Indian restaurants can be found in most Swiss cities and towns. However, be aware that there are many kinds that cater to different tastes.
Indian restaurants with a Sri Lankan connection
These restaurants are run by the Sri Lankan immigrant community in Switzerland. As Sri Lanka is geographically, linguistically and culturally close to southern India these establishments are marketed as South Indian or Indian restaurants.
However, it came as a big surprise to me that none of the dishes on their menus are common in southern India. Their food also tastes very different. Though the term “Indian” is in no way copyrighted, it is a bit upsetting that people are misled. On the positive note, these restaurants are among the most affordable in Switzerland. Some of their stomach filling take-away lunches are priced as low as CHF10 (around $10).
For more blog posts and information on studying in Switzerland visit our dedicated page Education Swiss Madeexternal link.
Indian restaurants with a Pakistani, Afghan or Bangladeshi connection
These are restaurants that are run by India’s northern neighbours. Three-fourths of their menu comprises Indian dishes and the rest ethnic dishes from their region. The taste is closer to authentic Indian cuisine than Sri Lankan-run restaurants. They usually have a delicious line up of meat-based dishes. From a price point of view, they are usually a bit cheaper than Indian-run restaurants.
Indian restaurants for European Tastes
These restaurants are a different breed and should be approached with caution. They are run by Indians and have typical Indian dishes on the menu. But, on the first bite I lose my temper. Ya! They re-engineer the taste to European palates and make the food taste bland.
The problem usually lies with the buffet lunch in these restaurants. If you order something from the a la carte menu, they can customise the food according to your preference.
The most legendary Indian food I have eaten in my life is the University of Zurich’s “Chicken Tikka Masala”. The MasterChef description: Rice, sautéed vegetables with salt and pepper seasoning and the illusion of meat.
I just wonder what they were even trying to make. Where is the "Tikka"? Carrot, potato and peas in Chicken Tikka Masala? This dish gives me sleepless nights even today.
I usually prefer to go to a restaurant that’s run by Indians themselves or by our neighbours, Pakistanis or Afghanis. I try avoiding the all-you-can eat lunch buffet. The ‘a la carte’ option, though expensive, is quite appetising. But the food in these places is not spicy enough for my taste. I usually demand extra spicy as a default, even in India!
Gaps in the market
The so called “pure-vegetarian” restaurants are rare in Switzerland. Breakfast options are also very limited. I have not found any Indian restaurant that offers Idly-Dosa or Chole Bhature at 8 a.m.
Indian restaurants here are hell bent on selling beverages. None have ever offered me free regular tap water to drink. Despite persistent requests they insist on up-selling bottled water at exorbitant prices like CHF4.5 for a 250ml bottle!