Read full article by Rewati Rau @India Today PC: India Today
With Delhi’s restaurants promoting gluten-free grains, rediscovering your roots has never looked so attractive
Just like its name, culinary genius Chef Sabyasachi Gorai’s newest restaurant Poppins Hotal evokes nostalgia simple home style soul food from different parts of India. So, it isn’t surprising to see dishes such as millet khichdi, maheri (millet porridge), millet pancakes/dosa, millet halwa, millet pulao and ragi brownie on the menu. What’s heartening to see is that the humble millet is finding more takers in the city, even at new restaurants like Poppins.
But according to the chef, referred to as Chef Saby, it is just a rediscovery, “Millets have been consumed by humans for about 7,000 years and has had a pivotal role in the rise of multi-crop agriculture and settled farming societies. And as Indians today are becoming more healthconscious, they are going back to their roots, and getting familiar with the lesser-known grains. They are substituting the same food with millet to make it more nutritious and healthy. It also adds a great texture to the food that rice is sometimes unable to add,” he adds.
PLATTERS OF COMFORT
Most South Indians are proud of the thayir sadam or curd rice cooked in their house. So, if you find takers for a kambu thayir sadamor pearl millet curd rice at a restaurant, you understand that Indians are finally warming up to millets, again. Ragi in the south, maduwe ka aata in Uttarakhand, jowar in Maharashtra, and bajra in the North, millets have been part of traditional meals across the country much before wheat and refined flour took over our taste buds.
Thankfully, people have finally discovered that these grains are not just healthy but also delicious and are willing to substitute their current staple grains with it. The kambu thayir sadam at Connaught Place’s Searock Coastal Cookhouse & Bar, is a combination of vegetables, kambu (pearl millet), curd and authentic south Indian tadka. The restaurant’s owner Ganesh Rao says, “The Indian hospitality industry is celebrating the comeback of millets. These are whole grains that make an excellent source of fibre, which is good for the heart.” The restaurant also has the ragi manni pudding, a melt-in-the mouth dessert with a smooth texture.
Comfort food is clearly the bottomline. Take for instance the paya millet shorba at Daryaganj, which is cooked, on slow flame, overnight with millet. The meaty flavour is well absorbed by high fibre millet. Says Amit Bagga, owner, Daryaganj, “Millets were always part of the Indian regional cuisine. But, of late, because of rising lifestyle diseases, millets have seen a sudden popularity. From North to South India we have varieties of millets. Also, because there are different types of millets, they are adaptable to various different dishes.”
HEALTH IS WEALTH
Chef Saby says, “A 100 gram serving of raw millet provides 378 calories and is an extremely rich source of protein, dietary fibre, several B vitamins and numerous dietary minerals. Raw millet is 9 per cent water, 73 per cent carbohydrates, 4 per cent fat and 11 per cent protein. Once cooked, these nutritional value help in developing a very different and nutritious flavour profile that you will rarely get with any other indigenous grain.”
No wonder that millennials are so happily being swept away by the millet wave. Chef Anahita N Dhondy, chef partner, SodaBottleOpenerWala CyberHub, uses kodo and proso millets and has also used little millets, ragi (finger millet) bajra and foxtail millet. She feels adding millets to cutlets or tikkis and salads increases its nutritional benefits. “I am really happy that there is a sudden spike, and people are adding it in their daily diets. Lots of chefs/advocates have been promoting it. Thus it is finally in the eyes of the public that it’s regional, indigenous to India, healthy and can be made super delicious,” she says.