President Donald Trump has a well-documented history of eating – how to put this diplomatically? – like Guy Fieri with more bank. The list of the president’s favorite foods reads like a teenager’s dream picnic: burgers, taco bowls, Oreos, Diet Cokes, McDonald’s, KFC, cherry vanilla ice cream, well-done steaks, meatloaf and beef with an extra side of beef.
As many have noted already, Trump’s brief, two-day trip to India has presented a challenge to the president’s usual diet. Roughly 80% of the population in India is Hindu, a religion that considers the cow sacred. Even McDonald’s doesn’t serve beef in India. The chain limits its menu to sandwiches that feature chicken, fish or paneer, the latter a kind of Indian fresh cheese. Worth noting: One of the specialty items that McDonald’s developed for the Indian market is a sandwich that goes by the name of McAloo Tikki. It’s built around a fried patty formed from potatoes and peas, a combination known as aloo matar in India.
Aloo matar happens to be the traditional filling of the Punjabi samosa, a flaky pastry shaped like a three-dimensional triangle. It’s a traditional street snack in India, available in cities across the subcontinent, and on appetizer menus at just about any Indian restaurant in America.
And yet: Despite the millions who love aloo matar samosas, the chef in charge of the “hi tea” snacks at Gandhi Ashram, where Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi briefly toured the former residence of Mohandas Gandhi, served a pastry filled with broccoli and corn. Based on the responses on social media, the fusion samosa was an affront on par with John F. Kerry asking for a cheesesteak with Swiss in South Philly in 2003, except this samosa was not ordered by Trump, but seemingly engineered to appeal to Trump’s Rat Pack-era palate.
Deepal Trivedi, editor of the Ahmedabad Mirror, was apparently on hand for the high-tea menu. “The #BroccoliSamosa is a miserable snack,” she wrote on Twitter. “Not a single person finished a full one! Wish there was something genuinely Indian for high tea rather than this bastardised version of our yummy #samosa. Bad menu choice for #NamasteTrump.”
For a hot minute, while most Americans were still asleep and oblivious to the storm brewing in India, Twitter sunk its fangs into the broccoli samosa.
“If you change a samosa’s fillings, you are playing with feelings!” wrote Rachita Prasad, a journalist for the Economic Times. “#BroccoliSamosa is NOT samosa. #AlooLoverForever.”
Padma Lakshmi, the Indian-born host of “Top Chef,” had the final say with a simple, one-sentence tweet: “Trump is the broccoli samosa of people.” Her sentiment is open to interpretation, but Lakshmi would seem to be channeling her inner Hans Christian Andersen and proclaiming that the emperor has no clothes, that he’s a broccoli samosa in an aloo matar world.
Despite the hand-wringing over the broccoli samosa, Trump and first lady Melania Trump didn’t even sample the snack – or anything else prepared by decorated chef Suresh Khanna of the Fortune Landmark Hotel. Khanna had prepared a light vegetarian menu featuring not just the now-infamous samosa but also khaman dhokla, a savory and spongy cake popular in the Indian state of Gujarat. According to India Today, none of the food passed the lips of the American visitors.
“Some food items were arranged for the members of the visiting delegation, but neither the U.S. President nor the first lady had anything during their visit to the Ashram,” trustee Kartikeya Sarabhai told India Today.
How and what Trump will eat while in India has become a subject of great speculation among journalists. The president was scheduled to break bread with Modi, a devoted vegetarian, several times during his trip, including a formal banquet on Tuesday. During Trump’s visits to foreign countries, CNN reported that chefs have often catered to the president’s tastes, but “several officials said it’s hard to imagine Modi serving the president his usual fare.”
It could be that Trump was just saving his calories for later. He, the first lady, his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will be staying at ITC Maurya, a luxury hotel in New Dehli. According to one media outlet in India, the grand presidential suite, a 4,600-square foot space, has already been prepped for the president and first lady. Valets and a designated “floor butler” will attend to their needs, and the room has been stocked with Diet Coke and cherry vanilla ice cream.
The couple will have their “own private chef, and he can prepare any kind of cuisine or food they want in a jiffy,” noted the Kerala Kaumudi newspaper.
Like other American presidents who have stayed at the ITC Maurya before him, Trump was expected to dine on a special platter, created by the hotel’s famed Bukhara restaurant and named in his honor. During President Obama’s trips to India, he was served an Obama Platter that included tandoori prawns, chicken boti, kebabs and other delicacies. It’s still not known what might appear on the Trump Platter. But one thing’s for certain: It won’t include cheeseburgers from the local McDonald’s.