Chewing On India

DosaCould an Indian dish be as universally loved as the burger?

Chai latte, vindaloo, chicken tikka masala; Indian food has already found a corner on the international table. But it hasn’t quite achieved the pride of place and immediate recognition that chow mein, burger, pizza or nachos have. There are very few cities in the  world where you won’t find any of these dishes; Indian food, though, is still restricted to the major metropolises. But there are a few dishes which have the potential to jump into the limelight and make Indian food ubiquitous.

Dosa: Imagine walking down the Champs Élysées and popping in for a Lyonnaise potato dosa, sitting across the Colosseum with an Arrabbiata smeared dosa, or biting into a shrimp barbie dosa before diving into the Great Barrier Reef. Pipe dream? Not quite. From Ulan Bator to Okinawa, Alice Springs to Winnipeg, you can find restaurants serving dosa. The beauty of the dosa is that it’s a tabula rasa, you can roll, fold or smear anything into its flat white face. You can stick to a potato filling or you can be as innovative as you dare.
Its similarity to a crepe, or pancake, make it easily accessible to any palate and setting up a dosa counter doesn’t need a high investment or specialised equipment. The sizzle of the batter
and the drama of shaping it into a perfect circle make for a great spectacle. Expect two things to happen: Dosas are going to be available in almost every city and the second generation of restaurateurs are going to incorporate local foods into the fillings.

Biryani in a box: There isn’t a single one-pot Indian dish that is more amenable to being sold in an easy-to-carry, easy to re-heat box than the biryani. A flavourful, spiced rice dish, it’s a meal in itself, so it’s perfect for lunch or dinner at work, with family or friends, or in front of the TV by yourself.
Adapting the biryani to suit your diner is easy: There’s no dearth of modifications you can make without losing its traditional character. You can either approach the biryani by region, by the degree of spiciness or by the degree of wetness. You can make it with any kind of meat or seafood you like. There are plenty of options for vegetarians and even vegans to choose from. Addons like raita, a chopped salad, papad or pickles are just as easy to pack.
In a kiosk format at a mall, you can make it interactive by offering a variety of toppings from browned onions, chopped coriander, whole mint or fried dried fruits.
Add some kebabs and a curry, and you’ve got a biryani platter.

Published  Forbes Life, January 9 2015. Read the print version here

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