Posted on Aug 15 2023
Ah, Indian foods – the tantalizing meshes of spice and flavor, the symphony of cuisine which has eclipsed the world solely by its richness, diversity, and sheer magic. As an ardent Indian food admirer, this edgy question hangs like a sword above my head. However, it's about time we address this – even the land of spices can have its share of letdowns. Sometimes, despite the tryst with rich culture and fantastic gastronomic heritage, some Indian food products just missed the track, with a few leaving an indelible aftertaste that is far from pleasant.
I am not starting a culinary war here, just a friendly banter on our favorite topic – food. So, tuck that napkin in, pull up a chair, and let's dive deep into the abyss of those unfortunate Indian food products that didn't quite hit the mark for me, and possibly countless others.
Let's start with an unanticipated contestant – pickles. Indeed, some of you might exclaim – Aarav, are you out of your mind?! Indian pickles are a medley of powerful flavors, often reminding us of home and the familiar sound of grandma's pickle jars opening. Nevertheless, yes, I have encountered a pickle that was not quite up to the mark: bitter gourd pickle. And boy, was it a wild ride! More like riding a roller coaster blindfolded, arriving at the end with an uncanny sensation of nausea.
This pickle made my usual love for all things tangy, sour, and spicy crumble like a house of cards on a windy day. Now, I am a bitter gourd enthusiast; I enjoy its distinctive bitter flavor when cooked right. But it seems bitterness and pickles made a pact of war against my palate. One bite and it was as if my taste buds were subject to a bizarre, unwelcome party. It had an overpowering rank aroma and an excessive bitter taste that made it an instant no-no for me.
Cluster beans hold a much-deserved slot in the lineup of unsavory food experiences. The tiny, flat, and hard beans travel a perplexing path when it comes to flavor. Once cooked, the slightly bitter, slimy texture resembled nothing close to the delightful crispy, nutty flavor I was anticipating.
My kids, Rohan and Aanya, actually looked at me with an 'Are-you-kidding-me' face when I put it on their plates. Cluster beans are notorious for being tricky to prepare, and it looks like I fell foul of their unyielding nature. Neither the liberal use of spices nor the long hours of slow-cooking seemed to harmonize with the inherent fibrous texture of these beans. Determined not to be defeated, I've tried them in curry, dry stir-fry, and even pickles, but each time the taste left a note that was hard to swallow.
Instant dosa mixes, oh where do I begin? Coming from a South Indian background, dosas are almost synonymous with home for me. Waking up to the cheerful hiss of the batter spreading on the tawa, the crisp aroma filling the kitchen – dosas were a divine morning ritual. That's until I moved houses and brought along these ready-to-make dosa mixes, hoping they'd be my culinary savior.
The result? It felt like a Bollywood movie with a bad ending. The mix turned out flat and soulless, with an odd aftertaste that was far from the fermented goodness traditional dosas promise. It felt a little too powdery, lacking the robustness of texture which makes the dosa the pleasurable experience it is. I would rather take time to soak, grind, and ferment the mixture – all steps that infuse life into the dosa – than settling for a quick solution that sweeps the authenticity under the rug.
India is known for Ayurveda, and it's commendable how certain traditional practices are now being fused with modern-day convenience. However, sometimes, these fusions can head south, and a prime example is the trendy Ayurvedic candies. Curious and always eager to try new things, I got a handful.
My tongue recoiled in shock at the onslaught of pungent, herby flavors. Forgotten was the promise of a sweet delight, and in its place was an offensively medicinal, bitter taste that made me question my life decisions. While I appreciate the intent behind these candies, the assault on my taste buds was severe enough to warrant a lifetime’s embargo on any such product.
Last on my list is a snack that I approached with an innocent heart – pounded millet chips. One bite into these, and I found the corn chip imposter staring back at me. It was a far cry from the crunch-filled savory blast I was expecting. The texture was dry and crumbly, with an overpowering earthy flavor, forcing my brain to label it as chewing cardboard.
Oh, the shock, the heartbreak! Even Rohan, who can stomach anything remotely resembling chips, gave up after a few bites. The intent behind creating a healthy alternative for notoriously unhealthy chips is undoubtedly applaudable. However, the journey from millet grains to delicious, crunchy chips seems to need more research and development.
At the end of it all, food is a ubiquitous part of our cultural identity, and sometimes, it's just about finding the right balance. Mistakes and missteps are part of the process; where would the joy of discovery lie if every bite hit the mark? One man's food disaster could be another's favorite delicacy. So keep the spice of exploration alive; walk the road less traveled by and do remember - there are no wrong turns in the adventure of food.