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Chola Bhatura or Bubble scallion pancakes? Experts debate the name game

Would you fancy a plate of potato-stuffed pancakes served with mint yoghurt? Or savoury semolina balls filled with tangy liquid and an assortment of spices?

more lifestyle Updated: Mar 01, 2018 13:21 IST
Etti Bali
Etti Bali
Hindustan Times
Indian Cuisine,Indian Food,Chole Bhature
Renaming Indian dishes as per Western knowledge might increase its palatibility. (iStockphoto)

Can you imagine Chola-Bhatura with any other name? Or accept the fact that paranthas can be renamed as pancakes to enhance their palatability. Would you fancy a plate of potato-stuffed pancakes served with mint yogurt? Or savoury semolina balls filled with tangy liquid and an assortment of spices? For restaurants in Western countries, it is not a new thing to rename Indian dishes. The latest example is that of a US restaurant selling pooris under the name of bubble scallion pancakes. Not very appetising for our desi tastebuds, we talk to chefs what they think of this trend, and whether this leads to Indian food losing its identity internationally.

STRICT NO-NO

“Our food is our food; there should be no other meaning to our food. It should not bastardise the sense of being Indian. If the terminology is used to make the guest comfortable, I have no problem with it. But at the same time, a parantha cannot be a pancake. Pancake has eggs, paranthas don’t have eggs. There’s a chance that the guest might be misled or confused. In the description you can explain the dish. I am totally against it,” says chef Nishant Choubey.

THERE’S NO HARM IN IT

“It is not bad; it makes Indian food sound very hip. I once had an Indian-American guest who was an ardent fan of European food and would never touch anything Indian. I wanted to give him something very desi, so I made a pomme de terre in a melange of savoury spices encrusted in a shortcrust pastry golden baked served with a tamarind coulis. He was totally floored. It was samosa with imly ki chutney. There are different ways of naming using modern gastronomical terminology and it sounds very cool. The moment you give them a fancy name, you can even set the price. A dal tadka would cost around 250 bucks, but if it’s served in a Michelin-star restaurant under the name of braised lentils with a tempering of asafetida, you can easily charge $50. Add words like handpicked and the price can go upto $100. It’s an era of perception. It’s about making Indian food acceptable in the West. You can’t eat food which you can’t read. Any cuisine, translated to English, has an increased palatability. Indians have bastardised all possible cuisines. We have changed everything, but the name. We don’t understand the core cuisine; the name is more interesting to us,” says chef Sabyasachi Gorai.

CONTEXT NEEDS TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED

“Sometimes they are harmless, but I think it’s lack of knowledge. I wouldn’t take an offence to it. It is not wrong to name a certain dish a certain way. It’s a more local way of explaining to the masses. But if it’s a professional chef, it’s always nice to relate a thing by its name and to describe it in the best way. It is how and where you use it. If I am doing a fun menu, I might call risotto Italian khichdi. Professionally, if you are explaining things, you should do a bit more research. The context needs to be acknowledged,” says chef Kunal Kapoor.

THAT SHOULD NOT BE ON THE MENU

“I recently saw bread pakora renamed as Indian French toast. Description is done to simplify a dish and to explain it better. Initially, here also, international dishes like thin crust pizzas were described in a layman’s language. But professionally, you can’t do it. You can’t put it on a menu. It’s not right at all to change names. Kofta becomes a dumpling, but I can never relate it to a dumpling, ever. But this is how things have been changing. One reason could be that in the West, they might not take our cuisine seriously,” says chef Osama Jalali.

NOTHING WRONG WITH IT

“There are parallels in every food. If somebody wants to be creative and call it something else, I don’t feel anything wrong in it. I feel it is a compliment to Indian food that is inspiring them to do something different. We don’t have a geographical copyright on the preparation of our food. So I don’t think we can voice it,” says chef Manisha Bhasin.

Get your fix of Chole Bhature in Delhi

Sita Ram Diwan Chand, Paharganj
Chache di Hatti, Kamla Nagar
Baba Nagpal Corner, Lajpat Nagar
Roshan di Kulfi, Karol Bagh
Pandit Ji, Kanti Nagar

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First Published: Mar 01, 2018 13:21 IST