The aromas from Indian kitchens titillate the senses and interestingly, this sensory experience is never the same from one kitchen to another.
As you travel across the country, the culinary adventures and flavours get more exciting and one realises that Indians and food are synonymous – there is no one without the other. With the advent and popularity of cooking shows on television and OTT platforms, this belief is reinforced strongly. Of course, we have definitely come a long way from India’s first cookery show hosted by Jiggs Kalra on Doordarshan in the early 1990s. A host of celebrity chefs like Sanjeev Kapoor, Tarla Dalal, Ranveer Brar, Ritu Dalmia and Saransh Goila, have anchored successful cookery shows showcasing different types of culinary fares. Today, we are feasting not just on Indian food but Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and more. And OTT platforms offer some fabulous shows which are a perfect visual treat.
Personally, I like watching not just cookery shows but also docuseries and lifestyle shows that focus on a country’s culinary tradition and culture as they are a fascinating watch. The love for Asian food has exploded globally over the last few decades and OTT platforms now have a host of shows that not just show you how to make dishes but also teach you their history and origins. Whatever the culture or country, every dish doesn’t just have a history but a story as well and there are many shows that take you on these sensational food journeys. For instance, Korean food lovers must check out Netflix’s docuseries  like ‘Korean Cold Noodle Rhapsody’, ‘Korean Pork Belly Rhapsody’, ‘Hanwoo Rhapsody’ and ‘The Hungry and the Hairy’ while those who have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese food must watch ‘Samurai Gourmet’ and ‘Flavourful Origins’.
Over the years, many international chefs like Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver have found fans in India but MasterChef Australia literally pushed India’s obsession with food to another level. Home cooks (young and old) started to experiment and discover their hidden talent and switching on the television meant being bombarded with numerous cookery shows and contests across all languages. The craving for different cuisines have now made shows ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat’, ‘Jamie At Home’, ‘Simply Nigella’, ‘Cooked’, ‘Binging with Babish’ and ‘Bizarre Foods with Andre Zimmern’ quite popular with the Indian audience.
There are shows from India as well on OTT platforms but sadly, not many of these culinary shows and docuseries have been produced to international standards in terms of concepts or production. Some clearly still follow the TV format possibly in the belief that the TV audience would get hooked onto the show on OTT. This is highly debatable. A show around food has to be a visual feast and treat, and virtually transport you to culinary heaven. The host of the show or series is as important as production value – if the audience can’t relate to them, the show is likely to be a sinking cake.
India is a treasure trove for those who want to make docuseries on food and culture. The Indian biriyani, for instance, is not the same dish across the country and people’s love for it is inexplicable. The multiple versions we find here each with a different regional interpretation, ingredients and history, is what makes that single rice dish a fascinating culinary delight. A food delivery app in 2021 stated that Indians ordered 115 plates of biriyani a minute making it the most ordered dish of the year. I would love to see a well made docuseries made on this wholesome dish which is loved by the rich and poor alike. Like I said, India has an expansive array of delectable dishes for food lovers just as international cuisines do. These dishes with their unique histories need to be out there for everyone to see and cook up a storm.
The love for food can’t exist without relationships. Sitting around the kitchen/restaurant table with your family/ friends and enjoying a delicious meal, is not just a dining experience but a bonding experience as well. And this is precisely why I enjoy watching shows like ‘Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories’. There are many Meshiyas across the world where human relationships are formed while food cravings are satisfied. And it’s these stories which are truly food for the soul.