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(Clockwise from left) Peanut butter, canned fish, olive oil and prunes.
(Clockwise from left) Peanut butter, canned fish, olive oil and prunes.

Western foods, Indian avatars

Eating oats, prunes, extra virgin olive oilall of which have some health benefitsour way

The fast-food chains that opened shop in India learnt their lesson fast enough: If you have to succeed here you have to Indianize your menus. Some of these chains turned to vegetarian options with a vengeance, paneer (cottage cheese) became a star, Indian spices found space on racks, condiments like chutney took their place alongside ketchup, and even the names had an Indian-sounding ring. McDonald’s aloo tikki burger, Subway’s chicken tikka sub, KFC’s new fried chicken with curry leaves, etc... the list is long.

“The Indian palate is unique, and while we may love to experience everything, many of us will only regularly eat the food items that taste a certain way," explains Daljit Kaur, senior dietitian at the Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi. “Messages about oats being high in fibre have been buzzing for years now. But while almost everyone agrees that consuming oats regularly can be an excellent way to keep our hearts ticking along nicely, it is difficult to find urban Indians who consume them regularly. Most people end up eating them only once in a while," says Sandhya Pandey, chief dietitian, nutrition and dietetics department, Columbia Asia, Palam Vihar, Gurgaon. “‘Frankly some spice has to be part of my breakfast; it has always been,’ is the answer I get when I recommend that people include oats in breakfast. Some people even told me: ‘I can’t become a cold cereal eater overnight, can I?’ Indian tastes are certainly hard-wired!" Pandey adds.

Somebody out there has been listening and that is why they took this superfood, launched savoury varieties in convenient, single, easy-to-cook packaging (what every busy, working Indian needs now) and Indianized the taste (with onion, garlic, lemon, Indian spices, etc.). Whether or not they have a winner on their hands, time will tell, but as of now consuming oats at breakfast seems to be an easier option.

Taking over from oats, we have listed four other “Western" foods, now seen in our grocery stores too, but used infrequently, and worked out ways to eat them—the Indian way!

Prunes (dried plums)

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Prunes

Bishan Negi, chef de cuisine, The MoMo Café, Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon, has some suggestions. “For a breakfast dish, simply borrow from the Moroccans, substitute couscous with dalia (oats) and cook with onions, tomato, zucchini and prunes. A tasty, filling and healthy start to the day! Want it sweet? Don’t add salt, skip the vegetables and add a bit of sugar and cinnamon instead," he adds. “Or try prune koftas (add some prunes to the paneer—1:5 ratio—and also to the curry)," he suggests.

Extra virgin olive oil

Olive oil
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Olive oil

“Till some time back this oil was not considered a good match for Indian cooking (due to its slightly different taste and its low smoking point) but things are changing now," says Pandey.

Executive chef Naval Sharma of Cocoa House (a chain of lounge cafés with units in Gurgaon, Jaipur and Delhi) feels that this grade of olive oil can very easily be incorporated in dishes that don’t need excessive cooking. “All you need to do is be creative while using extra virgin olive oil in Indian cooking. Try cooking succulent prawns with garlic and dry red chillies and coriander; or lightly sauté paneer in olive oil and add some roasted cumin seeds on top; or grill some eggplants drizzled with olive oil. When making foods in tandoori style (chicken, fish, paneer, potato, cauliflower), baste it while cooking and also finish with a mixture of olive oil (instead of the regular butter), lemon juice and chaat masala.

Want something light and quick? Just toss together boiled rajma (kidney beans) or even black chana (chickpea) or lobia (black-eyed beans) with some bell peppers and paneer in Indian-style vinaigrette dressing—olive oil and lemon juice, seasoned with chaat masala," he says.

Peanut butter

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Peanut butter

Canned fish

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Canned fish

Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com

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