Flavors of Beijing: Bollywood movies inspire Indian food craze

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From small eateries to lavishly decorated eateries, Beijing has hosted a number of Indian restaurants over the past two decades. Today in our “Flavors of Beijing” series, we visit a staple restaurant from North India, which has foodies from all over the city who come for their dose of Indian flavors. Restaurant manager Chandan Kumar Bhanja tells how Indian cuisine became popular in the capital through Bollywood films.

Introducing Flavors of Beijing, a food tour exploring international cuisines mesmerizing local and expat foodies in the Chinese capital. My name is Lyne Lin and I am a foodie at heart. Today we go to an Indian restaurant located just above an Irish pub in downtown Beijing.

Much like Chinese food, Indian cuisine is widely available around the world thanks to the Indian diaspora. Growing up in Canada, Indian food was both an exotic treat for my girls night out or a quick snack I could grab at the campus cafe between classes.

Indian spices and food ingredients were placed on the table. / CGTN

Indian spices and food ingredients were placed on the table. / CGTN

The generous use of spices in Indian cuisine has always kept me coming back for more. But sometimes the strong aromas and rich blend of ingredients can overwhelm an unfamiliar palate.

Chandan Kumar Bhanja, who has been part of Beijing’s food scene for nearly eight years, says Indian cuisine has only recently become popular with local diners.

“I think when I came here in 2015 less people liked Indian. Not just Indian food, maybe other dishes too. But now I look around, everyone loves Indian food , Indian culture… Everything. Like yoga. I think there is a big difference, “Chandan Kumar Bhanja told CGTN.

“First of all, it’s the movie. Indian movie. Like Dangal. You know, it’s very famous in China and Bajrangi Bhaijaan, so people watch Indian movies and get interested in Indian culture and Indian cuisine, ”explained Chandan Kumar Bhanja.

From Dangal and Bajrangi Bhaijaan to Secret Superstars, Bollywood films have performed particularly well at the Chinese box office in recent years.

Focusing on familiar themes such as family drama, education, the rural-urban divide and more, Indian films strike a chord with Chinese viewers. As for the Indian dishes presented in these films, they certainly tickled the Chinese taste buds.

A North Indian thali (or plateau) on the table. / CGTN

A North Indian thali (or plateau) on the table. / CGTN

Chef Rabiul from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) has worked in Beijing for almost six years. He says a number of Indian dishes are the most popular among Chinese diners. “Lots of Chinese really like Indian food, like Indian curry, butter chicken, samosa, lots of tandoori, the Chinese really like it.”

Indian cuisine is an endless array of tasty dishes, brought together across the diverse culture and vibrant landscapes of the subcontinent. And today Chef Rabiul served us a North Indian thali: “Basically thali means a round dish. Normally in India we serve thali with a copper pot. We serve vegetarians and non-vegetarians. [thalis]. But if we go to South India or East India, they have their own version of the thali. So today I present to you the North Indian style. “

This delicious platter of lentil soup, butter chicken, paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and other iconic North Indian dishes is nothing short of a grand feast. And to taste them the traditional Indian way, says Chef Rabiul, I have to eat with my hands.

And after several attempts, I must admit that this food technique is an art that takes skill and practice to master… I need to use the dexterity of all my fingers to manage food.

This traditional Indian food practice is said to show respect and gratitude for food, which often requires elaborate effort.

And to better understand how laborious Indian cooking can be, Chef Rabiul takes me into the kitchen and teaches me how to make the world famous Butter Chicken.

That’s a lot of diced veg, a mix of spices… the right amount of spices, stir-frying and even more stir-frying… frying and a long period of simmering and swirling the mixture before a bowl of Incredibly creamy and rich butter chicken only makes its way to the table.


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