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All on the same page

Shriya Mohan | Updated on November 02, 2018

Bite big: Visitors book themselves on a food walk to try the hidden gems of Old Delhi anubhav sapra   -  AYAN GHOSH

Social media-based food groups are hosting some exciting culinary adventures

Ayan Ghosh likes to say that his motive was simple when he formed The Calcutta Porkaddicts Facebook page. “One-upmanship,” he explains. He was aware of similar groups such as The Porkaholics and Pork lovers in different parts of the country. “Ours had to be better and bigger than the rest,” says Ghosh, a management consultant.

In November 2016, Ghosh put up his Facebook page calling pork lovers in Kolkata to unite. They would, together, seek pork adventures in a city known for its exotic culinary wonders. “We take our pork very seriously,” says Angona Paul, the erstwhile secretary of the group.

 

Food groups on social media are hosting some exciting culinary adventures — and there is something for everybody. If some groups cannot have enough of pork, others want to eat and breathe only appams or biryanis. There are groups devoted to vegetarian fare or to street food. And they are all reaching out to like-minded people in and outside the country.

While some groups like to focus on a single kind of cuisine or stay restricted to a location, there are others whose motto is to keep rolling. One of these is Food Talk India, which started out as a Facebook page and today has over 5,00,000 followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The group offers everything from pop-up experiences, restaurant reviews and recipes, to experiential or immersive outings such as blindfolded dining.

“Social media has definitely brought people closer to each other and helped revive food traditions that are under threat of getting lost,” says Anubhav Sapra, founder of Delhi Food Walks, whose street food tours in Old Delhi and other parts of the city, are a hit with local and international visitors.

Typically, Sapra’s walks are through historic eateries that haven’t changed their recipes in over a century. It all started when he made a Facebook group in 2011.

Sizzle sizzle: Pork being flambeed at The Calcutta Porkaddict's Oktoberfest meet this year   -  Chris Gerber

 

Today he has 2,82,000 followers. People mostly book a walk on the page or his website and then off they go down the streets for paranthas, kulfis, kababs and samosas, washing it down with lassi or doodh-jalebi in front of the shops and shacks, some as old as the Walled City.

All groups have their own guidelines for the members. For the meals organised by The Calcutta Porkaddicts, all courses have to have pork. The only exception to this can sometimes be the dessert, although the group did once tuck into a pork halwa prepared by one of their Assamese members. The members recently went to a Santhal village, on the outskirts of Santiniketan, where they ate a pig that had been slow-roasted on an open fire in the traditional Santhali style and downed some locally fermented rice beer.

Groups have their own rate cards, too. PorkAddicts’ events usually cost between ₹500 and ₹2,000. Some of Sapra’s guided food walks are for free — people only need to get their own bill at the eatery they choose to munch at.

But the food groups do more than just talk about and eat food. Sometimes they evolve new methods of cooking. B Ramakrishnan, the Chennai-based founder and admin of the popular Facebook group United by Food, claims a patent on a cooking style that he terms One Pot One Shot (OPOS). As the name suggests, you use a pot, usually a 2-litre pressure cooker, a spatula and basic ingredients to try out different recipes by just layering ingredients in exact measurements and pressure-cooking them. Once the team even suggested the OPOS method for the ghee-laden Mysore Pak. The group has a South Indian focus, and under the tutelage of Ramki, as he is popularly called, is known for arriving at standardised ways to make the perfect venn pongal (rice-and-moong dal mash) or mezhukkupuratti (stir-fried veggies). OPOS, its advocates believe, has given mothers with toddlers, busy bachelors and others an easy way to prepare food. A chicken biryani, they say, can be prepared in 6 minutes, and mutton biryani in 12 minutes.

Food adventures: The Calcutta Porkaddicts’ expedition to Santiniketan involved eating a slow-roasted pig   -  AYAN GHOSH

 

Some Facebook groups are simply about having fun. The Indian Food Freak, with over 20,000 followers, is primarily a restaurant review website. The group also organises food walks where members meet other “food freaks”, eat at some of the best outlets and go Dutch on the bill. Eatlo is a Delhi-based group with over 50,000 members, who share resources and recipes and plan outings once a month.

Instagram is another Mecca for food bloggers. Take 20-year-old food instagrammer Shivesh Bhatia. A self-taught baker, food blogger and author, he has some 1,26,000 followers who devour his recipes of mulberry cakes, plum and lavender tarts, lemon macaroons, yoghurt popsicles, mocha mousse and the works. Foodies also swear by California-based Meera Nalavadi, whose trademark recipes are global dishes with an Indian touch (think almond kheer with summer berries).

“There is no bonding like bonding over food. We get super-excited. When we plan where the next food adventure should be, eyes start twinkling, mouths start salivating,” says Paul. And, clearly, the “likes” pour in.

Published on November 02, 2018

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