On a Sunday afternoon, when rising temperatures got the better of our outbound pursuits, we did a quick dekko of what the tube had to offer. Suitably, we took resort to watching a travel-food show where the cute-cocky Bobby Chin (what a life his ilk has!) took viewers on a gastronomic joyride across South Asia.
The foodie marathon gave us ample insight into Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and lastly, Thailand’s traditional food as well as common features that dot the region, including their tempting street food markets where a brave palate is mandatory.
As we’ve mentioned in many of our earlier columns, these unmistakable elements lend character to each of South Asia’s cities and towns, a space that showcases the rich diversity of its cuisines and flavours. Sadly, Mumbai has, and continues to turn a deaf ear to such initiatives.
Where do tourists especially from outside the country drop by, if they wish to savour India’s, let alone Mumbai’s, expansive spread? It’s a scurry to all sorts of places, the word-of-mouth kinds, which typically leaves the traveller out of breath, and out of time.
Barring its Irani cafes, its seafood restaurants or five-star fine dines, the rest of our best foodie stops are spread out in all corners of a city where commuting can be an unforgiving by-product of our daily lives. A centrally-located street food market would serve it all without the fuss and the rush.
Secondly, as the show progressed, we were wowed over by another simple, interesting lesson from Bangkok. A prominent and well respected chef had started a school for Thai cooking. This was set up to acquaint expats, tourists and the diplomatic population in particular, to the country’s cuisines and sub-cuisines.
The space had made its way into tourist itineraries, was doing brisk business, and most importantly, made for a great platform where Thailand’s finest shared their skills, and ensured that the country’s food was documented for all to see and soak in. What a fine experiment to display the aromas of a nation!
Agreed, a single Indian city might not do justice to India’s diverse culinary traditions and influences. But what stops our large metros each tucked in strategically different corners of our vast country to set up schools that can showcase the regional food, even go a step further and create food museums within its environs?
We couldn’t help but wonder at why this terrific opportunity to showcase our food, and bring in the moolah too, wasn’t being tapped into by state tourism boards or enterprising city restaurateurs.
Whenever the whys and hows of such glaring misses on our tourism blueprint surface, one is reminded of news reports that often question big-budget overseas ‘study’ trips that our netas and babus gladly latch on to. Isn’t it high time accountability takes precedence, and some of those lessons are put into practice?
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day