Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mexican Indian Food

This month I read Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors, a surprisingly interesting book about the history of Indian food and how it influenced and was influence by other cultures. Did you know that chai is not a traditional Indian drink? In fact, tea did not even grow in India until it was brought by the British in the 1800’s, and it was not widely drunk by Indian’s until the 1900’s.

Since reading the book I’ve been eating Indian food at least once a week at the cafeteria at work, which has a station serving pretty good vegetarian south Indian food. But I fear I’ll never get to eat the food I really want to try—“Mexican Indian Food”.

According to the book, in the early 1900’s there was a community of “Mexican Hindus” that lived in California and developed their own “Mexican Hindu” cuisine. Around that time, Indian’s working on steamships often jumped ship once they reached America. They were able to find work in the agricultural fields of California and often married Mexican women, which gave them rights to stay in the country and even own land. It was these mixed Mexican-Indian household’s that gave birth to “Mexican Hindu” cuisine, describe in this passage.

“Mexicans and Punjabi’s share a preference for fresh food,
flavored with freshly ground spices. The fried chicken or lamb of
the Mexican women was not dissimilar to the chicken curries of
the Punjabi men. The chili’s that the latter used in India were
easily interchangeable with Mexican jalapeƱo peppers. Punjabi
lemon pickle went equally well with corn-based tortilla’s as it did
with wheat flour rotis.”

California is also where the first Indian food was sold in American restaurants.

“Chicken currey probably first appeared on an American
restaurant menu at either the El Ranchero in Yuba City or at
Panchero’s in Selma where curry and roti’s were served alongside Mexican enchilada’s.”

Man, after reading that I really wanted to try a curry burrito of some papadam’s and guacamole, but sadly I’m sure that both El Ranchero and Panchero’s are long gone and I’d never get to have Mexican Hindu food, unless I made it myself.

Or so I thought!

On a recent road trip to Vancouver Island, British Columbia I came across actual Mexican Indian food, at a gas station of all places.

That’s right, Dorito’s Tandoori Sizzler! Nacho cheese + tandoori = Mexican Indian. Unfortunately they don’t taste much different than regular Dorito’s with curry powder sprinkled on top. But my quest is over and it goes to show how Indian food is still evolving and spreading.

I believe that these are only available in Canada, and Frito-Lay made them to cater to the large Canadian East Population. They even made a TV ad, check it out.


If anyone knows some restaurants where I can find real Mexican Indian food, let me know.

2 comments:

Oerdin said...

There used to be a place called "Avatar's Punjabi Burritos" in Mill Valley, CA of all places. Sadly it is now closed. Here's a link to an old thread about it on Chowhound.com: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/27946

hari said...

alex heaton, i read about mexican hindus, yuba city , california.i read,guy named "ali rasul" running a restaurant that serves mexican indian food. check that out.