Monday, December 09, 2019

Is it racist to say Indian food is terrible?

Star Online:

'Indian food is terrible and we pretend it isn't': US professor's tweet sparks debate, criticism

RHODE ISLAND (ANN): A tweet by a United States academic on Sunday (Nov 24) - "Indian food is terrible and we pretend it isn't" - has sparked an online debate about whether it is racist to express one's gastronomical preferences.

International affairs professor Tom Nichols, who teaches at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island, was responding to another Twitter user's request for "controversial food opinions".


The academic has since spent the last two days fending off the criticisms - sometimes in jest but often serious - of other Twitter users.

"You are the Donald J Trump of food," wrote one commenter, linking the professor with the US president whose immigration policies, such as the forced separation of more than 1,500 children from their parents along the US-Mexico border in 2018, have been condemned in some quarters as intolerant.

More pointed criticisms include a Twitter user who said "Indian food" as a category did not exist, given its regional variations and diversity, and another who said Prof Nichols was dismissing the culinary habits of more than a billion Indians.

Padma Lakshmi, the host of US cooking programme Top Chef and author Salman Rushdie's ex-wife, was unimpressed with Prof Nichols's tweet. She said on Twitter: "Do you not have taste buds?"


Still, some netizens said "Indian food" in Europe and the US was not reflective of how Indian food actually tastes anyway, since they are often given a Western twist to be more amenable to European and American taste buds.

Prof Nichols later admitted that he had only eaten at Indian restaurants in the US and Britain.

Some netizens were more sympathetic to Prof Nichols' position, however. Twitter user Sonia Gupta said those who liked Indian food were not necessarily more culturally tolerant.

"It's the same feeling I had as a kid when white women would fawn over my mum's beautiful saris while also talking to her as if she was a child," she wrote, arguing that cultural fetishisation can often be quite different from real cultural understanding.

"You like our trappings, but you don't like us," she added.

Another group of Twitter users maintained that food was just food, and Prof Nichols' statement was not unlike someone saying they did not like okra - also known as ladies' fingers. "We don't have to love every part of every culture to peacefully coexist," one Twitter user wrote.


On his end, Prof Nichols said there is only a slim possibility that his distaste for Indian food will change, writing in a later tweet: "I am told by people (that) I respect that I can be brought around to this but I am still deeply mistrustful that this is possible." – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

While I adore Indian food, I can understand why Professor Tom Nichols had reckoned Indian cuisine is terrible, wakakaka.

Mateys, he is an American and Americans have been/still are notorious for disdaining most forms of non-American food. He was just being honest (though not necessary qualified to speak as a culinary expert) that Indian food, to him, tasted 'terrible'. Mind, at least he didn't go down the ridiculous way a so-called Pommie culinary expert had in April 2018 criticised a rendang chicken (in a nasi lemak dish) for not having crispy skin, wakakaka.

Pommie 'kerbau' about above chicken rendang not having crispy skin 

Americans are not as adventurous with foreign cuisine as their trans-Atlantic cousins, the Poms, who presumably because of their colonial heritage and thus cultural cum culinary exposure, love Eastern food like Indian, Chinese, Thai etc. For example, London City is or at least was (when I was studying in the UK) peppered with Indian and Chinese restaurants, culinary gifts from once-British India and British Hong Kong.

Mind, the Indian food served in London that the Poms love would usually be more elaborate than ours with possibly the exception of those served by our (earlier generation) Hailam (Hainanese) colonial food chefs.

Besides assorted types of curry, roti and rice, there would normally be side-dishes in small bowls containing coconut shavings, salted fish or/and salted eggs, pickles, chutneys, Indian-style salads (mangoes, pineapples, onions, cucumber, mint leaves, etc), crushed peanuts and the list goes on, wakakaka, and which the expatriate lunch-ers or diners would dump all on top of their rice and curry.

something like above photo but in Malaysia with far more side dishes unique to our Hailam colonial-type cuisine such as fried ikan bilis, salted fish or/and salted eggs, crushed peanuts, etc  

I heard from my uncles who served in our military in earlier years that some Hailam establishments in Malaya-Malaysia in the 50's, 60's and 70's which specialised in catering to Pommie expatriates, served such Indian food as above, but usually as Sunday lunches for their British customers. Maybe the old Majestic Hotel, Royal Selangor Club and Coliseum Cafe might have done so too.

