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I always heard that cows are holy in India. So I assumed that you can't eat any meat made of cows in India. But recently a friend told me, that it depends on the region. Not everywhere in India cows are holy. Is this true? This friend also told me that even if cows are holy, you can eat them.

So my other questions are: If a cow is considered holy, can I order something like a beef burger in a restaurant? Will I get into trouble if I eat something like that in public?

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After my visit to New Delhi in 2008, I was really craving a hamburger. Burger King never tasted so good when I got back to the U.S.! –  Flimzy Jan 12 '12 at 15:48
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I am from New Delhi. Tons of my friends eat beef and its commonly available. Also, it is highly unlikely that you'd get into trouble for asking a restaurant if they serve beef. Which part of the country are you visiting btw? –  Lelouch Lamperouge Jan 12 '12 at 16:01
    
I should also add that eating at a lot of these places (corner shops, as they are fondly called) could give you a strong case of Delhi Belly ;) good luck –  Lelouch Lamperouge Jan 12 '12 at 16:04
    
Eating anywhere could get you Delhi Belly. I've been stricken when eating at seemingly decent places in a couple of countries. And of course in developed Western countries in North America, Western Europe, and Australia too. –  hippietrail Jan 18 '12 at 18:52
    
No beef at McDonalds, but Hard Rock Cafe has it usual list of beef burgers. –  Peter Hahndorf Mar 27 '12 at 12:45

7 Answers 7

up vote 27 down vote accepted

Cows are considered holy in Hindu religion, not India as a whole per se. North/East/West India are primarily Hindu-majority regions and thus you're highly unlikely to find any beef, except perhaps at dodgy places in Muslim-dominated parts of those towns. Dodgy places because in those three parts of India cow slaughter is frowned upon and you don't find organised slaughterhouses for cows.

While Southern India has its own conservative Hindu population which do not eat beef, it also has proportionally higher numbers of Christians and Muslims - historically because Christianity was brought in by sea traders. Beef is not as uncommon in South India and you will certainly find it some restaurant menu (typically ones that are not under a Hindu owner's management). This is generally in upscale restaurants or hotels bars with a significant foreign visitor clientèle.

You'll never find beef products in chain restaurants such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Domino's etc. (For instance, there's no Big Mac burger in Indian McDonald's restaurants; instead, they have a 'Maharaja Mac' which is about the same size but with chicken patties.) Chain restaurants across India are primarily owned by a handful of companies based in North India. This was somewhat of a big issue in 2001 when rumours spread that beef fat was used in making French fries. You might come across signs in restaurants to this day which state 'Beef and beef products not sold here'.

Since the availablity of beef is so restricted, I can't think of how you'd end up eating it in a public place. Nevertheless, it isn't illegal and if you do acquire beef then you can cook it in your own home too.

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There are a few restaurants in bigger cities that would serve beef dishes - but it is definitely not the meat of choice, the biggest reason being what you mentioned - holiness! Cows are sacred amongst the majority Hindu population, and eating beef is generally frowned upon. Another big reason for the lack of consumption is the inadequate hygiene. As you can imagine, the low consumption doesn't lend itself to strict handling and processing standards.

Bottom line - There is no law (legal or social) forbidding you from ordering beef, if you find it on a menu. Might I recommend a mutton (goat) burger substitute instead? Far more flavorful - especially with those delectable Indian spices

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rs79: Nice one on mentioning mutton. Too often overlooked - full of flavour! –  gef05 Jan 17 '12 at 2:05

The absolute best steak I've ever eaten in my entire 40 years, hands down, was at the Soaltee Hotel Restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Nepal was at the time, the world's only officially Hindu kingdom.

So, what was the justification? The owners told me that they bought their meat in New Zealand. According to their interpretation, if it was a reincarnation, it wasn't someone they knew. :)

If you are craving beef, look for foreign hotels and eat there.

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Possibly the best steak of my life, I ate in Bombay in the mid 90s. I don't remember the place. It was an Indian who led us there. –  feklee Feb 2 '13 at 9:33

As per your question say, It is very hard to find Beef Burger here. You can get some Beef dishes in some metropolitan cities and in some Non-Hindu owned shops in those cities but a burger is definitely not in here.

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If you are craving beef while in India, a good place to go is Goa. Most beach restaurants in the tourist areas serve beef burgers on their menu. I was told that because it's a christian area, and the beef was made from bull rather than cow, there is nothing taboo about eating beef there.

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I think this might apply to many tourist traps in India actually. –  hippietrail Jan 18 '12 at 18:51

I never had any trouble finding beef or meat generally in India, though I never looked for a hamburger.

The trick is merely to find the places where the non-Hindu population eats.

Just about everywhere in the country has a muslim minority, except the parts which have a muslim majority (-: One way to spot muslim places is they will often have some signs in Urdu mixed in with whatever the local language might be. And Urdu is easy to spot because it is written in Arabic script. Another way is to see women dressed in muslim hijab.

But muslims are not the only meat eaters in India. Sikhs also eat meat including beef. The Sikh homeland is the Punjab in the north, but there are Sikh minorities all over India and a diaspora around the world. In fact most well-known Indian dishes outside India are Punjabi dishes because the Sikh diaspora were the ones opening the most Indian restaurants around the world. Sorry! I was wrong about Sikhs.

Now Punjabi does use it its own writing but it looks somewhat similar to the Devanagari in which Hindi s written in unless you know what to look for. An easier way to spot Sikhs is by their turbans.

One more important thing: In tourist areas there will often be restaurants with meat including beef on the menu just for tourists. Avoid the meat in these places unless they are very popular. The problem is that the electricity supply is very unreliable in much of India and because the meat is only used when tourists drop by it may be kept in the freezer. You don't really want to eat meat that's thawed and re-frozen a dozen times.

So when you want to eat meat in India, look for restaurants where there are women wearing hijab, men wearing turbans, or signs in Arabic or Punjabi script if you know what they look like.

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Sikhs typically do not eat beef as a mark of respecting Hinduism. –  Ankur Banerjee Jan 18 '12 at 11:04
    
Yes I'm a bit fuzzy on some of it and I didn't make it to the Punjab. I know I ate mutton sometimes but I'm also sure I ate beef at muslim places in Mumbai. I hunted for my photos of my favourite muslim street food place but it was right when my camera broke )-: –  hippietrail Jan 18 '12 at 11:30
    
You are wrong, Sikhs never eat beef. –  Jagz W Oct 4 '13 at 7:04
    
@JagzW I have no experience with Sikhs in India, but from my experience with fairly devout American Sikh friends; Beef isn't proscribed in any way. That said, it's also not really part of any of their culinary tradition; In much the same way that western christians are perfectly able to eat horse meat - but never do. Ankur's comment seems far more accurate than a blanket 'never'. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Oct 4 '13 at 12:33

In addition to Goa, you can find beef burger pretty much everywhere in Bangalore. I can name a few places:

  • Thulp! (in Kormanagla and Kammanahalli)
  • Hard Rock cafe (MG Road)
  • Herbs and Spice (80ft Road)
  • The Only Place (Museum road)
  • Fat Chef (Whitefield)
  • Millers 46 (Cunningham road)
  • Bistro Claytopia (Indiranagar)

these are few of the popular places I could think of, I'm sure you can find a lot of places if you look-up on Zomato

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protected by Ankur Banerjee Dec 17 '12 at 18:12

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