…is very hard to find if you’re living in Perth. A researcher I met recently says Adelaide is better for Indian food, and that Shepparton’s town limits are marked by Indian restaurants. Perth is a different story. A friend from church enthusiastically described a shop in Northridge that smells of Indian spices – did I know that place? I now have visions of myself walking around in Northbridge, nose in the air, sniffing out The Indian Shop. I haven’t discovered it yet.
Each of my three years in Perth is marked by a Great Indian Culinary Experience. Yes, this has to be in capitals, because it’s not often that you get a real Indian meal in Perth. Have I said this already? Experience one – a dinner invitation from an Anglo-Mangalorean family, relatives of a friend from home. My host and I stop at The Cove in Attadale to pick up the main dish – was it butter chicken? The restaurant has an impressive colonial setting and, to my still-converting-rupees-to-dollars mind, equally impressive prices. Mrs. DeSa’s homecooked gulab jamun makes a more lasting impression.
My second foray into Perth’s Indian cuisine finds me queuing up at Annalakshmi one Saturday night. This is more like home – if you’re reading this from Mumbai, think Saturday evenings at Mumbai’s Status restaurant. The manager calls out orders in Tamil, and the menu (always) has tomato rice, cabbage, and dosas – or is it uthappams? I’m still debating this with my mum.
Don’t talk to me about Maya Masala at the food court in the mall. I did NOT taste India there. Actually, I’m not sure what I tasted. My Chinese friend thinks he tasted Indian food. Oh dear.
Experience Three is a celebration dinner at The Jewel of the Park on Albany Highway. Rather inappropriate, I think, because it reminds me of Jewel in the Crown – the British TV series about a tragic romance between a British woman and an Indian man in colonial north India. I’m dying to laugh because of this, but am afraid of offending the Colombian friend who is treating me. Inside, several paintings of Ganesha grace the walls and a chalk drawing of the Taj Mahal hangs behind the counter. A waiter promptly sets a basketful of pappad before us. Back home, they do this for tourists on the Palace on Wheels, but it’s not quite my Mum’s dining table. Again, I’d like to laugh, but am not sure the inside joke will be appreciated. The korma is excellent but my friend’s choice of rice is wiser than my selection of naan. Verdict: food – good, company – better. For the first time ever, I stay in a restaurant till closing time.
I’ve been invited to an Australian lunch this weekend, and I wonder if I should contribute an Indian dish. My recent Mysore pak attempt has been a bit of a failure. I’m much better at pumpkin cake. Don’t laugh. Not Indian, you say? Well, anything I make has a taste of India – after all, isn’t it cooked by an Indian?
So tell me, what food is the “taste of India” for you?