~By Dilip Bobb
In kitchens all across India, there is a bubbling and stewing and the shrill whistling of pressure cookers as a storm is stirred up over the alleged proposal to make khichdi the national dish. Other contenders have been in a stew and sparks are flying. Here’s how the culinary clash unfolds.
Pav Bhaji: There has not been a bigger crisis since British restaurants started ad-ding ketchup to curry. This is an anti-national act. Khichdi was invented for Englishmen with weak stomachs and for patients recovering from major surgery. How can it qualify for the title of national dish? This is a cooked up story.
Aloo Paratha: It is indeed a hot potato. It is an attempt to rewrite history. First, the politicians make a khichdi of everything they touch and now they are trying to turn the tables and force this hospital food down our throats. I have a long and distinguished culinary history, and I will not stand up and salute something as bland and tasteless as a mixture of rice and dal.
Sambar Vada: What is there to say, Sirji? Khichdi is comfort food for comfortable people. Not like us in south India. Vada sambar is a contrast of taste and flavours. Add some gunpowder and it will explode in your mouth like a Rajnikanth dialogue. Some coconut chutney and you will feel like Silky Smitha. Now, this government sitting in North India is discriminating against us south of the Vindhyas. It is a language issue, we are tongue tied.
Hyderabadi Biryani: I have been enjoyed by kings and emperors, chronicled in history books and even sold at Hyderabad airport so visitors can take it back as royal gifts for friends and family. Biryani is a complex mixture of rice, meat, vegetables, yoghurt and aromatic spices and cooked for hours in a sealed handi. Khichdi is just handy. Hyderabadi biryani is a dish you can find all across India, which makes it truly national. It is like comparing chalk and cheese.
Butter Chicken: Talking about cheese, I hear some muttering in that section of the kitchen.
Mutter Paneer: It is me. I am most upset. I cannot digest this news about khichdi, even though it is good for digestion and upset stomachs. My combination is unbeatable, peas and cottage cheese in spicy gravy, a dish that is as national as, well…, the national anthem. I would like to take this news with a pinch of salt but it is an attempt to divide the national along culinary lines.
Butter Chicken: Chak De! What can be more deserving of the national dish title than butter chicken? From humble origins in Ludhiana as murg makhani, I have made Indian cuisine famous the world over. Remove the butter and gravy and it is transformed into Tandoori Chicken. If chicken tikka masala is rated the most favourite dish clearly it is because someone is buttering up the judges. I see this as a right-left wing conspiracy.
Rajma Chawal: This is clearly a bid to curry favour. There is a sinister conspiracy behind this move, an attempt to stir the pot. If the discussions on Republic TV are any indication, the government will make us eat khichdi before starting work, and when we sign off. It will make us sick, which means more khichdi.
Rogan Josh: There is no meat in their argument. Khichdi had become another name for coalition governments and now they are honouring it at India Gate? Next they will put up a memorial. It is like Marie Antoinette saying if there is no cake let them eat bread.
Chicken Manchurian: I am the original make in India model. Anyone who invents a Chinese dish in India and makes it popular and pan-Indian deserves some recognition. Whether Dhokla or Doklam, fusion food has no boundaries.
Pidi: Every dog has its day and now that I’ve had mine and become an overnight star, may I suggest biscuits? It offers a balanced diet as you saw in the video. No khichdi in my bowl, please, I come from a pedigreed background, which explains why he calls me Pidi. I turn my nose up at Khichdi, it’s a dog’s breakfast.