I still remember my first taste of Indian food — chicken tikka masala from the Bombay Peacock Grill in Columbia, Maryland, sometime in the late 1990s. It was love at first bite. Years later, my passion for Indian cuisine soared when I spent two weeks volunteering in Chennai, India. I got terribly sick halfway through the trip, but an upset stomach couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm for eating curry, briyani, and chapati at every opportunity. I hit the jackpot when I moved to South Africa. There are well over a million ethnic Indians here; Indian food, clothing, and culture pervade society. Since most South African Indians come from families that have been here for many generations, a specialized South African Indian cuisine has developed that you can’t find anywhere else.
I’ve been looking for an excuse to hang out at the sprawling outdoor market in Fordsburg — Joburg’s “Little India” — on a Saturday night. The market, called “the Square,” is where Fordsburg residents go to see and be seen on Saturdays. It’s also a great place to buy clothes, DVDs, spices, jewelry, and tasty Indian and Pakistani street food. Spices, packets of Indian food, and popcorn for sale at a stall in the Square.