Venket Seetharaman and his wife, Swapna Balakrishnan, turned the lockdown into a culinary expedition around the world. Gourmets and avid travellers, they decided to recreate different cuisines and escape the confines of the lockdown by taking the spice route.
“We have travelled to 26 countries and was really missing the excitement of discovering new places and cultures. We had planned to visit Vietnam in 2020 when COVID-19 disrupted our plans. During the lockdown, we were trying to recollect our holidays abroad by cooking a dish from that country and bringing the world to our plates,” says Venket.
After relocating from the U.S. four years ago, the couple settled in Thiruvananthapuram. As both of them enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, they set up a kitchen garden to easily procure herbs such as basil, thyme, lemon grass, mint and rosemary.
“By the time the lockdown was lifted, we had travelled to 15 countries through their cuisines. Most of the recipes were taken from YouTube. Today, it is so easy to get recipes from any corner of the world, learn from online classes or cookery groups and enhance your culinary skills. Most of what we cooked were vegetarian but if there were non-vegetarian ingredients, we made it by substituting non-vegetarian ingredients with paneer and tofu as we are vegetarians,” explains Venkat.
Once they finished their cooking, they plated it well, added a little explainer about the cuisine, took a photograph and posted it on Facebook. “For instance, Ceviche is a typical South American dish that uses marinated raw fish or some kind of seafood. We trawled the net to find a vegan recipe and came across one that uses coconut meat instead. Both of us found it delicious,” says Swapna.
Although, African food is predominantly non-vegetarian, the couple found a Kenyan recipe made of raw bananas. “All these are found in plenty in Kerala and so we made Matoke, a stew bursting with flavours, which can be paired with meat, bread or rice. Even our octogenarian grandmother enjoyed it,” adds Venket. The Brazilians’ pao de queijo, made with tapioca flour and cheese, was made with tapioca flour and Cheddar cheese.
Their favourite cuisines are Thai and Mexican. Venket says that about a decade ago, vegetarians did find it difficult to find food that did not have some kind of non-vegetarian extracts. “But now with vegans becoming a force to reckon with, vegetarian food is never a problem,” says Venket. At present, he is trying his hand at making mocktails.