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Bheja fry, anyone?

Over the last two decades, we have become far more experimental with food because the world has shrunk. Charis Bhagianathan wonders if we have become adventurous with food?

brunch Updated: Feb 02, 2013 18:26 IST
Charis Bhagianathan

Over the last two decades, we have become far more experimental with food because the world has shrunk

TOPIC: Have we become adventurous with food? even Indian has now become Bengali, Malayali, Punjabi, Goan or Naga

Twenty years ago I was eight. Even then, I was pretty sure that food was a wonderful thing – worthy of love sonnets and appreciative sighs. Growing up, meals were pretty confused at home because of my Tamil-Bengali-Malayali lineage, combined with my parents and grandparents living pretty much all over the country and some parts of the world between them. All meals at home were always a mix of things – yellow dal and mustard fish would sit pretty with rasam and coconut chicken, and meatloaf with mashed potatoes would rub shoulders with dosas and avial.

CharisAll-time favourite family dinners were potato salad and breaded fish fry, or South Indian-style mutton biryani. Post-dinner, my brother and I would sneak mouthfuls of condensed milk from the open Milkmaid tin in the fridge, and stuff our pockets with orange lozenge-type toffees whenever we’d see them. Cheese meant Amul, from a tin, and bread was always white. Eating out was rare and when it did happen it was always at an Indian or Chinese joint.

Fast forward to 20 years later.

Today, when we go out to eat now (which is at least once a week for a lot of us) our choices have grown to include Thai, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, and American among others. Even ‘Indian’ has now become Bengali, Malayali, Punjabi, Goan or Naga, and there are restaurants which specialise in one particular type of food.

We still love our fried snacks but only now instead of fried kachori, it’s fried calamari, and instead of malpua, it’s fried ice cream. Balsamic vinegar is now a common kitchen shelf item. We’ve tried several cheeses because they’re readily available, and love the stinky blue ones, which smell of old socks. Kitty party aunties now eat sushi and hummus with pita. Come on, dal makhni is so passé.

We’re more aware about our environment too, and ‘nose to tail’ eating has made it fashionable to eat even the less desirable parts of the animal. So we’re snarfing down bheja or frying liver with onions and even making curries with chicken feet.

We’ve also become more adventurous because the world has shrunk. Some of us have even been lucky enough to travel. We’ve tasted fried grasshoppers in the bustling streets of Bangkok, washed down blood sausage with fresh cider in a London pub, or mopped up curry with crispy roti Prata in Singapore.

The growing number of food festivals in city restaurants and hotels are, certainly, an indication to show our movement towards different, unfamiliar types of cuisine. In the past year itself, there have been some really memorable ones. I ate horse meat for the first time in my life at a Japanese festival at the Shangri-La, tried egg hoppers and chilli crab at a Sri Lankan festival at the Hilton Mayur Vihar, and gorged on a rich lamb tagine at a Moroccan festival at the Hyatt Regency.

OnionVegetarians aren’t to be left behind. Soya and tofu have become regulars at home dinner tables, and strange things like meatless sausages are gaining popularity. We’ve had an Italian revolution that’s come about because olive oil has created a definite spot for itself in the market. Most of us hadn’t tasted olive oil while growing up. Now we’re putting it in everything, from our salads and breads, to even cake and ice cream!

Speaking of desserts, we now love bacon on our cupcakes and chillies in our chocolate.

There are new things to try, world ingredients available and a whole community of chefs, restaurateurs, and foodies cooking and eating new things. Now more than ever, most of us are willing to try new recipes and open our minds to fun, novel and interesting food experiences. In my opinion, it’s only going to get crazier and better.

We’re snarfing down bheja and even making curries with chicken feet.

Know the Writer
Charis, 28
Occupation: Editor at a publishing house and runs a food blog,
Why you love Brunch: It has a bit of everything for everybody. The writing has all these references that one gets instantly. You don’t read that anywhere else Want more of... List based stories. They make for quick and fun reading
Most fun issue: ROFL (in which stand-up comics wrote for Brunch)

From HT Brunch, February 3

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