Ken Saburi: Seven reasons why Asian food in Estonia sucks

The Tartu-based Singaporean-Japanese professional, Ken Saburi, highlights seven reasons why Asian food in Estonia is still not up to scratch.

I was once an “advisor” to an Asian restaurant in Tartu (the second largest town in Estonia – editor) for a short time and I believe I have some insights why Asian restaurants in Estonia suck big time. There are exceptions – but as the word suggests, exceptions.

1) Greedy clueless incompetent bosses.

2) When you see “Asian” restaurants that claim to do Chinese, Indian and Thai cuisine, run as far as you can! It’s like a “European” restaurant somewhere in Asia that claims to do Italian, English and Finnish cuisine.

3) Most of these restaurants have 100 or more items on their menu. Ever wonder how their kitchens cope with it? By pre-cooking loads of meat, rice and noodles a day or two before. They will simply microwave most of them upon order. In other words, classic Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare practices.

4) The cooks are either lazy, fake or have their balls to the walls because of their dumb bosses, which lead them to cook pure rubbish.

5) Hard-to-get spices? That’s a myth. I lived with Indians and Pakistanis during my dorm days in Tartu and the food they cooked was as authentic as it can be. Needless to say – their food was way better than the restaurants’.

6) Customers not knowing any better. Just this summer, I was introduced to an Indian and Thai restaurant in Tallinn. I was sceptical, but I saw that it has a 4.8/5 rating on Facebook. Letting my guard down, I decided to give it a chance. Boy oh boy, I will never return to the restaurant.

7) Every single thing is doused or marinated in, or served with ketchup sauce.
Fried rice/noodles, ketchup.
Butter chicken, ketchup.
Curry sauce, the taste of ketchup in it.
Ketchup, more ketchup.
Can’t taste any quintessential Indian spices like turmeric, cumin or masala.

Editor’s note:

Asian and other ethnic restaurants in Estonia can only improve upon if the customers demand for better. More and more Estonians travel around the world and have a good comparison with other countries. Mediocre and overpriced food is just not acceptable – to demand €15 for a bland curry in Tallinn (while you pay €2 for a mouth-watering curry in India or €10 in London) is just ridiculously extortionate and greedy. The Asian restaurants in Tallinn and Tartu ought to offer better value for money – and last, but not least – tastier food.

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The opinions in this article are those of the author. Cover: Chicken biryani (the image is illustrative/Shutterstock).

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About the author: Ken Saburi

Ken Saburi is currently residing and working in Tartu. He's officially from Japan, but spent most of his life in Singapore. He graduated from the University of Tartu where he studied business administration.