Chef Damu says traditional Indian food serves as medicine

Chennai: Traditional food – it is all over the Internet, television channels and books. Yet, we do not take efforts to make them and rather binge on pasta or burger. But to the generation that still does age-old recipes, fret not, for we have chef Damodaran who is on a mission to bring them all back to the platter.

“The rooted recipes are addressed as ‘marandhu pona maraindhu pona unavugal’ (forgotten and food that has disappeared) these days and the reason is obvious – people are shifting towards other cuisines or simpler food that has little or no nutritive values,” Chef Damu told News Today.

He stated that native food has a lot of medicinal values and provides energy. “In addition to being healthy, it should also be noted that the shelf-life is higher than conventional items.”

Pepper, cumin, ginger, mint, garlic, green chilly and coriander leaves were the most common ingredients used to prepare recipes back in olden days.

Giving an example of how cumin (seeragam) helps, he said, ‘There is a popular maxim – “agathai seer seivadhu seeragam“, which states that drinking boiled cumin water helps in digestion. Similar to this, every ingredient has medicinal properties. Only when we read between the lines, we understand the potency of our food. But the present generation is into junk food, but we are trying to lay emphasis on the benefits of using traditional food.’

He shed light on utilising clay pot or copper vessels for cooking. “Not only does it make us healthy but also absorbs excess water and enhances the texture and taste of the final product. It is not required to preserve the food by refrigerating as it increases shelf-life,” added Damodaran.

For reviving the age-old dishes, the chef travels around and tries to document them.

Explaining about one of the revived foods, he said, ‘‘Kummayam’ is one such dish which was Lord Krishna’s favourite, made of moong dal and jaggery. No one knew about it until a few years ago and it became popular very recently.’

After experimenting, he exhibits the dish to people and disseminates information about them through the media.


Millet power

On his current research, Chef Damu said, “Right now, we are trying to bring back kanji, koozh and kali. Summer has already begun, so consumption of food made of kelvaragu or finger millet with onion or buttermilk maintains the temperature and energises the body.”

Without stopping with this, Damu goes around creating awareness even among other chefs. “We are trying to bring the recipes on their menu card and are focussing on popularising millet varieties.”

“Though it is uncommon, the fibre content in millets is higher than the regular rice we use for cooking, so we try to popularise it by making biriyani or pulao and other different tasty forms.”

Bhavani Prabhakar