On this miniature cooking show, recipes fit for a dollhouse
It’s a mini meal like no other. Ranjitha KV, 23, a Chennai-based fashion designer, runs a successful cooking show online. What make her stands out are the portions — they’re minuscule.
Her YouTube channel, The Miniature Cooking Show, has 1.9 lakh subscribers, who tune in to watch Ranjitha’s bangled, ringed and sometimes mehendi-adorned hands mix, stir and toss up tiny batches of ingredients — the rest of her is invisible because the frame has to be so zoomed in — to make dishes that range from biryanis to burgers, sabzi-puri to gulab jamuns.
The channel combines her love for craft with her love for cooking, she says.
Over the last three years, assisted by brothers Santosh and Saravanan (also the channel’s spokesperson) and sister-in-law Sripriya, Ranjitha has posted over 175 episodes, uploading one a week on average.
“We haven’t quite figured out why yet, but most of our subscribers are from West Bengal, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka,” says Saravanan, 27.
The biryani is made with three teaspoons of rice, the “chicken lollipop” is really quail legs, and for fish dishes they use the tiny but tasty silver belly fish (a distant relative of the pomfret).
The miniature cooking isn’t even the whole show. Ranjitha and her family create elaborate sets to go with each dish. The mug cake is made in an oven fitted into a kitchen stacked with miniature cereal and biscuit boxes. Dahi puri is made next to a mini chaat cart. Grilled chicken and fish dishes are made on a mini-grill they built with miniature bricks.
Each meal wouldn’t even make for a wholesome bite. Still, it looks pretty and Ranjitha says it all tastes good. “Initially we had a salt problem,” says Saravanan, who is in charge of the technical aspects of each shoot. “We couldn’t eat a lot of what we were making, because apart from all the other ingredients, adjusting the salt took some time.”
“But I was able to figure it out,” Ranjitha adds. Figuring out how to tame the fire turned out to be an even bigger challenge. Ranjitha says they’ve settled on a combination of candles and wooden sticks, depending on the degree of heat required.
They initially used miniature clay utensils that a potter in Thammampatti, their hometown, made especially for them. While these were good for curries and biryanis, they couldn’t cook a dosa or deep fry gulab jamuns in clay.
“The dish is bound to burn, and if you try deep-frying in clay, there’s a chance it will explode owing to the head build-up,” Saravanan says. They had to find steel and aluminium pots and pans if they wanted to create a wider variety of dishes.
“These days there seems to be a demand for miniature cooking utensils online and off. [The utensils brand] Hawkins even sells a miniature pressure cooker,” says Saravanan.
Much of the process still depends on improvisation — tweezers work well in place of tongs, Ranjitha has found. Some of her kitchen tools she makes herself. And these days, people send the team things too.
“A manufacturer from Madurai sent us some tiny tawas and kadais to unbox and use, which we were happy to do,” Saravanan says.
What started out as a passion project is now raking in some revenue. Saravanan has been able to monetise the videos on YouTube and Facebook. While most of the comments are notes of admiration, many simply announce the state they’re tuning in from, and some are invariably regional-cuisine loyalists who take their cuisine seriously.
Ranjitha’s first Bengali fish curry was deemed not authentic (the Tamilians admit they had no idea they had to use mustard oil). “Our audience made sure they told us that in the comments,” says Saravanan.