Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Desi Fast Food

I read an interesting article last week in the news. I read it first here and then the same article appeared here and finally I saw it appearing on DesiPundit. After reading the same article at so many places, I thought of writing my own experience here. I have never been to Bombay Bowl but tried a similar one called Merzi also mentioned in the article.

I was in Washington DC last year and I also wrote a post on it here. After reading the news about Indian fast food entering US mainstream business, I remembered my encounter with one in DC. I was there for about two weeks and staying at a hotel in the downtown area. Chinatown was walking distance from my hotel. Often in the night after dinner, I used to take a walk there since it was a lively place. I also used to pass by an eating joint called Merzi. It seemed like an Indian/Pakistani place but I never paid any special attention to it. I thought it was just like any other Desi Restaurant.

After about a week eating American food, my taste buds were longing for something tangy and spicy. Moreover, I was missing Indian food. I did not wanted to go to any random Indian Restaurant. The reason being, I am a big critique when it comes to Desi food at a restaurant. When I know that I am paying for Indian food then I don't like to make compromises. And usually I find many Indian Restaurants outside India serving pretty bland food. So, I don't like to take such risks and go to one without a good review.

One night while looking for a place to eat, I thought of checking out, what was this Merzi thing. The place looked pretty decent with the flashy interiors. I came to know that it was not like a typical Indian Restaurant but more like a fast food center for the Desi tongue. On further probing I found it was based on the famous Mexican fast food chain in the US called Chipotle. It's a place quite famous for its Burritos, where the customer can make their own by selecting the base, fillings and toppings more like in an assembly line. Here are some similarities and differences between the two:

  Chipotle   Merzi
Select the base   Roll or Rice   Naan or Rice or Roti
Select the filling   Beans, Meat, Vegetables etc   Chick Peas, Meat, Vegetables etc
Select the topping   Sauce   Sauce/Chutney

I remember as a kid, I used to go to this street vendor near my house selling spicy chick peas on top of normal bread with a sour sauce on top. So, I liked the idea with Naan bread as a base at Merzi. Being a vegetarian, I had a lot of chick peas on top of it with all the available vegetables and finally the Chutnies on the top. The best thing was that they tasted really like the desi ones with flavors of tamarind, mint etc. I was quite satisfied with what I got for the price I paid. Of course I took an additional Samosa (also available) as a starter :)

So, my comments: decent quantity, healthy & fresh food, reasonable price, spicy/tangy taste, not heavy after eating, desi touch. I should mention here that it is not the typical Indian cuisine but that is the whole point. It is fast food with the Indian touch. It should be treated as a break from the everyday daal, roti, rice and nothing more.

There were two things which I found a pretty amusing. I observed that I was the only Indian sitting inside that place which was almost full. Maybe because it was a weekday when I was there. I am not a racist or anything but I found it amusing that a Mexican guy and a Black woman were serving me Indian food.

I am sure that for people living in the US it might not be a big deal but for a foreigner like me, I liked the whole idea and I feel that there is a big market out there for this concept. I hope to see something like that soon in Germany as well :) I had another good experience at Maoz in NY but its a different cuisine and a complete different story. 

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