Coliseum Cafe & Hotel
oldest cafe and steak house in Kuala Lumpur operating since 1921 (right of Coliseum Cafe's bar above)!

Somerset Maugham had his lunches there and gin as well, wakakaka, and the well-stocked bar (above) has a wall tribute to Maugham

Those Poms would quaff volumes of beer with their Indian dinners or lunches while reminiscing about the good old tiger hunting days (most likely those of their forefathers, wakakaka) in the British Raj, probably in the Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Kotah (today's Rajasthan), ...

Kotah (today's Rajasthan) state flag 

Kotah coat of arms
not unlike British coats of arms, wakakaka 

Poms with a killed tiger in the Raj

can you recognise a famous couple in photo?

... whereafter they would (or imagine so) retire to their palatial clubs manned with punkah-wallahs (fans waved by Indian boys) and sipped copious drams of gin & tonic (and yes, don't forget the slices of lime, wakakaka).

 tonic water, taken to prevent malaria in the British Raj, was basically quinine and of course tasted bitter

but when flavoured with gin and lime, it became a 'jolly good old' pleasant drink for the Poms, especially in the afternoon as the sun was going down

yessir, God save the Queen (Victoria of course) & the British Empire

But Yanks are different - they are very suspicious of Asian cuisine, fearing Montezuma's Revenge (diarrhoea, wakakaka, sometimes also called 'Delhi's Belly') and thus would avert partaking of any "strange exotic foreign food".

I recall that when I was working in Malaysia, my department held a sumptuous lunch in the office for some American visitors where almost every major Malaysian culinary delights (halal of course, wakakaka) were prepared at enormous cost.

While the Malaysian hosts waged barbaric havoc a la Attila the Hun & his hordes on the food, wakakaka, I noticed the Yanks only pecked at them.

Later I took them out to enjoy the lights of KL, when I was surprised by some of them asking for the 'Golden Arches' [MacDonalds]. And boy, did they tuck-in on those gi-normous burgers and root beers. Those poor Yanks were starving before then, having avoided the lovely Malaysian lunch, wakakaka.

So, for Professor Tom Nicols to say Indian food is 'terrible' wasn't racist but something to be expected of a Yank - undoubtedly he prefers an enormous greasy cheesy yucky burger, wakakaka. Hmmm, maybe that's why some Yanks voted for a man like Donald Trump, wakakaka again



  1. northern china cuisine is terrible, except perhaps the peking duck.

  2. Too generalised.
    And if a person generalised too much simply based on ethnic prejudices, yes it may be a case of racism.

    Other than that, a person has his absolute right to his food preferences.

    There are Chinese dishes that I simply will not touch unless the alternative is facing starvation. Same with particular dishes of many different countries.

  3. Going by the popularity of the mamak restaurants it is clear that Malaysians LLLOOOVVEEE Indian food, like CHAPATI, so please don't knock it.

  4. "he is an American and Americans have been/still are notorious for disdaining most forms of non-American food" - that's just Ktemoc general all encompassing prejudice/ dislike against Americans talking.

    May be true 30 years ago, but Today in 2019, there is plenty and a wide variety of ethnic food sold in the USA, and a substantial market for it.

    Having said that, a lot of Indian restaurant food in the USA is mediocre because 1) difficulty in getting key ingredients 2) the cooks and restaurateurs really don't have the specialist skill level 3) the taste, especially spiciness has been watered-down or modified for white American tastes.

  5. Indian beef curry goes well with chapattis.

    1. Pork Curry goes very well with Ketupat and lemang.

      Don't just take my word for it...tasting is believing....wakaka...

    2. expected someone to say that but didn't expect you Monsterball, wakakaka

    3. There are many Indians who are not Hindus, no issue for them to enjoy beef curry.
      Similarly, there is a sizable population of ethnic natives of the Malay Archipelago who are not Muslims, who enjoy Pork Curry.
      Satay Babi and Roti Babi are also very popular dishes in Medan among the native Christian and animist population.
      Openly sold at street corners and food courts with display signboards Satay Babi and Roti Babi.

      Babi Guling , pig roasted on a rotating skillet is a delicacy in Bali.
      Don't leave Bali without trying Babi Guling.

    4. Eduard must learn the saying "Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones", wakakaka

    5. Both of you are drama Queens!
      Haven't you heard of vegetarian beef, pork, chicken, seafood etc?

    6. Moron tu, tak faham lah.

      Or lagi teruk, just tak tau!