Easy Ways To Journey With A Plate

by | July 8, 2021, 10:36 IST

Journeys on a Plate

While we wait in lockdown, here’s how to bring the tastes of the world to your table. By Primrose Monteiro-D’Souza

In the early days of the lockdown, it was more about cooking to feed yourself, period. Nothing was available except what you cooked with your own hands. In all probability, you cooked the basics – roti, chawal, dal, subzi, perhaps a salad or two – what could be got onto the table quickly, with little effort and with a really small pool of ingredients procured at great risk to health and wellbeing. If you were lucky, and someone else helped with the cooking, it was still boring, unsupplemented by the food deliveries that we had taken so much for granted. But we got better at it... Then, as the lockdown continued, way past our first expectations, we realised that cooking was something we would be doing for some time to come, and that it could be a point of great frustration or a source of great joy.

As evidenced on social media, many of us decided that it could be and continues to be a source of great joy – especially as more ingredients are now available in this phase of the pandemic. And so the world comes effortlessly to you on a plate.

Here are some easy ways to enhance your experiences in travelling with food...

Serve Yourself Culinary Inspiration Online
Drool Over Both Videos And Cookbooks
Rediscover Regional Indian Food
Travel With Dinner In A Show
Have The World Delivered To You

Serve Yourself Culinary Inspiration Online

We began by searching online for recipes and hacks to help us master the basics, and went on to grow more ambitious. There was the tastes of street food we were really missing. What about a Thai food night? Or a Mexican platter? Countless websites break down complex recipes with step-by-step instructions and hacks to make putting together the final dish possible. There’s also a more interesting evolution of Indian chefs increasingly working to bring the world to your table – either with their interpretations of an international classic or by reimagining the original with an Indian twist.

Instagram has proved itself to be made for food enthusiasts. Insta Stories is where behind-the-scenes shots of work-in-progress dishes whet the appetite. Those tiny video bytes get placed in Highlights, and the final dish in all its glory is showcased in a post, usually one that makes you very hungry. The best cooks on Instagram are those who not just pique the appetite but also enable you to make the dish, and who evoke a faraway destination with their photographs and words.

Even if you don’t end up cooking, there’s that chance to eat vicariously without adding an extra load of calories to your daily intake in the process. On the menu is a mix of known names, alongside active home chefs showcasing their experiments; even the big hotel chains have jumped into the pan – with chefs from their restaurants sharing recipes and tips and tricks. High spirits are not far behind as both brick-and-mortar and online liquor shops are now open, and wine professionals like Master of Wine Sonal Holland teach eager to-be aficionados about global wine regions and what wine you can have delivered to sample those temptations. Facebook, on the other hand, has cocooned groups focused around food, many of them to make food from around the world more accessible to food enthusiasts.

Journeys on a Plate

Drool Over Both Videos And Cookbooks

An Instagram Live between Antoine Lewis (@antoinelewis) and Vikram Doctor (@vikram.doctor) threw up a question: Could food videos replace cookbooks? Both Lewis and Doctor, incidentally, are worth following on social media for their sharp insights into contemporary and historical food culture. Doctor’s The Real Food Podcast is very highly rated by food experts and enthusiasts. Listening to the points they made, it became clear that we need both food videos and cookbooks in our lives.

The oldest cookbooks came to be to document food culture and recipes for nuclear families who would no longer have access to and be fed by the joint family kitchen. And there was that very real possibility of many family recipes being lost forever. Written in that spirit, they are an invaluable tool to understanding the food and traditions of places not our own.

Journeys on a Plate

Indeed, our favourite cookbooks transport us to other lands, and other kitchens across the country and the globe; they have splatters and notes in the margin as evidence of recipes that have been tried and mastered. Still, cookbooks also have their limitations; they can be elitist in only showcasing the lives of certain communities and totally bypassing others. They might be just ‘vanity projects’, they can presume that you know the basics when you don’t, and chefs can sometimes write recipes in a shorthand known only to fellow chefs.

