At the end of last year, Aziz Ansari went to India. He visited the town of Trivandrum, where his parents were raised, a destination he hadn’t been to since he was six years old, a place filled with relatives and family friends he hadn’t seen since. In his own New York Times piece, the actor-comedian discusses how—even though he showed up dressed as an American and initially felt like a stranger in the land of his heritage—he identified, bonded, and explored India and its glorious culture largely through food.
ANSARI: The morning of my arrival in Trivandrum, I decided to adopt my standard strategy for traveling: find and consume really good food. Narrowing the focus almost always leads to a deeper understanding of the region. I was sure that this was the key to experiencing India as an adult — at the very least, I’d leave sated.
It was a good plan based in great food.
ANSARI: In Italy, you know you’ve found a truly authentic restaurant when they don’t have an English menu. In India, it’s when there are no utensils and you must eat with your hands. At Mubarak, there were no forks to be found. As soon as I was seated, a banana leaf was placed in front of me, and the waiter quickly doled out a hefty portion of rice. Other servers came by, offering fried prawns, mackerel and squid with various curries. I nodded when I wanted a serving and because everything looked delicious, I nodded often.
Here are some photos from Ansari’s travels: