Olive oil appears to be making inroads in the kitchens of one of the most modern cities in North India, Chandigarh. The traditional breakfast meal in many North Indian households is the ‘parantha’. This is an Indian bread stuffed with potatoes or other mashed vegetables, cooked in liberal quantities of butter. However, an increasing consciousness about weight control and healthy cholesterol levels is encouraging many families to replace butter or refined cooking oils with olive oil.
Unable to consider cereals and toast as a breakfast alternative, a majority of North Indians are keen to stick to the traditional fare, but with extra virgin olive oil as a healthier option to other refined oils and butter. This switchover in the kitchens of Chandigarh is increasingly visible. Ram Krishna, a grocery store owner in Chandigarh said, “Earlier, there would be one odd request a week to stock on olive oil but now, I sell at least three to four litres in a day.”
The price of olive oil is relatively steep at Rs. 450 ($9) a liter, where as refined oil is available at nearly one-third the price. However, the price does not seem to be a deterrent for the households in Chandigarh. Neha Mahajan, a kindergarten teacher, said, “It’s all about how you cook. Since I do all the cooking myself, a liter lasts us long, sometimes all through the month.”
The changing preference towards food cooked in olive oil is reflected in the fact that Ankit Sharma, the Chef de Cuisine at JW Marriott’s new Indian restaurant, Saffron, in Chandigarh has introduced olive oil based dishes. “We use olive oil for stir-fries as guests are increasingly aware about its health benefits and also to showcase that Indian food can taste the same with less oil or healthier alternatives,” summed up Sharma.