Connecting meaningfully with people and experiencing cultures and cuisines through them is a bonus.
Joining the plethora of platforms showcasing Indian cuisine is Ranveer Brar’s Dum Laga Ke India (streaming on Disney+ Hotstar). This time, the celebrity chef chronicles the food culture of four Indian metropolises — Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Bengaluru — but through the eyes of celebrity locals. What emerges is a unique, deeply personal and nostalgic view of food and place.
“For me, food and travel always go hand-in-hand, as one makes the other exciting,” Brar told this correspondent. “The idea this time was to also touch base with select celebrities who have a special connection with their respective cities and their food.”
PV Sindhu, Vaani Kapoor, Arman Malik and Pranitha Subhash feature alongside Chef Ranveer in Dum Laga Ke India’s four episodes. The show also has Brar charting a “biryani trail” (it’s produced by Biryani by Kilo) across India, which he believes viewers will “definitely enjoy and relate to”. Considering the strong opinions Indians seem to have on biryani, he may well be right. It also sets up a very fun discussion in the episode featuring Sindhu, as the badminton ace and the chef trade good-natured banter about whether Hyderabadi or Lucknowi biryani is the more superior dish.
The cities and celebrities featured in the show have a specific relevance to Brar.
Of Mumbai, he notes: “It is the city I have spent a good decade in, and then some; it’s my second home. The street food culture is absolutely unique and it matches the busy, always on-the-go lifestyle of Mumbaikars.”
Bengaluru, on the other hand, is a curious mix of the modern and the rooted. “It’s super techno [sic] but it retains its cultural roots and absolutely spoils you in terms of food offerings,” Brar enthuses.
Kolkata is a spiritual home. “I grew up in a Bengali neighborhood in Lucknow, so Bengali food is my second love after Lucknowi cuisine,” Brar shares. “The city moves to its own tune and pace, I can get lost in its meandering lanes and find myself and something new — every single time.”
As for his celebrity guests, Brar had a lot in common with them too. “For instance, I could totally identify with Vaani Kapoor’s typical Punjabi household and food anecdotes. Armaan and I go back a long way, from when we shot together for a show titled Ranveer’s Café. We share a love for Kolkata and of course, music.” Brar treasured these interactions even more than usual because he “find(s) connecting to people via their food stories endearing, and instantaneous”.
These encounters help Brar to view certain food and ingredients from a fresh perspective. Connecting meaningfully with people and experiencing cultures and cuisines through them is a bonus. “As a chef and creator, both fuel my thought process and keep me refreshed,” Brar says. “And that’s what I experienced in Dum Laga Ke India as well.”
Easy Chana Biriyani by Ranveer Brar
Serves 2. Prep time: 10 mins. Cook time: 30 mins.
Heat oil in a pan, then add cumin seeds, cloves, black cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and green cardamom. Cook for a minute. Add ginger garlic paste and cook till it loses its raw smell. Add tomatoes, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, nutmeg powder, mace powder and salt to taste. Cook for 4-5 minutes.
Add yoghurt, mixing well as it will start to curdle. Add chickpeas, mix well once more, and cook for a minute. Add mint leaves, green chillies and half of the barista, mix well.
Spread the rice evenly all over without breaking the grain. Add saffron water, kewra essence and the remaining barista. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve hot with raita.