in flavor than most of the standard-issue red curries I've had.

It made me think about what a misnomer the term "Indian food" is, anyway. It would be like having a restaurant that specialized in "European food." Ajanta had each dish listed along with its region of origin, which was neat. It was still a pan-south-Asian approach, but at least it gestured at the fact that there is no unified Indian food any more than there was a unified India before the Brits finished taking over in the mid-19th century.

In conclusion, I'd like to note that I would happily eat naan with every single meal.


noncoupable said...

Same goes for "Chinese" food.

ransom said...

Quotation marks or no, Nerdygirl and I have been having an Indian food crisis of late. We normally go to India Grill on Burnside. It has been awesome or at least really good 30 times. And very bad or really horrifying twice.

It would be easier if the last two were the bad ones, but we got several more really good meals between the bad one and the horrifying one.

When do you give up on a favorite restaurant? And where do you then get your "Indian" food fix? In my spoiled, spoiled life the lack of reliably good Indian food is a Big Deal.

kungfuramone said...

I should have included an important caveat: even while calling attention to the somehow "inauthentic" nature of Indian food in US restaurants, I still *love* it.

And yeah...there is nothing quite as terrible as bad Indian food. It's like "what? really? you have a whole restaurant going on here but you can't even make chicken curry properly?!"