How Cheese Is Taking Over Indian Foods
Image Credit: Our street food is overloaded with cheese | Unsplash

Indians are truly blessed in terms of food. From the comforting ghar ka dal-chawal and the world-class restaurants to the treasure trove that is the street food, we simply have it all! But ever since the newer generation has gotten into the habit of "Westernizing" everything (yes, I am looking at you, millenials and gen-z), there has been a new trend of "Westernizing" Indian food with a lot of cheese. This phenomenon started with mayo and cheese being added to momos or dumplings and has now spread far and wide, from cheese dosas and sandwiches to even dhoklas and sweets.

This rising food trend was met with mixed reactions from the public. The most viral one was from Balsher Singh Sidhu (@balsher_sidhu), a Twitter user who made this viral tweet about the excessive use of cheese in Indian street food. Here’s what the tweet said:

 "(Unpopular?) opinion: The Indian Street food scene is being ruined by excessive mayo and shredded cheese. They just destroy the actual flavors. Indian food is good enough already without being drowned in mayo and cheese." Well, we beg to differ. This is not an unpopular opinion but an extremely popular one! And here were some other Twitteratis agreeing with the statement:

"True.. very true. I saw a woman eating nothing but dosa and cheese, no ghee or chutney with it. That's just criminal." - @pahade_saurabh

"Exactly what I was telling a friend the other day: they put cheese on bread, omelettes, tikkis, dal makhni, and everything." -- @kartarsingh00

"I don’t like how Americanized our food palates have become. Mayi doesn’t taste good, and cheese is meh. It doesn’t triumph over the spices used in Indian cuisine"-@ohmyhoven

Cheesy food is delicious but we have too much of it | Unsplash

Indians have all these great ingredients and amazing flavors that are being appreciated by many foreign countries, while we are overindulging in fats, as processed cheese is pretty much mostly fat. But we cannot ignore that it is all about popular and mouth-watering taste. As discussed, our exposure to cheese has mostly been through American fast food. A lesser-known fact is that these fast foods themselves are adaptations of traditional non-American dishes, a huge example being everyone’s favorite, pizza. While traditional Italian pizzas use small dollops of mozzarella cheese, the American style is completely different, where cheese coats the entire pizza. This prompted experimentation with combining East and West cuisines, with cheese and sauces infiltrating our Desi cuisine, fusing their flavors with Indian spices. Street vendors, not fine dining establishments, were the first to recognize this trend. So, it will be unfair to blame this uprising entirely on the food bloggers out there who keep enticing us with beautiful clips of street food vendors grating cheese on literally everything. The trend had been well underway before that; the bloggers simply drove it into everyone’s social media feed.

Street food is all about fat, salt, and spices, so cheese just blends in well, kind of like a cherry on top. Financially speaking, street vendors also want to increase the variety of products and have a higher margin without complicating the supply chain. Here, cheese fits in well since you can just add store-bought cheese and increase the price. So while the original cost for preparing the dish would be pretty low, adding cheese can hike up the price.

Evolution, globalisation, global village, multiculturalism - call it what you want, the truth is that as the world is getting more interconnected, our food, and palate, is becoming more adventurous and assimilating more diverse tastes. As more Indians grow accustomed to high-calorie foods full of fat, our relationship with cheese is going places. For every new smoothie aficionado, we have another new cheese enthusiast. Cheese tops our list due to the taste, satiety, and, not the least, because it is cheap. I mean, of course, we Indians are always in favor of a good bargain!

But, as there are two sides to everything, we do have to give some credit to the innovative chefs across the nation for combining some wonderful flavors to create a mouth-watering melange of new fusion foods. We perhaps do not appreciate, enough, their efforts in taking our restaurant and street food game to the next level. I mean, Delhi belly exists only because the street food tastes great, right? 

That said, while some street foods do taste better with that extra sprinkling of cheese, one can never take away the true taste of strong Indian spices that connect us to our collective Indian identity. Cheese in chaat? The jury is still out on that one.