Millennials’ food choices, in the pre-lockdown era, remained focused mostly on international cuisines with the ubiquitous junk food thrown in for good measure. Indian and home-made food – other than what moms forced them to eat, seldom figured on their list of preferences.
Post the Covid-19 scare, things seem to have moved in the diametrically opposite direction and with everyone, including popular chefs and regular housewives, using their downtime to share some simple yet exotic desi recipes, traditional food is finally coming into its own. It’s catching the youngsters’ fancy in a big way. Here are some food-creators who are inspiring young gourmets to rustle up a variety – from golgappe to gatte ki sabzi, dosa to dum aaloo in simple, easy styles…
It was way back in 2007 when Nisha, in a bid to kill time, started blogging about home food and its merits. Four years later, when videos (NishaMadhulika) of her culinary creations made their way online, her popularity zoomed to make her one of the most popular YouTube chefs. “My focus has always been on simple, healthy food,” says Nisha who has over 1,500 food videos- the latest being gluten-free jalebis and peanut butter “that help increase immunity in these times”.
Edgy and cool – that’s what Vicky likes his food to be and for the lockdown this chef extraordinaire has been offering a range on his channel (Vickythechef)– from khichdi (“a perfect comfort for many”) to Sindhi food that also includes some recipes that “come straight from my mom and aunts”. The idea has been to use stuff that’s readily available in the fridge says Vicky whose repertoire, besides desi fare, also takes inspiration from a long career in countries like Peru and Australia and years spent as chef on a cruise liner.
Popular as the (Vahchef – VahRehVah), Sanjay likes to spread the message of family bonding through his videos. For the first few days of the lockdown he did not post any videos but, on hearing reports of increasing domestic friction in some homes, decided to drive home a simple message to viewers – that a man who cooks keeps his wife and children always happy. Each video that he’s been sharing since shows him cooking a wide array of dishes, from biryani to salads, gulab jamun and carrot halwa and then inviting his wife Ragini or “Queen Victoria”, as he calls her, to partake of the goodies.
Although the smorgasbord of her recipes (homecookingshow) over the last 10 years has included both traditional as well as international cuisine, it’s the former that’s been winning hands down in popularity especially since the lockdown commenced. Flaky wheat parotta, spinach dal, bhindi masala and biryani pulao have all been finding favour with youngsters “who – unable to order readymade food online in this period” are also getting inspired enough to don the apron,” she smiles.
“Local is exotic, especially in times like these,” says Nishant who’s been almost synonymous for many with Bihari food. And in times when stepping out is a no-no, he’s been advocating the use of only the minimum of ingredients including even “discarded stuff like veggie peals to prepare delightful dishes”. Besides using side pieces of bread loaves to create puddings, his haldi ki sabzi, thecha chutney and sattu preparations that help increase the body’s immunity have also been a big hit on his channel (chef_nishant_choubey). Nishant also roots for traditional implements like sil-batta and imam-dasta “to add a unique flavour to cooking”.
Happy with just being referred to as a keen cook and housewife, Meeta’s online presence started when her young son who’s studying abroad requested for ‘how to make’ videos of some of his favourite dishes. She started mailing them to him and when the lockdown began, put them online (Meetaz Cookingrecipes) for the benefit of his friends as well. Having made a start with “stuff that students can prepare easily” to even exotic fare like mango halwa, beetroot puris, fruit smoothies, etc, Meeta plans to eventually put the spotlight on the vast repertoire of Rajasthan cuisine.
“Contrary to popular belief, Punjabi food is far from rich and oily, in fact, it’s healthy and wholesome,” says the chef who, after Covid-19 struck has been offering easy to make dishes like baigan bharta, matar aaloo and samosas but with a slight twist to viewers online (Delhi 2). Discouraging the use of cream, cashews, saffron or colours to enhance flavours, Sweety advocates the addition of asli/desi ghee (“that’s pure and healthy”) to food. “I promote slow cooking to let the natural oils of pulses, vegetables and spices emerge and add their distinct taste to food,” he says.