FOREIGN RELATIONS: Will Canada’s PM Stephen Harper be able to handle the curry in India

Published: November 2, 2012

Annandita Dutta Tamuly is watched by a crowd as she consumes Bhut Jolokia Chili Peppers for a television program in Guwahati in this file photo. The peppers are also known as ghost peppers. STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images


NEW DELHI — Does Prime Minister Stephen Harper like curry?

That is, a real, sinus-clearing Indian curry, not the somewhat bland impostor that is offered at many Indian restaurants in Canada — a country where many these days profess to love Indian food but few would be brave enough to munch on a blistering red or green chili.

The question about Harper’s dietary preferences arises because he is soon to begin his longest stay in a foreign country since becoming prime minister 6 1/2 years ago. The prime minister is to spend six days jetting around the sub-continent with five of his ministers and a gang of business leaders. The idea of the unusually long mission is to make plain that Canada desires much stronger and diverse economic ties with India, particularly in the energy sector.
The itinerary, as revealed by the Times of India last week, is to include the capital, Delhi; Agra and a mandatory visit to the Mughal emperors’ masterpiece, the Taj Mahal mauseleum; Chandigarh, capital of Punjab, where many of Canada’s large Sikh community come from; and the booming high-tech city of Bangalore in the south of the country.

The 18-meal Odyssey Harper is to embark on will give him a chance to savour three distinctive Indian cuisines, each of them flaming hot. Hence the question about whether the prime minister is ready to prove his manhood by eating the industrial voltage spreads that await him.

I must confess that despite many visits to the sub-continent, I have had great difficult meeting this harsh test. In common with many Canadians, I like Indian fare as it has been popularized in the West. That means menus often built around tame but tasty dishes such as tandoori and butter chicken.

But those who live in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan naturally take their curries a lot more seriously. Its ferocious kick not only permeates almost every local dish — which is, after all, to be expected in this part of the world — but forcefully infuses most western, Chinese and sushi food here, too.

I am forever asking Indian waiters and waitresses to go light on the curry. With a laugh they always politely reply that my request “will most certainly be heeded, sir.” However, no matter how often I ask, the food invariably arrives fierier than most curries served in Canada.

Given Hindu and Islamic religious rules and customs, it is understandable that there is no beef or pork offered at the 271 McDonald’s which have sprung up across India in recent years. But almost every one of the chicken and vegetarian dishes on the McDonald’s menu in India is a scorcher. The chicken made to look as if it is a benign Big Mac is perhaps the hottest of all.

I had similar experiences at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet which provides NATO troops at the Kandahar Airfield with a break from the grim monotony of the chow hall. The always genial Indian fellows working for KFC in Kandahar would never take any of the “original recipe” chicken out of the freezer unless I prompted them to do so. They claimed that of the thousands of westerners on the base I was the only one who did not want the “spicy chicken” or the ominously and accurately named “zinger.”

Indian desserts aren’t much better. Many are topped with curry. The only dessert choices offered the other night at the misleadingly named New York City Restaurant, whose centrepiece at every meal is a curry buffet, was a “five spice creme brulee” or a “spicy pumpkin pie.”

At a guest house in Pakistan whose entire clientele has long been entirely from North America, the chef always sprinkled curry powder on my fried eggs every morning. With an interpreter in tow one morning, I entered the kitchen to ask that my eggs arrive unadorned. The chef nodded his agreement and I thought that was that.

However, the very next day my eggs had once again been cooked in a pungent curry. Returning to the kitchen to complain, the chef greeted me with a genuinely puzzled look. He explained that he had done his best, but he knew “everyone wants at least a little curry on their food.”

With a little luck Prime Minister Harper and his entourage will not confront the notoriously incandescent Naga Bhut Jolokia chili when they criss-cross India. A red chili from northeastern India that few locals dare to tackle, the ghost pepper, as it is sometimes called, is reputed to be 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.


monkey main

VIDEO: Monkey saves dying friend at Indian railway station

VANCOUVER DESI A small monkey in India has become an overnight hero after it saved the life of another monkey that was electrocuted at a…
Continue Reading »

bus stop

Father charged after toddler struck in face and abandoned at Surrey bus stop ‘like he was a piece of garbage’

NICK EAGLAND VANCOUVER DESI Police are crediting kind Surrey strangers for rescuing and attempting to identify a three-year-old boy who was struck in the face…
Continue Reading »

narendra modi

Indian opposition lawmakers demand Modi clarify stand on conversion of minorities to Hinduism

NIRMALA GEORGE THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEW DELHI — Opposition lawmakers, charging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done little to stop hard-liners in his party…
Continue Reading »


bus stop

Father charged after toddler struck in face and abandoned at Surrey bus stop ‘like he was a piece of garbage’

NICK EAGLAND VANCOUVER DESI Police are crediting kind Surrey strangers for rescuing and attempting to identify a three-year-old boy who was struck in the face…
Continue Reading »

Social justice found online voice in 2014: Experts say

By Michelle McQuigge THE CANADIAN PRESS TORONTO — Celebrity watchers and armchair coaches may have produced the most social media chatter over the past 12…
Continue Reading »


Ottawa police make arrests in drug and robbery related killing of international student

SHAAMINI YOGARETNAM OTTAWA CITIZEN Ottawa police have arrested two men in what is now believed to be the drug-and-robbery-related pathway slaying of 23-year-old Carleton University…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Avoiding relapse, inviting happiness over the Holiday Season

NIRMALA RANIGA VANCOUVER DESI The holiday season can be an especially challenging time for individuals in recovery from addictive behaviours. Holiday parties and celebrations with…
Continue Reading »

Vagina Monologues

Sex workers from India’s largest red light area seek American feminist Eve Ensler’s help

IANS Kolkata – American activist and playwright Eve Ensler Friday met sex workers in Kolkata’s Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red light areas, who sought…
Continue Reading »

Miss World

Bikini round removed from Miss World pageant

IANS London – The Miss World contest, which has been an annual feature since 1951, will no longer feature a swimsuit round in their competition,…
Continue Reading »

sexi desi babes

Gallery: Wait for India’s Kingfisher Calendar Girl 2015 is almost over

VANCOUVER DESI The Hunt for the Kingfisher Calendar Girl 2015 is almost over. An Indian lifestyle channel will air the grand finale of the reality…
Continue Reading »

Taliban attack

Pakistani student who skipped school on the day of Taliban rampage ‘isn’t talking to anyone’

VANCOUVER DESI A 15-year-old student of Pakistan’s Army Public School  – which was bombed by the Taliban this week, killing 141 people, of which 132…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood Latest


Indo Canadian porn star Sunny Leone to ring in the New Year in Hyderabad

  VANCOUVER DESI Indo Canadian porn star turned Bollywood starlet Sunny Leone will be ringing in the New Year in Hyderabad, according to the Deccan…
Continue Reading »


Aamir Khan’s PK sparks Twitter battle

IANS New Delhi  – Aamir Khan’s latest release PK has spurred a trending Twitter battle with audiences either hailing the film as the best of…
Continue Reading »

desi sex

Shah Rukh Khan’s Happy New Year now a click away for international fans

IANS New Delhi  – After making a mark with the worldwide theatrical release, Shah Rukh Khan’s Happy New Year will now be available for international…
Continue Reading »