Dying cuisines: Kashmir’s dried vegetables

Mughlai food (the real McCoy that is, not the upstart version you get in restaurants) started its decline because of the richness of its ingredients and the intricacy of the preparations. Bengali widows’ food is on its way out because society is becoming less and less traditional. Many of India’s micro-cuisines are in danger of…

Seafood

Understanding the top segment of the seafood market Farmed versus natural: there’s no doubt about it, wild seafood is in another class altogether. Wild fish (and other creatures of the deep) have specific habitats and feeding patterns. Some tuna, for instance, swim for hundreds of miles during their lifetime, often against the current. Not a…

Jaunpur’s Fading Cuisine

New Delhi’s Crowne Plaza has just had an irresistible food festival. It showcased the cuisine of Jaunpur in UP. I myself heard many guests asking the staff in the restaurant how Jaunpur was spelt. It was clear that this faded little town was not in the forefront of public memory: for one reason or another,…

The Mysteries of Japanese Food

Sa Shi Su Soy So are the five “vowels” of a Japanese meal. They refer respectively to sato (sugar), shio (salt), su (vinegar), shoyu (soya) and miso, the five most common flavours of Japanese food. The components of a kaiseki meal include Kobachi or appetizer, usually cold Sashimi or raw fish Mishimono or steamed custard-like…

Chinese the Indian way

On a recent trip to Beijing, I was intrigued with a vegetarian dish of what appeared to be noodles, but which were made with vegetables mixed with flour. Called Liang Bei Fen Pi, it was composed of pale green noodles lightly steamed and topped with an intensely spicy sauce of coarsely pounded red chillies fried…

Old Delhi’s Bakeries

Light as air and as flaky as a snowdrop – that’s fan for you, never mind the curious name. They’re made by traditional bakers in pockets of Old Delhi, almost always by the Muslim community, and tend to be concentrated in Muslim-dominated localities – Kallan Masjid near Turkman Gate, Pahadi Bhojla and Matia Mahal. They…

Bengali Widows’ Cuisine

My best friend Raka has a maternal grandmother who is 96 years old. Today she lies infirm and barely coherent after a lifetime of eating what must rank as an extremely Spartan diet. The sheer wonder of it is that it was not economics that imposed the diet: it was a mixture of societal expectations…

Celebrating the sweet tooth

When you’re walking by a pastry shop, chances are that science and art are the last things on your mind. However, it’s the permutations and combinations of these two elements that go to make dream desserts, decadent cakes or eye-popping pastries, to say nothing of creamy confectionery. And ask the army of pastry chefs in…

Tikka Shatrujit Singh goes on holiday

I caught up with Tikka Shatrujit Singh of Kapurthala just as he was about to set off for yet another trip to his favourite destination, Paris. In his choice of destination, Singh is merely following in the footsteps of his illustrious grandfather, Maharaja Jagatjit Singh (1877-1949), a well-known Francophile, whose palace in Kapurthala is modeled…

Festival of Iran Food

Last week, I went to a food festival and came away trying to puzzle why no restaurateurs have gone in for Iranian food on their menus. After all, there’s Mexican which has a remarkable affinity for our own cuisine, Lebanese which has hardly any and Thai which has been spectacularly unsuccessful in North India, with…