Posted in Political

What India can learn from Middle East – Part 2: Food & Restaurant Industry

Every meat eater’s dream food is Shawarma, the smoked meat which is common sight everywhere in Middle east whether it is street food stall or star rated hi-end restaurant or food court in a mall. Even in India these days, after Biriyani, shawarma comes a close second for avid connoisseurs of meat as most favourite food. The meat in question here whether chicken or beef or turkey or whatever keeps rolling over pit fire or open lit oven roasted endlessly to deep brown perfection which means, the meat is just as crisp and juicy as the food lovers would want it to be. I have no idea frankly as a vegetarian from birth, but the men in my family simply loved shawarma (although they have left it now for health reasons) !

These days the grilled sliced meat dripping with greasy oil is kind of conspicuous by its absence! Or may be it is there but it is no more that brownish perhaps… Another change in restaurant food, fellow Indians must have noticed is that, not even our tandoori naans are that crispy or browned in recent times. We aren’t eating out much because of covid, but once a while we do dine out at restaurants that aren’t very crowded. So why are the tandoori rotis a bit soft? Have the chefs lost it? Have the chefs switched jobs? Is that the electric tandoor they are using?! This is what flashed in my mind when I saw that my rotis were no more flaky and looked kind of softish, with no browning in middle east. Normally I love the north Indian food here better compared to what is available in Chennai. The cuisine we have in restaurants are authentic with representations from Gujarat, Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai etc., and a few even used to have live music (!) Yeah my top pick used to be a restaurant that got artistes from India to render ghazals and Bollywood numbers! Fine dining thy other name is north India!

Weekend lunch today was at an Indian restaurant for us where we expected a welcome drink. We were told that the serving of punch was removed from menu after covid struck. I further learnt that, tandoori rotis are no more browned or blackened crisp for health reasons. Health inspectors saw to that this does not happen in restaurants, with due vigilance. Overcooking or roasting to deep brown meant carcinogen in our food that is linked to cancer. So now I understood why the shawarma is no more spinning so fancily to that brownish crispness over coal embers or electric oven! We have a meat eater nation in question; meat loving people who cannot do without it. But how such a basically beef consuming country so willingly adapts health safety protocol really impressed me. The locals have no issues. It means the food in the platter will be a little less tasteful than before, but nobody is complaining.

Smoked food linked to cancer for its presence of carcinogen is no latest news. But who would have given thought to stringent enforcements of health safety standards in food industry or restaurants.

In food industry we have something to learn from gulf countries. The discipline with which the residents accept the latest food reforms (i don’t know if ‘reform’ is the right word here) is impressive. A battalion of officers make sure that the health safety standards are adhered to with their thorough checks on restaurant kitchens. Barbeque eating places are admirably coping well sticking to new prescribed standards. One flouting of rules and regulations, and the business could get sealed for ever. No favouritism whatsoever. How every single small issue is accorded significance in arab countries really moves me. Welfare of the population is the government’s highest priority, the way it must be.

I am not averse to drawing the best from anyone or everyone. I think we all have to grow in whichever way possible and wherever and whenever.

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