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When Rachna Shah moved from the UK to Jaipur after marriage, she knew the way to the hearts of her Marwari in-laws was through a daal baati. The only problem was that her gastronomical skills stretched only to a cup of tea and Maggi. So the child therapist turned to an online tutor, YouTube.
A chirpy lady wrapped in a pink saree magically popped up on her screen and produced daal baati in exactly 7:31 minutes. With a laptop perched on an overturned thali, Rachna took a wee bit longer, but her dish did make its way to the dining table. "I was overjoyed when I got the token Rs 100 for making my first dish in my in-laws home, " she says.
For chefs and home cooks alike, user-posted videos on YouTube are providing a new scope of culinary knowledge. Rachna, for instance, moved on to try shahi paneer and Mexican enchiladas. "I can see the right proportions, the colour and texture of the dish on screen. It is way better than a cookbook, " she says.
Anuja Balasubramanian and Hetal Jannu, full-time moms and hosts of internet cooking show ShowMeThe-Curry that has introduced hundreds of novices to the delights of everything from Gujarati dhebra to Chettinad chicken curry, say their goal is to provide viewers with "well-tried and most-liked" South Asian recipes. "We provide exact measurements which almost don't exist for Indian cooking. How will a novice fathom what "add just enough water" means. Our step-by-step, easy to follow formula ensures that the dish will turn out exactly how it should, " says Jannu, adding that their audience is a mix of Indian and non-Indian students, bachelors, newly weds and even seasoned cooks who are looking for variety.
According to Balasubramanian, video podcasts can also help preserve dying Indian recipes that are not documented. "Sometimes, even written recipes may not be enough to reproduce a dish. The visual medium helps ensure that our future generations will be able to make what we or our parents are making today. It's almost like having mom or grandma cooking beside you, " she says.
That's what Priya Agarwal, who is pursuing her engineering degree in Pune, likes to believe. When she craved the sabudana khichdi her grandmom used to make, she took instructions from a Caucasian Indian housewife on YouTube on how to mix the tapioca. "It's strange but the flavours turned out the same as my grandma's, " she says.
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