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Standardisation of Indian Recipes – Opportunities and Challenges

By Anil Bhandari, Chairman, AB Smart Concepts

Tuesday, January 2, 2018, 11:21 Hrs  [IST]

Standardisation of recipes will help give India’s traditional and innovative cuisine a definite identity. This will help in promoting the cuisine in India and internationally. The variety of Indian cuisine is so vast that an institutional mechanism is necessary to standardise the diverse recipes which vary from region to region through research, authentication, documentation and preservation.

The mission for standardisation was initiated by me in association with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, Chef M.S. Gill and others but there has been no progress on that front. The assignment needs to be entrusted to the Indian Culinary Institute (ICI) at Tirupati. The Institute, besides its structured programmes of study, could focus on research and documentation of a standardised text of authentic Indian cuisines for publication later to give the cuisine a Brand identity.

ICI’s massive mission can be supplemented by the current 41 Institutes of Hotel Management (IHMs) comprising 21 Central IHMs, eight State IHMs and 12 private IHMs and five Food Craft Institutes (FCIs) which meet the trained manpower requirements of the sector.

At their level the IHMs and FCIs can, taking assistance of regional branches of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), obtain proper and sourced information on regional cuisines, recipes and local culinary experts.

Each of the 29 States and seven Union Territories possess anywhere from 10 to 50 regional, sub-regional cuisines representing the many flavours of India. A population of over
1.3 billion living in India’s 675 districts has innumerable ethnic and regional stereotypes. The different culinary regions have no manmade boundaries and it is said that the flavour of the same preparation tastes different from house-to-house as the process is based on blending of ingredients and subtle cooking techniques.

Each State and region has its different styles of cooking. A Chicken Curry preparation, for instance, differs from region to region. Therefore standardisation of Chicken Curry needs to be done as is consistent with the region and not on the basis of national standardisation.

Different curry preparations can be identified by ‘Indianising’ of the French system for sauces. French cuisine has the basic mother sauces namely béchamel, espagnole, hollandaise, tomato, and veloute for different preparations. Similarly, through the process of indigenisation, Indian curries could be identified by their regional affiliations.

There are an incredible number of different curries in India. Naming the curries has to be more broad-based considering the vastness of regions and multiplicity of varieties. Currently there are select regional preparations such as the classic North Indian Chicken Korma made rich with aromatic spices, yoghurt and nuts and South India’s Chettinad Chicken with a fiery curry prepared with roasted, whole spices, curry leaves and tomatoes. Many more regions need to be identified for their unique curries.

Standardisation of recipes of common dishes such as Butter Chicken is possible with the stamp of authenticity provided by the founder himself. Kundan Lal Gujral ‘invented’ the Butter Chicken and this succulent preparation, dating back to the pre-Partition era, continues to be served by Gujral’s grandson at Darya Ganj’s Moti Mahal and its chain of restaurants all over Delhi.

For authentication of recipes apart from research reliance on information given by chefs who have continued the family tradition of preparation of certain well-known dishes can also help. One such person is Chef Imtiaz Qureshi, famed for his revival of Awadhi cuisine.

Another common standardised regional dish is the Masala Dosa which originated in the South Indian town of Udupi town and successfully carried the ‘Udupi’ prefix to restaurants across the globe. Udupi had a food culture that was a predominantly temple cuisine. That is the reason for its being pure vegetarian, based on whole grains and vegetables, as well as being satvik, abstaining from even onions and garlic, as sanctioned in the Vedas.

Research on ancient India’s recipes that have been recorded will help trace their roots. Books written under royal patronage include the Ain-i-Akbari of the Mughals, the Manasollasa (Happiness of Mind), a 12th-century Sanskrit text composed by the South Indian king Someshvara III of the Chalukyan dynasty, and the Sarbendra Pakashastra comprising a collection of recipes during the reign of Thanjavur’s erstwhile Maratha king in the 19th century are some examples. The Ayurveda texts contain a wealth of knowledge on traditional foods and their functional properties.

Some dishes created within the last two or three decades have gained international popularity, and can be authenticated and be given a certificate of standardisation by the creator chef, the hotel, and food historian-cum-researchers like Dr. Pushpesh Pant and Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, the first chef in the world to launch his Food Food food channel, authored more than 200 recipe books available in seven languages, and are bestsellers, winning international awards. His earlier food show Khana Khazana ran for a record 18 consecutive years.

Chef Manjit Gill, Corporate Chef ITC Hotels and President of the Indian Federation of Culinary Associations (IFCA), is
instrumental in getting recognition for Indian culinary traditions and the artists behind them. He considers that chefs, to rediscover Indian regional cuisines and to encourage people to learn about regional cuisines, have to learn about the people, their culture, their local flora and fauna, and more.

Organisations such as INTACH conduct research and documentation of India’s intangible cultural heritage which includes their function local cuisine that is disappearing as it is being replaced by processed, packaged and westernised food. ITC carries out research and publishes the Indian perspective of heritage and traditional cuisines of different regions.

A few decades ago French cuisine masters Auguste Escoffier and Larousse documented their country’s cuisines. This helped in enabling the recipes to be taught in most culinary institutes all over the world. In the process, French cuisine spread its flavours and tastes all over the world.

Similar to the Larousse Gastronomique, the encyclopedia of gastronomy for French cuisine, India should have a gastronomic Bible containing authentic recipes and cooking techniques. It would help resolve territorial claims over dishes such as the varieties of Sindhi, Gujarati, Rajasthani and Punjabi ‘kadhi’ or debates over different styles of biryanis, and lead to their inclusion in the curriculum of international culinary institutes.

Recipes that are authentic and related techniques of cooking would make India’s wealth of regional recipes stand out from the Bangladeshi and Pakistani imitation dishes being marketed as “Indian” preparations abroad.

Standardisation will give Indian cuisine a Brand identity and certify the Indianness of exotic preparations. This will help popularise Indian cuisine globally.

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.

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