Ingestible India (Part II)

Chicken. World population: 19 billion.

They’re outnumbering us 3 to 1, so when I say respect the bird it’s for a reason. India is a far cry from China or U.S.A. when it comes to poultry (or meat) consumption. In fact, they’re pretty much dead last in the world in that category.

India’s per capita annual meat consumption (fish not included) is around 3.2 kilograms.  I’m sure you can picture what 7 pounds of meat looks like, but lets take it a little further.

There’s a restaurant called Brand Steakhouse in Las Vegas. It’s located inside the Monte Carlo and they have a $250 steak on their menu. It’s 120 ounces. Here’s the challenge: If you can put down the entire steak in less than one hour it’s free. These two professionals did just that.

So, what a proud American will attempt to eat in one sitting off of one plate, your average Indian eats over the course of a year. Lord, almighty.

A dish of fragrant Biryani and Chicken Fry, served with an onion, carrot and curd salad.

 During my month in India I ate exactly 0 ounces of pork, perhaps 8 ounces of beef, and a handful of mutton dishes. The majority of our land-grazing animal flesh intake came in the form of chicken.

By far the most ubiquitous dish we ran across was ‘Chicken Fry’. Frying food is relatively easy and inexpensive for vendors and let’s be honest- it’s damn tasty. Chili powder, salt and fennel powder are common seasonings for an Indian style chicken fry.

Travelmate B putting in serious work. Humble eateries like this one have a limited menu or 4 or 5 dishes. Here we've got some spicy fried chicken, an omelet (with shallots and green chilis) and a highly addictive onion gravy for dipping the flaky hand-tossed roti prata. Nothing very fibrous on offer, so fruit was a common post-meal push-through.

Why do we get sick in foreign countries? Certainly not an easy question to answer but a major factor is bacteria.

With bacteria it’s all about time. Bacteria likes to multiply in warm, moist environments so tropical countries are already working against an accelerated clock in the race against spoilage. That’s why in these countries many times street food is actually safer to eat than something from a restaurant. The vendor purchases his or her provisions for the day, cooks them, sells them, goes home, and watches cricket. None of this behind the scenes defrosting and re-frosting nonsense.

The argument about the unsanitary conditions of street food vendors doesn’t hold up in my mind. A street vendor doesn’t make much money to begin with- perhaps a few dollars a day in India. Getting people sick would be extremely bad for business, so wouldn’t it behoove them to take extra precaution to prevent such occurrences? I thought most of the stalls we ate from in India were relatively clean, and the food was handled with care. Sure it’s more…dusty? I’ll give you that one. When given the choice of 3 day old lamb or dust, give me dust. I enjoyed food from the streets every single day. I threw up once- and I’m pretty sure it was the Paan (areca nut and tobacco chew snack) that did me in.

So I feel it's not necessarily bad bacteria or even more bacteria that causes problems, just different bacteria.

Sadly, most of the western world has yet to appreciate crispy fried eggs. A shame.

I was talking to the Sf Oyster Nerd the other day (over healthy doses of Jameson) and he felt that we tend to almost romanticize the idea of getting ill in foreign countries, especially ‘poor’ ones. Tell me which story you’d rather re-tweet:

I was holed up in my room for a couple days after I picked up some food poisoning at our hotel in Paris. I’d venture to say it was the apricot scones from the morning buffet, they had an unpleasant aftertaste to them.


I came across a 72-year-old tribesman in the mountainous northern region of Kashmir who was grilling chicken necks in a mud pit. BEST. MEAL. EVER. Puking my brains out for the next two days! #bambooleaftoiletpaper #worthit

The point is that nobody wants to hear about how you ate a suspect caesar salad at the cheesecake factory and puked. It was a fluke. If the same thing happens in Sri Lanka then it's the vendors fault. Hmm.

A chicken butcher shows off the scarlet aftermath of Pan. Nothing a little Scope can’t buff out.

Most Westerners would probably feel more comfortable eating a frozen bag of chicken legs than something butchered in front of them on a tree stump. These Tyson tenders come sealed in nice little plastic bags, so it's guaranteed to be safe!

‘See son, this here is a zip lock. It’s a patented design invented in America that effectively protects the chicken from any sort of bacteria infestation. See how the chicken breasts are about the size of that tri-tip we grilled last night? This means it’s a strong, healthy chicken. Let’s buy it. Only $1.69 a pound!’

So there's how to select chicken at Foods Co. Now lets purchase some bird in India.

A chicken butcher in Colachel, Tamil Nadu. In between drags off a cigarette he breaks down a freshly slaughtered chicken for a paying customer. Chicken coop to plastic bag in about a minute and a half. Beat that Foster Farms.

Stay At Ease.


mina said...

That video was intense. Loving the India posts!

Mai said...

I like your comments on street food sanitariness and the comparison between poor and rich country food experiences.


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