Last week I cooked up an Indian meal for the first time. It was quite an interesting experience. I felt like I had actually cooked something up properly from scratch — unlike merely steaming veggies and placing a chicken in the oven. I was amazed by all the different ingredients used to create such a simple dish.
However, what struck me the most was how my mum made a minor adjustment to the lentils dish (but adding only a small amount of chilli) to cater to my tastebuds. According to her, i’m not a ‘true’ Indian because I can’t/don’t like eat/eating spicy food. My parents attribute this to me being born in Australia — unlike my brother — and developing different taste buds as a result of that. Whether or not this is true, I could not help but feel interested by how Chefs alter their foods of different cultures and countries to cater to the people they serve their food to. I know this definitely holds true for Indian food. I remember when I was younger, I always used to feel confused by my mum’s homemade butter chicken and the butter chicken we would eat out in restaurants. My mum’s butter chicken has never been sweet, whereas when you order butter chicken in Australia from a restaurant, it is always super sweet. Similarly, only recently when I was in India and we ordered butter chicken, I was expecting it to be sweet but it wasn’t. Then I realised authentic Indian butter chicken is not meant to be sweet at all. This suggests that Indian food offered in Australian restaurants is essentially ‘watered-down’ and adjusted to cater to the Australian pallet. Similarly, the easy-to-make kits you get in the supermarket is completely different to authentic Indian food. This left me wondering to what extent is Indian food altered to cater to the Australian pallet. Other than making butter chicken sweet and perhaps adding less chilli in Indian food, what else is done? Is this why Indian food is quite popular in Australia? Would Indian food be less popular if it was made authentically as it is made in India? Are such adjustments good or bad?