Monday, January 01, 2007

Small Town Food

This weeks issue of the Outlook is a special devoted to food from small town India and it's most certainly worth a read.

Pankaj Mishra writes on looking for vegetarian food and his reminisces about the best idlis and anda bujiya he's ever eaten.

There's things you didn't know about Surat and the magic of Undhiyo.

And about fudge that's been localized in Almora. Or has it been?

Who knew that Bikaner produced close to 40 tons of bhujia a day?!

That a paan shop in Varnasi is the equivalent of the local tea shop in the South.

Guntur is a riot of red when chillies are harvested and the local economy runs of chilly power.

Of port and sausages and feni and pao in Mapusa.

Potato-less samosas in Allahabad, sitabhog in Burdwan, the original Kholapuri mutton and fun things to eat in Tamu and their local disdain for "local" liquor.

I've been to Rampur but didn't know of it's regal heritage when it came to food. So much to try.

Konkani food in Karwar is besieged by alien cuisines. I'll vote for the former, how can a ghee roast chicken lose to an anonymous butter chicken?

Frogs and worms and all things crawly in Kohima are on the menu.

Chettinad food must be had in Karaikudi. Everything else is a bastardized version. Can't say I disagree.

Of a Sufi food tradition in the heart of Punjab. With bhatti da murg, degh ka gosht and communal harmony in Malerkotla.

Missing spices and Telicherry, now Thalasserry, Black Pepper and superlative, yet light biryani.

Laila Tyabji extols the virtue in the uniqueness of Indian food.

And the Editors moan the virtues of those that couldn't make the issue.

As an aside, this is one good reason why the processed food industry is still so nascent. We have no pan-Indian flavours and it's too damn hard to cater to every regional fancy. Well, it's too difficult for large companies which is why smaller food companies prosper. It's also why the most popular processed foods in this country are essentially alien to us, Maggi Noodles, Top Ramen Smoodles, Knorr Soups and Sunfeast Pasta even if they are "localized" in some generic fashion.

I'm sure there are exceptions, like bhujiya, but not too many.

I'd love to hear from you, on small town food and processed food in India.

Update: Dhoomk2 shares his take on the Outlook story.

"... like anyone will actually turn up in Surat or Almora for a bite. I have had some of these impostors preening off as cuisine..."


Quietly Amused said...

If Pondicherry counts as small town then there's truckloads to try there. From fusion-esque stuff at Rendezvous to kotthu-paratha and mutte dosa at Rolex.

Anonymous said...

Nice pointers... I read Outlook once in a while and it seems to be one news magazines which is still half decent.

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