Good recipe videos, on the other hand, offer a visual introduction and techniques specific to a dish. Even if the chef does not speak of these, you see the step-by-step processes that make it so easy to work out how a recipe comes together from many ingredients to one whole. In this democratisation of food, as Lewis and Doctor pointed out, the comments section below the video often offers invaluable insights to help crystallise the dish in your mind. The ease of creating videos has allowed us to marvel at cooking in Indian villages and across the world. Like cookbooks, though, not all food videos are good, so finding a cook you can trust is important.

This, then, is a time for both: re-reading well-regarded cookbooks and getting a feel for the cook as well as the food they espouse, and looking for visual cues and confirmations via videos.

This is also the time to start documenting your own family recipes – it makes sense for us to be, in some way, the keepers of our community’s culinary traditions.


Some Food-Related Books We Like To Travel With
  • Lonely Planet's From the Source series (Spain, Italy, France, Thailand, Mexico, Japan)
  • Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
  • Return to the Rivers: Recipes and Memories of the Himalayan River Valleys by Vikas Khanna
  • Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop
  • American Sfoglino: A Master Class in Handmade Pasta by Evan Funke with Katie Parla
  • Made in Mexico: The Cookbook by Danny Mena, with Nils Bernstein
  • Travelling Diva: Recipes From Around The World by Ritu Dalmia
  • Crumbs by Saee Koranne-Khandekar 

Rediscover Regional Indian Food

Journeys on a Plate

Even before we were called to be vocal for local, tables were heating up with food from different regions across India, with many chefs, food experts and enthusiasts showcasing the sustainability of eating without the necessary use of carbon miles. Through both the lockdowns, there have been very distinct leanings towards regional food, offering home cooks an easily-accessible way to travel across the subcontinent with community dishes otherwise little known. Instagram, in particular, has plenty of inspiration in the form of recipes, as well as actual food you can order from home cooks who specialise in regional cuisine.

Regional Food Enthusiasts We Like
  • Bengali food: Madhurima and Anindya Basu  @pikturenama
  • Punjabi food: Vernika Awal @delectable_reveries
  • Mangalorean food: Shriya Shetty @chiashetts,  Shireen Sequeira @ruchikrandhap
  • Kerala food: Chef Thomas Zacharias @cheftzac
  • Andhra food: Sailaja Gudivada  @sailusfood

Travel With Dinner In A Show


Not everything is about just recipes; a good television show, too, can transport you to destinations far and near through food. I’m currently bingeing on Somebody Feed Phil in which Phil Rosenthal is inimitably himself as he eats his way through some of the most delicious cities across the world. Most of these food and travel shows can now be found on OTT platforms and are a near-perfect way to devour a destination, even if you must eat dal-chawal after.

Some Shows We Love
  • Lost Recipes: A showcase of the hidden culinary treasures of India
  • Parts Unknown: It’s an Anthony Bourdain show, ’nuff said.
  • Salt Fat Acid Heat (with Samin Nosrat)
  • Chef’s Table 
  • Chakh Le India (with Chef Aditya Bal)
  • Chef’s Night Out: Chefs suggest their favourite places to eat
  • Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (with Chef David Chang)
  • Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern
  • Raja Rasoi aur Anya Kahaniyan 
  • Ugly Delicious
  • Man Vs Food
  • Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father
  • The Victorian Way 
  • Two Fat Ladies

Thanks to Mona Punjabi, Swayampurna Mishra, Sumit Lulla, Lavina D’Souza, Shraddha Kamdar, Rukshana A Kapadia and Madhulika Dash for these suggestions

Have The World Delivered To You


During the first lockdown, if there was one thing that hit us as hard as having to stay home, it was the concern that our favourite restaurants and delivery places might not be able to ride out the lockdown financially. Now that it has been established that you can order in with precautions in place, widen your culinary net and have the cuisines of the world brought home to your plate. It’s all in keeping with the same vocal-for-local strategy, this support of the food industry around you, and your reward will be sweet, and savoury, and umami. You get the idea!

Also see: Healthy and happy-making recipes to try

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