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Chef David Rocco: Indian culture reflects in its cuisine

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New Delhi: David Rocco, Italian-Canadian chef visited India five times in the last three years and calls India his “second home”. It’s interesting how the culture of the country reflects through its cuisine, he said.

Rocco has explored India as part of a TV show for channel FOX Life. For the second season of the Italian-Indian culinary adventure “David Rocco Dolce India”, he returned to the nation and visited lesser-known locales to uncover some hidden gems.

“It was really cool discovering these unique and diverse communities throughout India and seeing how their cultural influences are reflected in the cuisine,” Rocco said in an email interview from Toronto.

Through his show, which airs in over 150 countries including India, he introduces viewers to the Portuguese influence in Goa, the Chinese community in Kolkata and the holiest of Punjabi traditions in Amritsar, while sampling plenty of culinary delights along the way.

“I was first introduced to Indian food many years ago, but having Indian food in India is a totally different experience than outside of India. And of course making my first Indian dish was a little intimidating, but I’ve learnt a lot since then in terms of ingredients and technique.

“In season two of my show, I’m much more comfortable with the process and I really start to play around with certain dishes, combining flavours that north and south Indians might never have even thought to work with,” said Rocco, whose first attempt at Indian food was a ‘dal’ (lentil) and he found it “pretty straightforward” in making.

The author of three cookbooks, Rocco has travelled the world over. But he said “I’m attracted to India for its diversity and the warmth of its people”.

He is also fascinated with the importance given to food and family in the Indian culture, which he finds “so diverse, from region to region”.

In his show, he says he fuses his own style of cooking with Indian ingredients as “inspiration”.

“You could call it the easy Indian approach. I’m really being an ambassador to the people outside of India, helping them see how accessible Indian cooking can be,” he added, stressing that localisation of global cuisine is “an incredibly common thing around the world”.

“For instance, McDonalds is different everywhere you go! If you look at Italian food, you can get it pretty much everywhere in the world lasagne, pizza and pasta are probably some of the most universally liked dishes that you can get in any major city across the globe. Is it authentic? Most likely not.

“But if someone truly enjoys the taste of the ‘local’ version, or it inspires them to take up cooking or even take a trip to Italy some day, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”(IANS)(image:davidrocco.com)

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Dilli 6: Culinary legacy continues against all odds

Originality, legacy, a loyal customer base and word-of-mouth via social media are taking their businesses forward in times of rising inflation and rapid influx of a variety of cuisines, say Purani Dilli's much-loved street food vendors

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The "Daulat ki Chaat", once served to the rich and the Royals, is a frothy and sublime sweet made from churned milk under the moon only during the winter season. Wikimedia Commons

Jamaluddin Siddique has been serving up delectable kheer cooked up with his great grandfather’s 150-year-old recipe. There’s also Khemchand Adesh Kumar, who has been selling the sweet winter delight “Daulat Ki Chaat” from his humble “khomcha” on the streets of old Delhi for the last 30 years.

Originality, legacy, a loyal customer base and word-of-mouth via social media are taking their businesses forward in times of rising inflation and rapid influx of a variety of cuisines, say Purani Dilli’s much-loved street food vendors.

“Options have increased tremendously, but true food lovers value the originality and legacy. We have been serving ‘Daulat ki Chaat’ for more than 30 years now. We have a base of loyal customers who travel from far off places just to savour this winter delicacy.

“A lot of kids and youngsters also come to us and tell us that they read about us online. So, considering the quality and legacy of our product, business sustenance is never an issue,” Kumar, who belongs to Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, told IANS.

Also Read: These 10 Food Items are Popular with Indians and not to be missed this Monsoon!

The “Daulat ki Chaat”, once served to the rich and the Royals, is a frothy and sublime sweet made from churned milk under the moon only during the winter season.

“The soft, cottony foam is carefully collected overnight under the dew as it requires low temperature for the formation and is served along with khoya and saffron fresh in the morning,” explained Kumar, who gives a plate for Rs 40.

Besides, as Siddique said, it worked like a pull for people, who left with a promise to explore the culinary-rich bylanes of Chandni Chowk. Wikimedia Commons
Besides, as Siddique said, it worked like a pull for people, who left with a promise to explore the culinary-rich bylanes of Chandni Chowk. Wikimedia Commons

When he is not selling his seasonal delight in peak business months from November to January, Kumar makes money with a Golgappe and Chaat stall in Burari here.

“Inflation remains a key challenge, but our customer base has always seen a positive trend.

This has helped us cope with price rise,” he said, adding how foreigners find it intriguing and fancy to know about the six-hour process behind the making of “Daulat Ki Chaat”.

Also Read: 4 Startups which changed the face of Food and Beverage Industry in India

For Siddique, the pride in his Bade Miya Ki Kheer business comes from his belief, “We are not just serving kheer, we are serving our legacy of 150 years”.

“Richness of our ingredients and authenticity in the taste, a method of preparation and presentation keep us strong in business. We are moving ahead with time and using several strategies to sell our product and combat inflation.

“There are a lot of restaurants in Delhi which buy our kheer every day from the Lal Quan shop, plate it differently, and serve to their young customers.

Jamaluddin Siddique has been serving up delectable kheer cooked up with his great grandfather's 150-year-old recipe. Wikimedia Commons
Jamaluddin Siddique has been serving up delectable kheer cooked up with his great grandfather’s 150-year-old recipe. Wikimedia Commons

“This helps us in making good profits,” said Siddique, whose outlet satiates the kheer-craving of two people within Rs 250.

The kheer, he says, is made by using full-fat milk, slow-cooked on a charcoal fire for almost eight hours, with rice and pure ghee. The result is a thick, creamy pudding, full of smoky aroma and a rich golden colour, and sold in dry leaf bowls.

Also Read: Indo-Pakistan Peace Restaurant ‘Sarhad’ to showcase food in Paris at an International food event ‘Grand Fooding S. Pellegrino Plats’ in September

“A lot of people ask us what is that one secret ingredient that makes our recipe cult and we feel it’s “Allah’s blessing” that does the magic every time.”

There’s also Ram Babu Kushwaha, whose winner at his forefather’s eatery Hira Lal Chaat Corner is the “Kulle Chaat ” — scooped out potatoes and other fruits and vegetables filled with delicious stuffing, a recipe he claims to have discovered out of an experiment.

“Our clientele is getting diversified as a lot of young people keep coming to us when they read about us on social media sites. They come to our shop, make videos and click pictures of our ‘kuliya chaat’ which helps in putting a word out,” said Khushwaha.

These vendors were among around 20 old Delhi “chaat-walas” who participated in DLF Mall of India’s “Chaat Festival” in Noida last month.

“We want to introduce our legacy to the modern generation. We feel that is how it will grow. Instead of thinking that mall culture is a threat to our business, why not use them as a platform to reach out to a wider audience?” he added.

Also Read: Being Vegan Good For Environment: Study

Besides, as Siddique said, it worked like a pull for people, who left with a promise to explore the culinary-rich bylanes of Chandni Chowk. (IANS)

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at radhika.b@ians.in)