I write this as I gulp down the last piece of my tandoori roti with paneer-do-pyaaza for the nth time this semester. It’s strange how despite all the different food options available in India, I can’t help but pine for the variety I had back on exchange.
If someone wanted a truly diverse set of people, based on race and geographic origins, New York was truly the place to go to. And there is no better way to evidence this than the variety of cuisines the place has to offer!
As I scan through the photographs that I clicked on exchange in NYC, I’m amazed at two observations:
- An overwhelming majority of my pictures are related to food
- I sampled over 15 different cuisines during my time there
And here’s my commentary on some of them – supported by pictures* of course 🙂
American: Ubiquitous, generally cheap and a sure-shot way to invite cardio-vascular diseases
Well, all popular fast food and mainstream dishes whose origins are unknown have been attributed to this cuisine. Notable items obviously include burgers, fries, shakes and (veggie) hot dogs
Chinatown Chinese: Slightly over-rated, insanely cheap, particularly oily
Nothing I would have regretted missing – the tea though, was a real find – I drank some 7 cups during my only visit to Chinatown. Chinese takeout though (if you manage to figure out what is and is not vegetarian) can be really awesome – they have interesting sauces and accompaniments
Israeli Somethings: Bagels, specifically
Ranging from soggy and extremely disgusting (American carts) to perfectly soft and tasty (authentic Jewish bagels), NY has a wide variety to offer. Coupled with good coffee, bagels make the perfect breakfast
Ethiopian Cuisine: If you’re a vegetarian, Lentils, lots of Lentils
Most of their curries (Wats) reminded me of Indian sabzis and their breads (Injiras) were almost like sour dosas. I don’t remember the names of the dishes (apart from some fit-fit), but what I do remember is that drinking a bottle of water after the meal is highly highly recommended
French Quiches: and nothing else (now I wonder why)
Greek Cuisine: Minimalistic, Simple and Basic
Breads and loads of salads and other mostly cold stuff = greek food. I was impressed at how awesome cold food can taste and how well they used olives of different shapes and sizes in their food! My favourites – Dolmas and Spinach-pies
Italian: Rich, Exquisite, Cheese-ey
Coffee, Cheese, Herbs, flavour – is there anything gastronomical which Italians haven’t mastered? One can not help but feel awed by Italians after having the Ravioli in Walnut and Orange sauce or an authentic Brick-oven pizza. Of course, not to mention the enormous variety of cheese they are credited for
Japanese Ramen: slurrrrp
The Japanese understand spicy! And Xin Ramen is living proof of that – will-give-you-a-runny-nose kinda spicy (after generous sprinkling of their spicy powder of course) and so full of flavour! Plus the seaweed and wasabi make it look so appetizing!
Korean Food: So much rice!
Ricecakes, Korean Sushi (which is tastier than regular Sushi) and Korean Burrito (which is spicier than Chipotle burritos)
Malaysian: Thai, Malaysian – thin line
Super tasty, reasonably priced and has vegetarian variants – should have discovered it earlier. I had the Chow Fun with Tofu which reminded me of some Thai noodles that I’d had only to discover that there’s a huge overlap between the two cuisines.
Mexican Food: My Kinda Food!
These Mexicans really know spicy (after Indians of course) – Habanero Sauces (also dubbed as Insanity Sauce) will give you tears of joy. It took me a while to find real good Mexican food joints, but once I did, I could not get bored of the burritos, nachos and quesadillas
Middle Eastern: The go-to food
Falafels were my staple diet all through exchange – and I have lived through many a parties feasting on chips and hummus dips! And their hot sauce gives a sinful after-burn which is mildly addictive!
Moroccan & Venezuelan Food: Who needs Guacamole when you have Guasacaca!
Their Arepas are absolutely delicious! The texture of the bread superbly complements the stuffing and they have some killer salad dressings! Of course one can eat half a dozen bag of chips with the oniony garlicky guasacaca without realizing it
Thai: Easy to find, Easy to order, Easy to enjoy
The Pad Thai (also called Phat Thai) is a total winner – regardless of what Thai restaurant you visit (and there are so many of them!), this is one dish which never disappoints! Who would have thought ground peanuts and lemon would go so well with noodles! Also recommended, the thai coconut curry, with stewed veggies if you don’t like meat/tofu. Of course, the Thai iced tea (although a little too sweet for my liking) is a total delight. If only I could get my hands on those elusive herbs and make it at home!
Sichuan Chinese: NOT spicy enough
Or not the kind of spicy I like anyway (burns-in-your-throat vs burns-your-tongue). They make excellent garlic gravy though – makes even eggplant tolerable (but then garlic makes everything awesome anyway)
Vietnamese: it’s all about balance!
So I could only sample their noodle soup (with a funny name which I cannot seem to recollect), but Vietnamese cuisine, as wikipedia suggests is about maintaining balance between the five elements – never thought about it that way!
One cuisine which I really wanted to try, but never found enough vegetarian options** was Cuban Food – next round!
* Some of those pictures were not clicked by me, and were googled instead (mostly because I haven’t yet mastered the art of self-control required to stop and click pics before devouring the food)
** In order to ensure that your food is truly vegetarian, just saying ‘vegetarian’ is not enough – you need to say
“vegetarian (default), no fish (fish is considered vegetarian in some places), no meat (in case they thought vegetarian means ‘also has veggies’), no eggs or chicken (because apparently white meat is not really meat), no beef or pork (just to be sure)“