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Time travel: World’s oldest cuisines make way to Bengaluru’s dining menu

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BENGALURU: How food shaped humanity is the new dining table trend in Bengaluru. Civilisation cuisines like Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek are surfacing at eateries here. Chefs are doing time travel, researching and curating menus of some of the world’s oldest cuisines. Idea is to educate diners in understanding food as one of the most important achievements of human evolution.

A ten-day Egyptian food festival at Aloft Bengaluru recently saw pre-Ottoman dishes like ful-medames or boiled beans sold traditionally on the streets on Egypt as breakfast snack. The dish is apparently as old as the pharaohs.

Besides this bean, the chef also imported a leafy vegetable called mulukhiyah from Egypt for a traditional broth. Executive chef Aniket Das says that his work experience in Doha made him regularly interact with Egyptian locals which helped him curate this offbeat menu.

“I realised that Egyptian food is similar to Indian food with common ingredients in tomatoes, cumin, star anise and cinnamon yet generating unique flavours,” says Das.

Agrees executive chef Anthony Huang of Sheraton Grand Bangalore, “Millennials are a curious lot. Hosting ancient food festivals also help us gauge the market to keep one-up on contemporaries.” He hosted a Mesopotamian food festival three months ago with ancient cooking techniques. Like jajaj-alkhadrvat or grilled chicken cooked on charcoal fire and stews made in earthen pots.

Food writer Priya Bala says, “People want to hear stories around their food now. Civilisation cuisine comes from a place of history, philosophy and culture. It connects people to their past.”

Last week, Bala hosted a communal table serving conflict cuisine from war-torn Sri Lanka. She narrated stories of fear, terror and deprivation from her country while serving dishes like vadas sold by war widows or a seafood soup made humbly with small fish and mud crabs in the distressed times of limited food supply.

Food expert Aslam Gafoor adds that his experience of eating Arabstyle biryani called mandi with minimal flavours was reflective of the country’s scarce supply on their arid terrain, at small joints in Kammanahalli and Frazer Town.

“Civilisation cuisine is a bold move because not all cuisines are easily accepted. It will, however, draw the real foodies of Bengaluru as it is a new way to experience ancient past,” says Gafoor.

Avid traveler Arjun Pandalai makes it a point to indulge in historic local cuisines when visiting a new country. During his recent trip to Russia, he tried Georgian cuisine known for its Silk Road influences and distinct culinary traditions of their royalty and farmers.

“The food may or may not be tasty but the best way to explore a place is through its flavours. Historic cuisines becoming available in our own backyard is thus luxury.”

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