Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Lady and the Wok

Was in Shillong over the weekend.  Gorged on the hakka noodles and the stir fries of the quaint little Nat's restaurant. Polished off the Chinese sausages and the bamboo shoot at Wong's. Slurped the souffles at Pinewood. Stared mesmerised at the lovely rosy cheeked lady behind a huge wok by the winding lanes, frying her wares with gusto .

There is something about local food.
Is it the herbs?
Is it the unbeatable aroma of the freshly picked tomatoes and mushrooms and greens?
Is it the secret recipe of the Khasi  lady at the wok, who makes the dishes with the same remarkably delicious consistency that would beat the best food standards in the world?

As we pile our shopping carts with ready to cooks and ready to eats and line our shelves with spices and mixes , we sometimes don't realise that the currents of commercialisation sweep away the shoots of local flavours, aromas and authenticity ruthlessly and tickle our palates with the taste of what we call contemporary foods.

Of course all of us can't be great cooks.
And surely all of us cannot be expected to have the time to delve into the pool of genuine local cooking when we dish up what is truly local.
And what is also true that we have been palatised to love these new tastes- the art of research and development  in food brands who have identified  the lowest common denominator to massify and even trademark flavours and dishes.

Yet, as I write this, I wish there was a way of recognising and preserving the magic of the local touch across the world. I wish someone would spend a day with the lady and the wok to understand what goes into the food she makes day in and day out  with the same success rate. And whether such great foods can be introduced to the rest of the foodie world.

Or else, I fear that , like all other things of yesteryears, the lady  behind the wok and her amazing food would also be a distant flicker of memory as time goes by.