Although Indian food makes up less than two percent of the ethnic food market in the United States, it has had the fastest growing rate. This trend can be easily spotted in large cities across the country—walk into any New York City Indian restaurant and you will quickly notice the majority of customers are not Indian at all. Also Read - From Chana Masala to Naan, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is Head Over Heels in Love with Indian Food
Just 10 years ago, Indian restaurants in the United States were few and far in between. Of the few Indian food establishments that did exist, even fewer served authentic home-style dishes. Only recently have Indian chefs gained a reputation in the United States, popularizing Indian cuisine by offering Americans a truer taste of India. Also Read - UK Professor Calls Idli 'The Most Boring Thing' & South Indians Aren't Pleased, Shashi Tharoor Roasts Him
According to Visi R. Tilak’s 2012 Wall Street Journal article, “Is Indian Cuisine Coming of Age in America?,” there is a reason that Indian food is becoming more popular—the American palate is growing bolder. Also Read - From Idlis to Moong Dal Halwa: Here's What Gaganyaan Astronauts Will Get to Eat in Space
“Indian-American chefs are becoming very popular in the burgeoning foodie movement in the U.S. because diners are excited to try ethnic cuisine, and Indian chefs who are able to bring interpretations of ethnic flavors through the use of modern techniques are finding success,” she wrote.
Indeed, Indian food’s fast-growing popularity in the United States can be largely attributed to the cuisine’s unique, hard-to-replicate flavors. There are not many other cultures that use the same herbs and spices that can be found in the typical Indian dish.
According to Indian food lover Nicole Renna, an Italian-American from Queens, New York, Americans are embracing Indian food because they enjoy variety.
“I think it’s different from other options we are accustomed to — like pizza and sandwiches,” she said. “It’s out-of-the-box for Americans.”
When she goes out to eat Indian food, which is at least once a month, Renna said she typically orders chicken korma—her favorite dish.
“I like the spices they use, and the flavoring is different than other food that is served in America,” she said “I also like Indian food because it’s spicy, and I like spicy food.”
When asked to compare Indian food to Italian food, Renna said she simply couldn’t, because the cuisines were so dissimilar.
“Indian food is very different from Italian food— maybe even healthier,” she said. “The meals are always tied in with a vegetable, and the spices are also healthier for you than what’s used in Italian food.”
While it is unlikely that Indian food will become as popular as Italian food in the United States anytime soon, according to Thomas Rogers’ Salon article, “Can Indian Food Conquer America?,” Indian food may some day catch up.
“I say 2065 somewhat arbitrarily, but that’s about 100 years after the first wave of Indian immigrants came to the U.S., after the civil rights movement—which forced the U.S. to change the immigration laws from racial quotas to national quotas,” Rogers wrote. “Since then we have had substantial Asian immigration and a substantial stream of Indian immigration.”
“If you look at Italian immigration to the U.S., it mostly began in the 1880s and Italian-American food started climbing up in prestige in the 1980s, about 100 years later. But Indian immigration also has to continue up to certain a point. There are about 2.7 million Indians in the U.S. — about half a million in New York City — and the culture won’t be able to insinuate itself into everyday culture until it’s in the range of 20 million people. Indians have to be partly as ubiquitous as Italians,” he added.
Though the majority of us will not live to see the day penne ala vodka is as commonly ordered as tandoori chicken, the Indian cuisine market is growing and Americans are embracing the food with open arms, and an open mouth.