Thursday, May 04, 2006

Invasion with a mouth-watering flavour (Don’t armies march on their stomach?)

The Punjabi invasion of the Bombay palate began, if memory serves, just after independence. I recall going with my father and mother on a Saturday evening in 1949 for the opening of a small hotel behind Regal Cinema. It happened to be owned by one of his Irani or Iraqi clients. That was the first time I remember eating Tandoori Chicken and wondering aloud at the red colour sticking to the fingers. That was Punjab pandering to the local palate. The Chinese wave came later probably closer to the end of the fifties, if again memory serves, when eateries started springing up and non-Chinese restaurants began offering a few Chinese dishes as well. What brought about this trip down the gastronomic memory lane, I haven’t a clue. The city’s free-loading foodies too were much later in coming. I was recently told a story about one of the more enterprising members of this pioneering breed. The tale teller claims to have shared his table and paid for his nips and quarters at an aunty’s joint in the bad old days. His gift of the gab and survival instinct were so extraordinary, says his fellow-tippler and my informer, that he could cajole a drink and a meal from the most tight-fisted of his companions as well as the stoniest-hearted among the aunties. All of which reminds me of Jeffrey Bernard (Low Life & More Low Life, Pan Books). Of course, Bernard was a far superior writer than the Indian journalist I was told about although far less successful in worldly terms. A nutshell JB biography is here: Also, do check out the book review at To get a quick feel of the times when Napoleon’s armies were marching on their stomach, have a look at the Time Traveller’s Guide to Napoleon’s Empire at

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