Two New Yorkers spend six months 18 months!?! in Bangalore and other places in India.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Maggi Ketchup Horror

It's on the shelves of supermarkets and little neighborhood stores alike. It's on the table at lots of restaurants, especially the mediocre and the mid-range. It comes with your fish and chips, it might come with your pizza, it will probably even come with your samosa or pakoras as a kind of chutney. Worst of all, it's usually thrown into Chinese food and tomato soup as a main ingredient, giving a simple, sickly sweet taste to everything it touches. I'm talking about Maggi (and to a lesser degree Kissan) ketchup. The two of them sometimes seem to have all of India in their sticky paws.

Between the milk-sweets and all that tea, it's no secret that most Indians have a sweet tooth. But it's still surprising that a majority evidently wants their ketchup to be even sweeter than the corn-syruped-up American classic. Where American Heinz has a pleasing vinegar/tomato bite to counteract all its sugar, Maggi just has more cloying sweetness. The stuff even looks gooier and shinier from all that cane sugar.

But there are signs of a little change. We were excited a few months ago to discover that Heinz is available here. I've tried Indian Heinz a couple times so far, mostly at fast-food joints, and to be honest couldn't tell if it was A) Just as Bad as Maggi, or B) Slightly Better. It still didn't seem as tangy as the ketchup back home, but it's a step in the right direction.

Related: a Stylestation post about a Malcolm Gladwell article about what people want in ketchup, and why there aren't a million different kinds on store shelves. I'm still amazed that Heinz hasn't made more inroads in India -- according to the blog post, it's been here since 2000. I guess sweet ketchup is a winner.

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