Chefs and restaurateurs from SAARC countries, including Pakistan, will assemble for a two-day culinary event which aims to provide a platform for cultural exchanges and discussions on South Asian issues. Titled “Food for Thought”, the event of the South Asian Association for Gastronomy (SAAG) is likely to become an annual feature. The inaugural food festival started Saturday and it will also be held today, Sunday.
According to the organisers of the event, the event has been encouraged by the Union Ministry of Tourism and Culture. During the event, not only would chefs from Asian nations showcase their specialties, the guests from various fields will be given themes on cultural and political issues to discuss while relishing delicacies from SAARC countries. “The idea is to promote regional unity through culinary diversity in South Asia,” said Maneesh Beheti, the organiser of the event and founder of SAAG. He added that the idea to organise such a festival of South Asian cuisines stemmed during his visit to various countries in these regions.
“As part of the South Asian Association for Gastronomy, an organisation that works with food scholars, leading chefs, policy influencers and food lovers of the South Asian region, I recently visited SAARC countries to connect with people. My first stop was Pakistan, where I travelled to 11 cities and met some of the most influential people connected with the world of gastronomy. The purpose of my visit was also to document the street foods of Pakistan, leading ultimately to a coffee table book on the street foods of South Asia,” Beheti said. “After Pakistan, I visited other participating nations to delve into their culinary diversities and felt gratified with their enthusiastic response to participate in our inaugural Food for Thought fest,” he said.
Some of the participating hotels and restaurants in the fest and their proposed offerings are as follows: Kasturi Garden, Dhaka: authentic Bangladesh cuisine; Heritage Restaurant, Dhaka: modern Bangladeshi food; Raza Abbas, Dubai: modern Pakistani food; Avari Hotel, Lahore: authentic Pakistani cuisine; Folk Heritage Museum Restaurant, Thimpu: a mix of traditional and modern Bhutanese cuisine; Bhojan Griha, Kathmandu: authentic Newari and Rana cuisines of Nepal; Serena Hotel, Kabul: to serve the famed robust cuisine of Afghanistan.
Former cricketer Rahul Dravid will be a guest at the festival. Dravid told The Sunday Guardian that besides building a taste for various types of foods from South Asia, the fest will serve as a platform for convergence of ideas, flavours and cultures from the region and will bring this part of the world closer.
Former Union minister and author Shashi Tharoor will also share his experience of “food diplomacy” and culinary cultural exchanges in South Asia at the event. “Food sustains life, encourages thought, nourishes the intellect, and expands your horizons (as well as your waistline). Above all, good food, tastily made and tastefully presented, is a pleasure to view, consume and reflect upon. We literally eat to live — in the fullest sense of the word ‘live’,” he told The Sunday Guardian.
Culinary workshops will also be organised at the event to help guests learn and note down the recipes of various South Asian delicacies.