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Indian Food Craving for Global Acceptance

Wednesday, December 13, 2017, 17:01 Hrs  [IST]

Indian cuisine is diverse and vast. There are various dishes from a region as well as many versions of one particular dish in different regions of the country. So how do we present our cuisine to the world is an important aspect. Standardising and documenting Indian cuisine can be a way to showcase Indian cuisines to the world. Kathryn B K speaks to few chefs to understand the importance of standardising and documenting Indian cuisine and the challenges and opportunities that come along with it.

Japanese, Thai, Italian, French, Chinese cuisines, etc. are quite famous and well-known all over the world. Ever wondered why Indian cuisine is yet to make a mark internationally? The major reason is unlike Indian cuisine, other cuisines are standardised and documented.

There have been attempts in the past by different agencies, including the Ministry of Tourism, to document Indian recipes, but nothing has come out of those initiatives. In a recent move, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the government agency entrusted with the task of enforcing food safety and hygiene standards in the country, has embarked on a comprehensive initiative to digitally document and create a repository of Indian cuisines with the support of the private industry and other stakeholders of the food business.

As we all know, Indian cuisine is diverse and vast, there is a new dish or a different variation of the same dish every 50-100 kms in India. But the world isn’t aware about all these dishes as we haven’t showcased it to them yet.

Documentation is the way forward
There are different schools of thoughts as far standardisation of Indian recipes is concerned. While vast majority associated with food and food business believe it is high time Indian recipes are standardised to uplift its image on the global culinary map, there is a section, although a minority, which argues standardisation will dilute the very character of Indian food as its richness lies in its diversity. But everyone agrees to the point that Indian recipes need to be documented.

Arguing in favour of documenting the Indian recipes, Chef YB Mathur, Executive Director, Institute of Culinary Economics Culinary Design & Application Group clearly states, “If India has to progress, if Indian cuisine has to be known to the world, it has to be documented. If it is not documented how will it get exposed?”

Indian cuisine is no less than any treasure and we need to share with the world what we have in order to promote Indian cuisine. There is a famous saying – In vain have you acquired knowledge, if you have not imparted it to others. Standardisation and documentation is a way to impart and showcase our treasures to the world.

“The international community of chefs and connoisseurs will recognise Indian cuisine based on the documentation. It does not suffice to keep mentioning about mystique factor anymore,” says Chef Vijaya Baskaran, Executive Chef & Executive Manager, Le Meridien Bangalore and VP - Indian Federation of Culinary Assocaiations.

Chef Sudhakar N Rao, Director & Principal, Culinary Academy of India believes that documenting is a vast activity and cumbersome when it comes to Indian cuisine but, some documented reference point is a must for every cuisine.

Documenting and standardising will not just help Indian cuisine to secure a place internationally, but it will also help the cuisine to always remain alive and will never be forgotten. “Anything that is not documented is lost over a period of time,” says Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi, Director, Turban Tadka Hospitality Pvt Ltd. “I keep hearing stories of Khansamas from the Royal Kitchens of Mughals and early kingdoms who could cook delicious food but a lot has been lost because of no documentation. Once documented at least the recipe can be revisited and experimented and revived. I think documentation is the need of the hour and we need it in our cuisine offering.”

Chef Ramesh Javvaji, Senior Chefs’ Mentor & IFCA Certified Culinary Educator too opines on documenting authentic regional recipes in order to have a global viewer perspective plus awareness and education.

Documenting Indian cuisine is important but due to the diversity of our cuisine, one particular dish is made in a different way in different parts of the country. E.g. Kichidi, every region has its own version of this dish, then how do we document it?

Chef Baskaran acknowledges this dispute as a genuine one, he says, “This will be the biggest challenge, as every recipe will be disputed by another chef or person. We can have versions of each dish or recipe indexed in the documentation. This is a rough solution, fine tuning is possible as we embark on documentation, it has to begin and will progress in due course.”

It is also observed that the same dish gets various variations due to the ingredients available in that particular region.

Every cuisine has local influence, the culinary practices and principles do vary. These differences in turn have a huge impact on the final outcome of the dish. Here one has to be cautious because the mother cuisine remains the same but the practices, traditions and availability of the ingredients actually make the difference, says Chef Rao.

Chef Mathur says that a large team would be required to set up to develop content to document cuisines. Chefs, experts from the industry should be a part of that team. He also suggested that two states can have one institute of culinary arts and one R&D centre for this purpose. Any person/ chef of that particular region who has enough knowledge about the food of that state can head these institutes and research centres.

Advantages & Disadvantages
If we rule out the vast, diverse cuisine and different style of preparing a dish, documenting Indian cuisine only opens its door to numerous advantages.

Chef Sokhi seconds that, he says, “I see only advantage and no disadvantage in documenting. The sheer fact that there will be a document to follow and anyone who wishes to cook has a standard recipe card.”

Chef Rao too feels that documentation is good as a reference point and also as an effective tool for developing young chefs for the profession, he is also of the opinion that Indian cuisine in comparison to other famous cuisines of the world is entirely different. More than a document with a standard recipe or a process it requires the knowledge of ingredient technology which has a very big impact on the final dish. One has to master the ‘what’s, how’s, when’s & why’s’ of cooking with years of experimentation based on trial and error.

While we have Indian chefs churning out dishes of European, Chinese, Japanese cuisines, Chef Baskaran says, why not the reverse that chefs of other nations try their hand at Indian Cuisine when it will be available on an international platform through documentation.

Documentation does help sustain the originality and the authenticity of the recipes of a particular cuisine documented effectively, says Chef Javvaji. “I really do not reckon with too many disadvantages unless the documentation process is not adequately secure since the basic information could be impinged or destructed through viruses etc and abuse through other means by pilfering the data or destruct it with a deliberate or devious intent.”

Other mediums Documentation is the way forward if we want Indian cuisine to shine on a global stage. While there are many who are in favour of documenting Indian cuisine, there are few who oppose this by citing reasons like diverse cuisine. Along with documentation, there are few other mediums also through which we can showcase our cuisine to the world.

The first step to be initiated towards creating more and higher acceptability to Indian cuisine world over is to streamline the culinary education in India at par with the European and American culinary schools, believes Chef Rao.

Chef Baskaran feels promoting foods on international platforms will ensure a place for Indian cuisine internationally. “Participation in international forums will be the way forward. A recent example being participation of Indian Chefs at the Gastronomika in San Sebastian, Spain. Indian chefs led by Chef Manjit Singh Gill participated in this prestigious event and showcased Indian cuisine like never before. Another example was the recent Europe Culinary Tour by Chefs from Southern India. The chefs on tour showcased Indian Cuisine at various countries that included Germany, Italy and Spain.”

As we move ahead in time documentation is one part but making videos will help further, Chef Sokhi says. “We are now living a digital life and everything is on smart phones and people expect to see and believe rather than study. It also helps them to get a visual of the recipe process and this is very important. Sometimes we do mention things that help visibly more than the text format.”

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