Culture

East Indian Kitchen by Michael Swamy

Delicacies From Across India

One of the big attractions of India is that no two towns, even those just a few miles away from each other, are the same. The cooking of Andhra Pradesh, for example, varies from mini-region to mini-region. The coastal preparations in the Rayalaseema region and Visakhapatnam district are dissimilar. Just a few hours by train away from Visakhapatnam, the city of Vijayawada serves up a level of heat and spice that can make the smoke come out of your ears, and tears run down your nose. Hyderabad in the next state is influenced by the region’s centuries-old Nizami rule, and so the biryani is unlike any other in the country. The same goes for every town and every region in the country: meaning that in its plurality and diversity, a whole lifetime could go into sampling the meals of every single region, small town, and large city in India. The myriad communities drive the difference. So to know India’s communities, as intimidating an endeavor as that is, is to know India.

Food tells stories of winners and losers, the oppressors and the oppressed. Of where nomads come from and the geography of the region. Thus, regional cooking can teach us a lot about the culture that shapes the land and the country it is a part of. So for this issue’s food special, we’ve decided to explore the regional cooking of India, through cookbooks! Each cookbook tells a story. Let’s dive in.

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Nandita Bakhshi, CEO, Bank of the West and Dream maker

‘As a teenager, I wish I had known that being different is a strength.’

It was early 2020 when we first reached out to Nandita Bakhshi about profiling her. Everything was in motion until suddenly, COVID-19 hit. The profile would have to be put on hold while Nandita focused on what was now the central priority in her life: helping her customers and associates find their way through a pandemic.

Success didn’t fall into Bakhshi’s lap. She earned it from the ground up by starting out as a bank teller. Perhaps that’s why she’s able to bring both humanity and heart to everything she does. Bakhshi explained, “I fell in love with what banking stands for, which is really to help individuals meet their financial needs. I truly believe we are dream-makers. We put people in their homes, we give them student loans, we give them car loans, we help them with their credit, their deposit needs, their retirement.”

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Music composer and pianist Raashi Kulkarni

Musical Maestro Raashi Kulkarni

Music composer and pianist Raashi Kulkarni A composer and pianist based in Los Angeles, Raashi Kulkarni has produced music for television series, such as The CW’s “Supergirl,” DC’s “Legends of Tomorrow,” and “The Flash.” She has also composed and orchestrated the music for DC Universe’s first Bollywood-inspired musical, which was featured on DC’s Legends of…

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Maunika Gowardhan prepares Rajasthani khade masala ka murgh

Getting to know Maunika Gowardhan, chef and author of “Thali”

One of the most delightful gifts of Indian food to the world appears in a thali. A thali is a traditional arrangement of delicacies served on a platter, found in almost every region of India. From north to south, east to west, each region varies tremendously, right from the shape of the plate to the manner in which dishes are arranged. In Rajasthan, food is served literally on an enormous round platter, while in Kerala, a sadhya is arranged on a banana leaf. To understand India’s diversity, U.K.-based chef and writer Maunika Gowardhan says, look no further than a thali.
The more you talk to Gowardhan about Indian food, the more you realize how little you know about India’s kaleidoscopic diversity. She has been in food for almost two decades and cooked alongside the likes of Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal. Hundreds of thousands of people read and attempt her recipes: South Asians trying to replicate the food of home and non-South Asians who want a taste of authentic Indian food in their kitchens. Having visited the subcontinent “at least 15 times in the past five years,” she lives her life in a revelry of Indian flavors. Few are more qualified to write the book on it. And she has. “Thali,” an exploration of dishes served on platters across India, is a labor of love created in homage to the diversity in India’s regional cuisine and a taste of home.
SEEMA sat down with Maunika Gowardhan to learn more.

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DIWALI, THE SEASON OF LIGHTS AND DESSERTS!

Come November, and it is time for the festival of lights, aka Diwali or Deepawali. Arguably the most popular festivals of the Hindu calendar, it celebrates the victory of good over evil and light over darkness.

Diwali is all about new beginnings, prosperity — and happiness. It marks the beginning of the new year in some communities in states like Gujarat and Rajasthan and is celebrated for a period of five days. The worship of Goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth, is one of the highlights of the festival, along with the lighting of lamps. As with all festivals, food is an integral part of the celebration, and Diwali is defined by the mouth-watering desserts, specially prepared for the occasion.

Chef Praveen Shetty of Conrad Bengaluru, whose team has recently launched Khushiyan by Hilton, a range of exclusive sweets for the festive season, provided four of the recipes.

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SEEMA Recommends: Festive Eats

It’s that most wonderful time of the year — the festive season, the season of fancy clothes, family gatherings (safely done, of course), traditional activities, and lavish feasts. No festival is really complete without the joy of a grand eat, blitzing through varieties of snacks, savories, desserts, what have you. In the midst of all the nosy relatives and the incessant picture-taking, the food is really the shining beacon at big fat Indian festivals.

We at SEEMA wholeheartedly agree, having enjoyed a plate — or five — of our favorites at these occasions. We’ve got for you some of the team’s favorite festive eats, from the sweet to the delightfully savory, and hope you’ll enjoy these for yourselves this season!

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