Indian food writer Kalyan Karmakar is making up for lost time.
Today he enjoys the subtle touch of ghee in many of his favorite Bengali dishes, adding it to steamed rice with chips. kaatla fish (Indian carp) for ghee bhaatand swirling it around phyana bhaat, a one-pot rice dish cooked with its own starch, mashed potatoes and a boiled egg. Same sound khichuri (also spelled khichdi), a comforting rice and lentil porridge that Karmakar associates with rainy days, is incomplete without the ubiquitous fat.
But it wasn’t always like that.
“I belong to the group of people who grew up thinking that ghee is unhealthy and [I am] catch up now, he said, it’s [essentially] the purest food on Earth.”
For millennia, ghee has been a revered staple of the subcontinental diet, but it fell out of favor a few decades ago when saturated fats were widely considered unhealthy. But more recently, as the thinking about saturated fat shifts globally, Indians are finding their own way to this ingredient that is so integral to their cuisine.
For Karmakar, a resurgence of interest in ghee is emblematic of a back-to-basics movement in India, which took years to prepare but accelerated during the pandemic, when “people started to be more attentive to their food,” he explained. This movement is also part of a general trend towards “slow food”. In line with the philosophy of the movement, ghee can be produced locally (even at home) and has inextricable cultural ties.