Goodbye to the jalfrezis and and kormas.

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I came across this post on The Guardian’s blog and it got me thinking. Recently a couple of friends and I were making plans to try out a restaurant called Rice Boat in Versova. Its specialties are reputedly along the lines of gassis, spicy fish curries and appams. While finalising plans, one of them piped in saying that it supposedly did not have an extensive vegetarian menu. I felt a little bad. I was the only non-vegetarian in the group and somehow it did not seem fair.

Even at a not-so-recent lunch to a south American burger joint in Bandra called Bembos, with fellow blogger Nandita, I realised that vegetarians usually have only one choice — a veg burger. But this place gave vegetarians a little more choice — a burger patty made with rajma. Though I don’t know how it tasted, at least there was some thought put into it. I mean something like KFC was certainly not made keeping in mind vegetarians, was it?

Though a large part of India’s population is vegetarian, menus often don’t reflect this. And most are not even exciting. Potato, paneer, matar, mushrooms and mixed vegetables — all these in some form or fashion. Some of the better ones will even have baingan bharta and palak dishes. Of course even I love a well-made bharta but not the unspeakable mush that is served as it.

But rarely have I found an interesting combination which used the colours and flavours well. Of course, here I have to add that I have not been “only veg” restaurants that boast of fine dining.. or even specialty cuisines.. Little Italy, for instance.

As a child, I have always loved the colours in a vegetable market. Vile Parle (east) has one of the more impressive array of veggies, in an open market setup. I would buy vegetables I would not eat but liked how they looked. Even in Delhi, where vegetables and fruits are far superior, my choice was always the colour — tomatoes, carrots, beetroots, green leafy vegetables, yellow mangoes, green bananas, red apples, bright cucumbers.

Anyway, I occasionally get pangs to turn a vegetarian and realise that paneer and aloo is not my idea of nirvana. And though I hate the bitter gourd, to eat it made well, is a luxury I’ve never had.

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