Shri Balaji Bhavan - Houston
Posted 21 November 2010 - 02:31 PM
I have my eyes on a more upscale place that has opened near me. We have a couple of these type places but mostly Houston's style is small, hole-in-the-wall type places or the popular buffet type places.
Posted 23 November 2010 - 07:34 AM
I shall always wish every business Godspeed. However, this W'kana whatever and the whole slick PR set me growling with its pretentiousness [is that a word?] and sheer false colors. So beware!
Beginning with W'kana! What word is that? I am quite fluent in the language and am puzzled? If they are so aware of their culture, they would have known that the Vedic people called their common language just "Language", BhAshA, and their sacred or liturgical forms several things, including "Ch(h)anda". Vedic priests get huffy when they see their heritage prostituted.
Their whole style is slick, hotel school shtick: foreshadowing cooking with absolutely garbage technique. It may raise the expectation of certain tastes, e.g. as British vindaloo or "phal" has, or of Panda Express Orange Chicken and the infamous General Tso.
One casualty is the problem you experienced with rasam and something that Jenny partially addressed [where in the meal itis eaten]. These restaurateurs never trouble to explain to their diners HOW the food should be eaten. Thus, an entire tradition falls by the wayside. Many communities live cheek by jowl in or near the Tamil sphere of influence, and yet partake of rasams that vary in their powder texture etc.
Some common rasam types:Lemon rasam, ginger, black pepper, tamarind, tomato, Mysore rasam, etc.
Each will have different levels of spicing, sourness, and permutation by community.
Now, the way to eat rasam is to take slightly soft rice, warm or hot, and mash it up with rasam in a particular Indian manner with fingers and thumb. Only then is rasam well incorported with the starch, and a particular soupy,messy texture achieved. Many add plain yoghurt too. It is ONLY in this context that the rasam-rice becomes exceedingly delightful. Rasam is spiced to be a foil to this quantity of rice AND yoghurt!
OR, rasam is eaten as RASAVADE, where HOT urad dal vada are plunged into steaming rasam to become plump pillows. Again, the edges are blunted, a known dilution effect.
This brings us to a general problem of spicing Indian food for US customers. In India, rice or breads comprise 80% of a mouthful,the vegetable, meat or the "vyanjana" less than 20%. Indeed, the flavor and texture of breads MUST be PARAMOUNT, and veggies or "curries" be applied merely as "dipping sauces". All too often, I have seen US patrons push away their "starch" ( Ah, that demon word !!!) and spoon gravy, meat, what have you, on to their plates. THEN they complain about Indian food being heavy, greasy etc. If you were to spoon CHICKEN SOUP BASE into your mouth, you would have the same reaction!!!! Hello, dilution factors!
AND, the self-proclaimed "experts" of .....hound and similar boards could not distinguish good regional food if it hit them head on. The ones who claim to have gone native are the worst offenders. Interestingly, you will NEVER EVER find any real natives voicing their opinions there!! And the younger generations in India are growing up in a food landscape so radically changed, they probably cannot distinguish how things used to taste in the bad old days!! Or how a basic dish should taste. NO compromises.
This is not an insane Jeremiad. The very genetics of cauliflower, tomato, eggplant, pumpkin, okra etc. have undergone irreversible change in India.
Posted 24 November 2010 - 04:12 AM
I shall have to pay more attention to my fellow diners at these places and observe their eating to see if they've adopted the Western obsession for meats and vegetables over breads and rice. I was puzzled at Bhojan, when I first went, because they ply you with an endless supply of fresh, hot roti, more than I could ever possibly want, but under new management/ownership, they bring out only about a third as much and you have to ask if you want more.
I always think that I am pestering the staff of these places with too many questions but perhaps I should be asking even more.
As always your pointers and observations are appreciated - the adventure continues.