True connection doesn’t solely occur via sharing of cultural histories but also through family ingrained recipes that travel over generations and continents.
Born in a Gujarati household settled in the UK, Instagram chef Seema Pankhania has grown up to a table full of freshly cooked meals prepared by mummy dearest.
“I was introduced to cooking at a very young age. We used to have a lot of family get togethers where the aunties would cook and all of us would eat together.”
Finding solace in home grown recipes such as the simple yet flavourful shev tamatar (tomato curry), Seema has taken to her social media handle to introduce followers to global delicacies from selected countries.
Food without borders
Amused at the Indian influences on cuisines from all over the world, Seema hurls that Mauritian and Nepalese culinary techniques too share similarities with Indian cooking. “Even in England, the national dish is Chicken Tikka Masala,” she exclaims.
The regional variation in Indian cuisine makes it all the more all-encompassing. “The word ‘curry’ is not specific to India. You get Thai curry, Japanese curry. Each curry has different spice blends.”
In pursuit of her gastronomic curiosity to explore the unexplored dishes, Seema began experimenting with national dishes of every teeny-tiny country on the globe. “I have done eighty countries so far. It’s still going to take me another two years to have tried and tested all.”
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Picking out the most suitable dish can be a daunting task. “I try to find a person from each country which takes longer than usual.”
Before projecting the dishes, the young chef speaks with home cooks and people who generally enjoy cooking. Seema expresses, “I just want home recipes. Somebody’s mum’s or grandma’s recipes. I don’t want the fancy, high end but the day-to-day stuff.”
Beginning this adventure with a random pick from the lottery, the Philippines, Seema explains that this must be the most surprising one. The best dish on the archipelago ‘Chicken Adobo’ is a salty savoury sauce made from basic ingredients sitting on everyone’s shelves. “It is just chicken cooked with soya sauce and white or cane vinegar.”
“When I started to cook it, all my housemates were complaining about the strong smell. And then it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had. After making that I was like if this country has this, imagine what else the others have to offer.”
Kitchens are teachers
Working at Gordon Ramsay’s fusion restaurants Lucky Cat and York & Albany in London was an eye-opening experience for the Chef de Partie. “I picked up so many skills like learning to chop elegantly and preparing ingredients pre-cook. It has definitely solidified my foundations of cooking.”
The pandemic added to her experimental and creative side where she began posting recipes and cooking reels on social media. “If I can’t travel to eat food, maybe I just make it at home.”
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Following which Seema’s series called ‘Recipes with Mum’ has proved to be a big hit on Instagram. “I am just trying to teach people about real home cooking and I do it with my mum so that I can learn from it. There is endless amount of knowledge that she has learned from being in India that I still want to learn.” Afterall, food is home.
In this day and age of digitalisation, Seema asks aspiring influencers to “use social media to your advantage.” She says, “use it a tool rather than a distraction.”
*Info: Seema Pankhania