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Can Chappan Bhog fight the West?

September 02, 2005 19:46 IST

Can the Chappan Bhog ward off the Chinese noodle's invasion of Indian dining tables? Can the Aam Panna fight the pizza?

Has Indian cuisine been ignored by the marketing jugernaut of the country's food industry?

The inaugural of a 10-day food festival in the southern Indian metropolis of Bangalore on Friday threw up such interesting questions.

"There is a huge business potential if the Indian food industry decides to tap and market the cuisine of pilgrimage centres like Varanasi, Haridwar, Mathura [in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh]," said Saurabh Ratan, general manager, Taj Residency.

He was announcing the launch of the festival of ethnic cuisine from Saliana -- in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

While the Indian food industry goes gaga over sizzlers, burgers or fries, the humble Panna (a drink of raw mangoes) and other delicacies -- that make up street food in scores of Indian pilgrim centres -- remain undiscovered by a large number of Indians, he said.

For instance, the Chappan Bhog – a dish popular among pilgrims -- if marketed well, could become a popular eating trend all over the country.

"We have failed to tap such concepts which lie here in the very heart of India," Ratan said, adding that these foods were low on cost and high on nutrition. "Remember most of the food is targeted at pilgrims with a frugal lifestyle."

"While the West is discovering the wide range of vegetarian cuisine that India offers, back home people have actually ignored it," Ratan lamented.

Milk-based desserts and cuisine from rural Punjab and central India are also just waiting for the right entrepreneurial push.

"[The north Indian state of] Punjab does not only mean Tandoori Chicken. The entire north Punjab cuisine, which has the richness of adjacent Kashmir, has been largely ignored, so has cuisine from places in central India, like Bhopal," Ratan pointed out.

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, scion of the erstwhile rulers of the southern Indian state of Karnataka, and Vikram Singh, from the erstwhile royal house of Madhya Pradesh, said cuisine from these states had also remained untapped by the Indian food industry. 

Lack of an adequate platform to promote these cuisines, inadequate exposure, and difficulty in recruiting cooks who know the traditional cooking secrets were some of the factors that had found authentic Indian food losing out to the two-minute cooking wave.

"It has finally become a question of the Panna versus the pizza. Who wins ultimately depends on how we market it," Singh said.
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