IndusFresh Details

By TPCI | November 5, 2019

We live in a country where recipes change every few kilometers. There are local recipes, there are family favorites, there are secret preparations and the list is unending. It is quite impossible in one’s lifetime to document or trace the diverse yet rich culinary heritage of our country. Just to cite a few examples, there are more than 50 varieties of ‘sambhar’ (lentil-curry) preparations, with Karnataka sambhar being different from that of Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh! Similarly, there are more than 100 different kinds of ‘biryani’ (aromatic rice preparation) available in our country –starting from the very famous Hyderabadi, Lucknawi or Kolkata Biryani, to the lesser-known ones like Bhatkai or Dindikul biryani. .

When we take a macro look, from the point where the world sees Indian food, what we have been savoring till now and offering to the world, barely scratches the surface of our culinary treasures. We are actually sitting on a gold mine of gastronomic diversity, which is ready to be excavated. These untapped and unspoken treasures of cuisines are yet to be truly savored by the world.

During my travel and stay in countries like Germany, France, Holland and USA, I have observed that Indian food is usually known by crunchy naans, succulent tikkas and lip smacking curries. The goodwill of butter-chicken amongst the non-vegetarians, however, steals the show. I have nothing against butter-chicken or tikkas; in fact, I enjoy the dishes immensely! However, it is unfortunate that the vast array of Indian food, is not even known to the larger global audience. It is only a few tried and tested recipes that dominate the mindsets of the customers wanting to taste Indian cuisine.

What is the solution?
People need to be exposed to the array of various cuisines India can offer. Only then conversions about oft ignored/lesser known Indian food will happen. There is a pressing need to have tie-ups in food festivals in different parts of the world showcasing ‘regional’ Indian cuisine. I emphasize the word – regional – because that is where the treasure exists. Have samplers distributed from food trucks so that the locals can sample and get used to the unique taste. Set up demos in food fairs or shopping malls so that people can learn how to make Indian food.

Familiarity with taste and cooking methods, is likely to make Indian food resonate at the top of customers’ minds. This will make people fall in love with our cuisine.

Gastronomies that have not been showcased yet include the brilliance of a few state foods like Assamese, Oriya, Bihari and Telangana recipes. There are so many choices, that people will just get lost in the wide variety. Original recipes, the forgotten recipes, the grand-ma’s secret recipes – the choice is simply unending.  

Let me give you a few delectable regional dishes that are sure to floor the global audience.

The tang in ‘machor tenga’ (light tangy fish curry), or the delightful homemade sweets ‘pithas’ in Assamese cuisine, are very appetizing.  The robust taste of Bihari mutton with puffed rice or ‘litti chokka’ (stuffed dough balls), is mouthwatering. The ‘dalma’ (veg and lentil combo) and ‘macho besara’ (mustard fish curry) from Odisha are simply delicious. To name a few more, the spicy ‘golichina mamsam’ (spicy mutton curry), or the dishes prepared with ‘gongura’ (sour leaf) and the delectable ‘qhubani ka mitha’ (apricot dessert) from Telengana cuisine, makes you crave for more.

Now, let me give some outstanding dishes from my home state - Bengal. Speaking about Bengali cuisine, the first thing that comes to people’s mind is sweets. But now many are starting to realize, that Bangla cuisine offers a wide range of enticing dishes for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian palates. From the savory delights of ‘Kobiraji Cutlet’ (type of croquette), to the enriching bitterness of ‘Shukto’ (bitter-sweet veg curry); from the sourness of ‘Doi Maach’ (fish in yoghurt sauce), to the spicy ‘Mochar Ghonto’ (banana blossom preparation), the diversity is unparalleled.

The good news is that the trend these days is to try the untried dishes, to explore the unexplored, and try the ones that have so far escaped the spotlight. The not so good news, however, is that most of these star regional dishes are confined within the small territory of the respective states. Even the rest of India is yet to realize the brilliance of their innate taste. These dishes are then required to be rolled out to the rest of the world, for others savor the yummy-oomph India can offer.  However, many Indian dishes can be adapted to local palates. Reduce the chillies, add a local flavour, change the masala a bit – and yet retain the innate originality of the regional cuisine. This is the reason why you will find Chinese food all over the world. Their dishes have been adapted to local taste, retaining the look and feel of the Chinese variety.

The plus point that we have today is that the world has become a much smaller place, with people being exposed to TV, social media and are also widely traveled. Affinity and knowledge is helping uniting the un-united world. Indian cuisine cannot be left far behind.

Butter chicken is a small sub-set of what India can offer. Regional cuisine has the possibility to butter the palates of the world with its taste, feel and flavour.

Chef Ananya was awarded the best home chef for achieving excellence in Bengali cuisine. She has authored several cookery books like Bangla Gastronomy and Planet Gastronomy. She is a lawyer by education and has a penchant for painting and globe-trotting too.