Our taste buds may be among the most unloyal of elements that shape up the human body. For not only it is a humongous effort to satiate these taste demons, but also more often than not, they owe their allegiance to a wide assortment of cuisines, and a wide range of delectables from every nook and corner of the world.
And particularly for us Indians, the situation is even grim. For even with an unbelievably diverse platter on offer from myriad parts of our vast amalgamation of palates and flavours, the demand for ‘authentic’ overseas foods is surprisingly high.
Specifically, when it comes to Chinese food, we just can’t seem to stop drooling over their spiced stuff that are so much of a staple now for us. So much so that we have adapted their cuisine and their iconic dishes into something so Indian that sometimes we are left wondering if people from the Chinese mainland will accord them the status of being from their own selective plethora of cooking wonders.
We may happily devour those bowls of pan fried noodles or those steamy hot momos on a chilly evening and gasp in delight at the mere ‘chiliness’ of things. But just because your food is spicy doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily Chinese!
The vital requirement that arises for a dish to be authentically Chinese is that ingredients must be local to China. South China offers the finest variety of rice and wheat flour that goes into the making of the perfect dimsums. No wonder then that we are left in disappointment when those of us who have actually slurped their tongue around Chinese dumplings are appalled at only the remote manner in which the Indian momos replicate their Chinese puffs. Sigh!
MODE AND METHOD
Chinese cooking involves basically boiled or steamed techniques for preparing food. Chow mein, momos, chicken dishes that are a hot favorite among Indians as Chinese food are also fried and ‘enhanced’ with quintessentially Indian herbs and condiments. So where’s the authenticity in what you happily devour as authentic Chinese? We will be happy if you manage to find that out!
As a land obsessed with Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye after every meal, we just can’t make do with the bland Chinese stuff of Cold soups with white fungus, taro balls with sweet bean paste and barely sweet gelatinous water chestnut morsels as our dessert menu. No, we want our ridiculously sweet meatballs and a number of other syrupy, honeycoated, calorie laden indulgences for our cravings. So it’s thanks but no thanks, China!
We eat pork no doubt but piggy ears? Eww, no. Or frog’s throat. Or oxtail. Or duck feet. This would amount to massacre for us here in our country. So let’s just stick to our fusion Indian Chinese combo. That’s so much better. Like seriously.
Unlike us Indians who like to offer our simplest and most humble of our dishes as our plate of pride, the Chinese would rather not serve you something that would make you question their choice. So if you want manchurian, they will invent a chicken manchurian for you that you would totally relish. So if you still crave for authentic Chinese, be prepared to wallow in self pity and depravity.
Anything that is spruced with soy sauce or schezwan is Chinese for us. No wonder then that we are satisfied with our curries and gravies that generally incorporate all of the Chinese spices to make up for our serving of Chinese cuisine. Naturally, real Chinese takes a backseat here in a bow to taste.
Well, we agree this is no reason to question the authenticity of any dish that is served as typical Chinese delights, but admit it, we all are a bit clumsy when it comes to handling those wooden sticks with which you are supposed to put the stuff from China into your mouth. And till the time we as a populace have mastered the art of putting the chopsticks to proper use, I guess we would rather be satisfied with the non authentic China fare that can be gobbled up with our good old hands.
So is authentic Chinese so uncommonplace a concept to come across? Well, maybe. But as deserving devourers of an appetising range of so called Chinese delicacies, I think we care far less about the ethnicity of their food than titillating our demanding taste buds with an assortment of high end flavors and an array of fusion cuisine foods. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, not in its making. What say?!