Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cooking Shows: India’s New Cult.

Food-related TV programmes have spawned a cooking cult in India, and many devotees are children. The third season of MasterChef Australia, which ended in November 2011, earned host channel Star World a 74 per cent market share in the General Entertainment Channels category.

TAM Media Research, an industry authorised organisation that tracks viewership, estimated that Chakh Le India had 5.5 million viewers from January 8 to April 7.

What with these shows and Zee Khana Khazana, several shows on Discovery Travel & Living, and the Food Food channel, Indian audiences' cup runneth over. Party conversations are peppered with names such as Nigella Lawson, Donna Hay and Gordon Ramsay.

What yeast does for dough, cooking shows are doing for middle-class Indians' awareness about exotic food.

Rising awareness is spurring culinary adventures. Far from being armchair chefs, many viewers are invading that former fiefdom of the matriarch and the maharaj - the kitchen. The more avid among them are seeking out workshops and classes to beef up their cooking skills.

Given rising demand, many who have culinary chops are venturing into teaching. Cooking classes are thriving, thanks to the enthusiasm stirred up by TV chefs.

Clearly, TV audiences today are a hungry mob.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fluffy, white Idlis: There's more to it than Rice!

That plate of fluffy ‘Idli'  may have been cooked with rice bought at a neighbourhood store. Probably, the rice was cultivated and milled a few hundred kilometres from where you are sitting. But, someone sitting in far-away London might have been responsible for ensuring the lily-white colour and softness of the ‘idli' on the plate.

Yes. That someone in London is monitoring online the high-tech equipment at the rice mill closer to home. Even as the paddy is processed into rice, the quality is being monitored continuously from the remote location and suggestions are given online to make the required changes here.

The place is Manachanallur, about 25 km from Tiruchi. Mr B. Rajantran, Managing Director, Rice Land Agro Food Pvt Ltd, is showing around the mill, a Rs 26-crore unit, the largest in Tamil Nadu.

At Rice Land, operations are automated. The milling machine is from a Brazilian manufacturer, Zaccaria, the driers are from Thailand and the Sortex Z+, based on German technology, which ensures only grains of a uniform quality get into the bag, is from London, he says. The Sortex Z+ is connected by modem to the supplier's office in London, says Mr Rajantran.

Use of an array of technology involving high resolution cameras, sensors and infrared technology scanners ensures that only the finest white grains of rice pass muster. All else like broken grains, immature grains, bran, yellowed, chalky or red grains or the stray bit of husk do not get through.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

The White Economy: Story of 1,000 Idli makers in Mumbai.

Pottery and leather, we know, but 700 of Dharavi's families are behind 3,00,000 idlis feeding Mumbai's appetite each day

It's 3.30 am, and Dharavi's 90 Feet Road is in no mood to wind down. The streetfood stalls are ready to down shutters after Sehri, the last meal Muslims eat before the break of fajr or dawn during the month of Ramzan. But for its 1,000-odd idli makers, it's time to move.

The alleys that crisscross this 557-acre intricate area, lined by 15x15 feet kholis, go from dark to glowing as tubelights flare up in successive shanties. Inside, men who only use their first names - Chella, Chinna, Murugan, Karpan — bow to a gigantic aluminium steamer, and light up their stoves.

Between 500 to 700 families that live in over 60,000 structures, several of them caboose-like, earn their living by making idlis and vadas, every South Indian's staple breakfast. Each home whips up a minimum of 400 steaming, fluffy rice cakes every day. A household with two or three men could take that number up to 1,000.

That's nearly 3 lakh idlis leaving the shantytown, wedged between Sion and Mahim, on trains along the Central, Western and Harbour lines to satiate Mumbai's workforce.

This community is easily recognised by what they carry on their heads — a large aluminium vessel with idlis snuggled inside. Fastened to it with a fat industrial-strength rubberband are smaller stainless steel containers carrying coconut chutney and sambhar, a heap of paper plates, and an inimitable horn that announces the idliwalla's arrival in a neighbourhood.

Image credit: Cafe Idly.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Dieter's Best Friend: Idli…..

 Low on calories and easy to digest, the Southern Classic,  Idli.

SOUTHERN DELIGHTS Idlis are amongst the few foods today that are healthy and low in calories.

Idlis with sambar and coconut chutney make for the Classic South Indian breakfast or Tiffin . South Indians tend to be particular about their idlis. The steamed rice-lentil preparation must neither be too fluffy nor too rubbery, neither too fermented nor too flat.

Three big Idlis (100 gm) contain around 130 calories. This is an astonishingly low number of calories for any dish. The rice and lentils complement each other: one makes up for the amino acids deficient in the other.

Since Idlis are fermented and then steamed, the soft, fluffy white patties are among the most easily digestible of foods. The Idli's easy digestibility makes it an ideal food for infants, the elderly and the convalescing.

However, Idlis can be too easy to digest for some people. Diabetics, for example, need low glycaemic index foods like chapatis and whole wheat bread rather than Idlis for breakfast. Fibre-rich foods and whole grains are digested slowly and release glucose at a slow and steady rate into the bloodstream.

If you are on a diet, the Idli is one of your best friends.

Image credit: Cafe Idly.