With love, from Indore!

One of India’s greatest treasures is its culinary diversity. Every state and city has its own mix and variation of flavours which is just as legendary as the others. And we all know Indian street food – no matter which state it is from is a foodie’s delight. Now imagine a city, with a culinary palate that is a combination of flavours, cooking traditions and an amalgamation of the food styles of various Indian cities. The result is another city which is a culinary gem – Indore. When here, one can experience flavours of cuisines of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab. That’s something stellar in its own!

Let me be very honest, when I first came here, I had no idea of how creative Indoris were about their food. But after that, I just knew I would keep coming back to this colourful city. People here are remarkably rich epicures. They are passionate about food and it shows in their cooking styles too. Not to forget, Indore has always been very graciously hospitable too. Since then, all my visits here have involved food, work and food again. So, to sum it up, Indore has never failed to charm me with its own little culinary world which is ever-evolving.

This time was nothing less and this city was as fabulous with its food, as it had been earlier. When Alyona and I were told we have to attend the ITA Awards in Indore, we were super excited! Because we knew that along with all the entertainment, there’ll be food – loads of it! She suggested we a little earlier so that we get time for a food trail, once again and enjoy a stroll around the city. This, I thought was an amazing plan, I was tempted!

As soon as we landed, I thought of calling up a friend to find some new places, besides the ones that we always visit for gorging on all the lovely things with our hearts out! We called up a close friend Dr Bharat Agarwal – he is a complete foodie and knows all the delectable nooks and corners of Indore. We were luck, he happened to be in town that day and offered to host us on our much-awaited food journey through the city!

But doctor sahab also had some rules. The rule was, we don’t eat much and just taste everything, so that we can try each and every offering that this beautiful city has.

Come, let me take you on a food-filled ride to Indore:

Poha Jalebi at Chappan Dukan

The name signifies a time when there were 56 ‘chappan’ shops here. It is famous for its poha jalebi, an essential part of Indori breakfast, amidst other popular eats.

Khasta Kachori

The khasta kachoris in Indore are made with a moong dal filling, which makes the taste and aroma enticing, and I can absolutely vouch for this!  The aroma was so magnetic, that we had to stop and try these before we could make it to other shops for trying other drool-worthy stuff!  Don’t miss out on this one on your trip to Indore.

Khasta Kachori

Hing Kachori

We took a pit stop at ‘Suresh Namkeen and Sweets’ for a kachori again, this one, flavoured with ‘hing’ (asafoetida). These were just as lovely as their counterpart and a must try again. And this store definitely sells the yummiest ones.

Not to forget our time at the famous Sarafa Bazar. Do you know what’s unique about this place? Here, you will be at one of the markets in India which is a heaven for jewellery in the day time and becomes a bustling street-food place in the night. So, summing up with some of the delicacies that I got to try here:  

Butte ki Kees

A dish with its origin in Indore – this is nothing but mashed corn cooked in milk, with ghee and spices, finished with a generous topping of fresh coconut and coriander – a true speciality. 

Nariyal Patties

These patties are not your regular ones, but crisp, round ones. Spiced potatoes are stuffed with coconut and fried till golden brown. Best had with green chutney.

Bafla

One of the highlights of our food trail in Sarafa was our halt at ‘Hotel Rajhans,’ known for its ‘bafla’ – the Indori cousin of the famous Rajasthani ‘dal bati.’ A dal, churma, coriander-mint chutney and mango pickle are the typical accompaniments served with this. Yum!

Dr Agarwal later invited us to his home, where we had authentic Indori poha, paani puri and chips with chutney. Our food run couldn’t have a better end! All in all, Indore was a delicious experience, as always. We were contended and how, and I think that I will never miss a chance to travel again to this clean city, in the future too. Indore is definitely a heaven for foodies!  

…and it’s a Guinness World Record!

The first step to accomplishing a task, is to believe that you can do it. This was the sentiment that me and the entire team followed, when we decided to take over this mammoth feat – of creating a Guinness World Record for the largest quantity of khichdi ever made and we did achieve it, that too with a huge margin!

