Book Review

Saransh Goila’s Magical Flying Carpet and His Amazing Food Discoveries Across India

Posted: June 24, 2015 at 5:52 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

I FIRST MET Saransh Goila at a Delhi Gourmet Club dinner about three years ago. He had just finished filming Roti Rasta Aur India, the country’s first food road show on Madhuri Dixit Nene and Sanjeev Kapoor’s Food Food channel, and he was introduced to the Club by my good friend Rachel Tanzer, his agent.

I loved Saransh’s bright-eyed enthusiasm and the palpable excitement he brought to the table, though I would have been happier if he had earned his spurs first in the kitchen and then on the television screen. My old gripe about the cult of celebrity chefs is that they walk away with the glory, and the big bucks, leaving crumbs for their peers who sweat it out in the kitchen and raise the bar daily for restaurants across the country. I have even seen hugely talented chefs melt into insignificance in the presence of television chefs. It saddens me.

In Saransh’s defence, I must however say that he never had any doubt about the career he wanted for himself. From his first year at IHM Aurangabad, when Saransh, on popular demand because of his gift of the gab and ready wit, always ended up as emcee at college events, he took an important career decision — he would employ his histrionic skills and his first-hand knowledge of food to bridge the distance between the guardians of the country’s cuisines and television audiences hungry for information.

That is exactly what he did on Roti Rasta Aur India. It was also a book waiting to be written, for Saransh had travelled 20,000km across 25 states in 100 days to make food discoveries that would earn his series a place in the Limca Book of Records. Fortunately for us, Saransh has lent his incredible experience the aura of immortality that only the pages of a book can give. The book is titled India On My Platter (Om Books International; Rs 295) — and it is just like Saransh: full of joie de vivre, brimming over with the sense of exultation that only a new discovery can bring. And it documents not only an incredible journey, but also recipes that truly bring India to the reader’s plate, though occasionally they sound eccentric (any takers for Dark Chocolate Kheer, or maybe Chocolate Football Momos inspired by Bhaichung Bhutia?!).

On a jolly ride through the myriad kitchens of India, the book takes the leader on an amazing sensory voyage from Kargil to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat’s farthest extremity to Gangtok’s Tashi Delek. Ordinary mortals would have ended with jangled nerves after such a journey, but Saransh returns with delicious tales.

From his encounter with Santosh, the man who makes 120 stuffed paranthas an hour at Murthal’s famous foodie magnet, Ahuja No. 1, to a 32-course meal for the princely sum of Rs 100 at Vijayawada’s Ramaiah Andhra Vegetarian Meals, Saransh savours the country’s culinary diversity. From his decadent Beetroot Halwa and Rabri Toast inspired by Nadur Farm, which is famous nationally for its goat’s milk, near the gastro-spiritual town of Udupi, to the Chocolate Pakodas and 54 Degree Chocolate (it owes its name to the fact that hot chocolate is best served at 54 degrees C) served at Choko La in Puducherry, Saransh packs in information without sacrificing his accessible narrative style.

Saransh weaves his story with lesser-known food facts gleaned from across the country. He discovers Hyderabad’s badaam ki jaali (an additive-free dessert made only with almonds and sugar) in the shadow of the Charminar and he stumbles upon the famous Osmania biscuits at the Karachi Bakery. He gets Sayyed Hussain of Café Bahar at Basheer Bagh to delve into the secrets of the perfect Hyderabadi biryani and comes back with the recipe of an interesting one made with gobhi musallam.

Riding his superfast flying carpet, Saransh samples the gastronomic wealth of India and shares the spoils with his readers — from the sund panjeeri of Jammu’s 81-year-old Pahalwan Di Hatti to the famous chocolate chip cookies of Dylan’s Toasted & Roasted Coffee House in Manali, from the egg samosa of Sanjay Shahu’s Bhai Bhai Omelette Centre in Surat to the anda chutney of Good Luck Café, Pune, from the kachori with saada aloo of Gwalior’s Scindia School to the sheermal made by the great great grandson of its inventor, Mohammadus Jaanashin, at Lucknow’s Chawalwali Gali and of course, the famous kababs of the legendary ‘Tunday’, Murad Ali, whose grandson Muhammad Osman  now carries forward the family tradition.

I can keep enumerating examples from Saransh’s delectable quest, but you’d be better off reading the book. It’s a breezy read, but it contains weighty information.