World Food India – the country’s first ever and biggest global food event, a gateway to the Indian food economy and an opportunity to showcase, connect and collaborate with international businesses and investors – served as a fitting platform for an event of this magnitude. While the actual cooking of the khichdi started at the crack of dawn on 4th November 2017, the process and deliberation culminated in this mega event had been on for months! Several protocols, hygiene and safety standards and quality control measures and technological barriers have to be taken into consideration to accomplish this gigantic task. There was no flame involved and the entire cooking was done through steam generated by a 150 meter long pipeline, a good distance away from the podium. Hundreds of kilograms of high quality locally produced rice, dals, bajra, ragi, amaranth, fresh vegetables and pure desi ghee have gone into a 1000 litre capacity, 7 foot diameter kadhai to create 918 kgs of nourishing khichdi and a brand new Guinness World Record.

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The fact that Guru Purabwas on the same day, was a very happy coincidence too. A large part of the khichdi was distributed by The Akshaya Patra Foundation to deserving children in Delhi and the rest to Gurudwara langars across the city. It is events like this that make me believe – the joy of giving is more than the joy of receiving!

The grand success of this event was only possible with the effort and cooperation of several individuals and teams – The Government of India, Honorable Minister for Food Processing Industries in India, Ms Harsimrat Kaur Badal, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, the dedicated team at World Food India,my super talented team of chefs, led by Chef Akshay Nayyar and last but not the least – the team from Guinness World Record who have been cooperative and helpful in every way!

Other than the charity and world record, there has been plenty ofbuzz about ‘why khichdi?’ My reply is – why not? It is nutritious, healthy, tasty and is eaten pan India, albeit in different avatars! Moreover, we need to understand that the motto of making this khichdi was not just to create a world record, but also to create a buzz and demand for fabulous Indian ingredients in the International market. With all the statistics coming in post the event, I would like to believe we are on the right track. It makes me feel closer to achieving my dream of putting Indian food on the number one spot on the world map.

A dream which I can turn into a reality only and only with the continued love and support of friends, family, fans and my fellow countrymen!

Top tomato substitutes

Tomatoes are an indispensible ingredient in many of our  recipes and are used generously, but with the prices of tomatoes in India reaching a staggering Rs 100/ kg and expected to remain so at least till mid-august, we could do with some substitutes for this favourite.

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Kaddu to the resucue

After years of snubbing kaddu at the dining table, the current prices of tomatoes are going to make you love them. At literally half the price and their slightly sweet taste and creamy texture, pumpkins make the best low cost substitute for tomatoes, especially in the puree form.

Just blend the pumpkins; maybe roast them before that for some more depth of flavor and a deeper colour. Add in a dash of vinegar to replicate the tartness of tomatoes. To deepen the hue (and nutrition) of your pseudo tomato puree add a roasted/raw red bell pepper, a piece of boiled beetroot, boiled carrots or all three to it. A hint of tomato ketchup can also give it that bright red colour, but will make it sweeter than regular fresh tomato puree. If you need to adjust the consistency of the puree bring it to a boil and let it reduce till it is perfect for your recipe. Keep tasting and adjusting the ratios depending upon what your recipe demands.

Tomato

Tamarind for tang

Besides adding body, tomatoes lend a delicious tartness to a variety of recipes, especially in Indian cuisine. Tamarind is one of the ingredients which come closest to replicating the fresh sweet-tanginess of tomatoes. Just add a hint of it to tamarind pulp or paste to recipes like dals, curries or stir fries instead of tomatoes. You can also buy a batch of fresh tamarind and dissolve a lemon sized ball in warm water and use the extract to give your recipes a delicious tomato-y taste with actually using them.

Tomato Puree

Yours truly – Yogurt

Yogurt also comes in handy when preparing Indian style curries which have a tomato base. It provides body to the curry and the right kind of tartness – so you won’t be missing tomatoes too much. Just make sure you whisk the yogurt really well and add it towards the end of the cooking process to reduce chances of it splitting. Yogurt works especially well in recipes like biryanis, or thick curries and masalas that require tomatoes.

You can always use a pack of store bought processed tomato paste or puree, but we think these natural substitutes are a better idea. They work out much cheaper, are healthier and also making the perfect no tomato, tomato puree recipe makes for a very exciting day in the kitchen.