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Tough sell: Baijiu, China’s potent tipple, looks abroad

Tough sell: Baijiu, China’s potent tipple, looks abroad

In this photo taken on April 23, 2019, an employee inspects baijiu liquor on a production line at the Luzhou Loajian bottling plant in Luzhou, southwestern China’s Sichuan province. — AFP pic
In this photo taken on April 23, 2019, an employee inspects baijiu liquor on a production line at the Luzhou Loajian bottling plant in Luzhou, southwestern China’s Sichuan province. — AFP pic

LUZHOU, June 17 — It may be China’s national spirit, but for London bartender Ellie Veale it’s clear from the first swig why baijiu has not caught on overseas.

After some initial fruity notes, Veale crinkles her noise as the crystal-clear booze reveals its intense, earthy essence. 

“I worked on a cattle farm in Australia and this kind of aftertaste reminds me of the smell of … cow manure, hay, and horses,” she says, in the London bar Demon, Wise & Partners.

“It’s not the beverage for me,” she concedes.

And yet baijiu’s popularity in China has propelled demand — making it the most consumed spirit in the world, and its major producers the most valuable distilleries globally.

“Baijiu belongs to China, but also the world,” says Su Wanghui, information director at Luzhou Laojiao, one of the country’s biggest and oldest brands.

“We hope to have people around the world try baijiu, and like baijiu,” she adds.

There’s just one problem: The taste.

Kinder critics say it evokes truffles or burning plastic, while less generous descriptions have included “industrial cleaning solvent” and “liquid razor blades”.

Ranging from around 35 to 55 per cent alcohol, baijiu packs a searing, sickly-sweet punch, an intensity that evolved to match the powerfully spicy cuisine of southwestern China, baijiu’s heartland.

Many foreigners in China relate horror stories of being bombarded by baijiu toasts at banquets.

“The foreign view of baijiu is: Very spicy, like a rocket blasting to heaven,” Su told AFP at Luzhou Laojiao’s headquarters on the upper Yangtze in rugged Sichuan province.

Rocket fuel

Most Chinese people cannot imagine major celebrations without it, particularly the Lunar New Year holiday, when excessive toasting leaves revellers staggering toward brutal hangovers.

Around 10.8 billion litres of baijiu was consumed last year, nearly all in China, according to International Wine and Spirit Research.

That’s more than whisky, vodka, gin, rum and tequila combined and would take an hour to slosh over Niagara Falls according to WorldBaijiuDay.com.

But baijiu has been on a roller-coaster in recent years.

A government corruption crackdown launched in 2012 hit hard: Premium brands had become the go-to gift for bribing Communist officials.

Sales fell off a “cliff”, Su says.

And many younger Chinese, exposed to French wine and German beer, shun a rotgut they equate with rural regions and drunken businessmen.

Forced to adapt, manufacturers have found success with milder new varieties and brightly packaged single-serving mixed drinks.

Sales have recovered, igniting share prices.

In 2017 the market value of Shanghai-listed Kweichow Moutai surged past London-based Diageo, maker of Johnnie Walker whiskey and Smirnoff vodka, to become the world’s most valuable distiller.

Now around ¥900 (RM543) per share, it could become China’s first ¥1,000 stock.

Emboldened distilleries are now looking abroad, staging tastings and developing smoother, export-oriented brands, while touting centuries-old artisanal production methods.

At Luzhou Laojiao, sorghum is fermented for months in deep microbe-rich earthen pits, some in continuous use since 1573.

Staff, resembling shaolin monks in bright yellow and red outfits and performing all work by hand, distill the fermented mash in steaming-belching wooden pot stills. The end-product is then aged, sometimes for decades, in giant clay pots in nearby caves.

Challenge for customers

Water, soil, climate and other factors make baijius from different regions as “different from each other as a whiskey is to a mescal,” said Bill Isler, CEO of Ming River, an export-only brand created by Luzhou Laojiao.

But he says there is a “lot of prejudice” to overcome, before baijiu can follow once-obscure “local” spirits such as vodka and tequila and go global.

A wave of “baijiu bars” opened in China, the US, and Europe in recent years as a buzz swelled. But many have since closed.

“It’s a challenge for the customers. It hasn’t really caught on in the West yet,” said Demon, Wise & Partners owner Paul Mathew.

The price of top brands is one hurdle. Mathew charges £12 (RM79) for a glass of Kweichow Moutai.

“It is also a very unfamiliar flavour for guests, so we need to tell them the story, how baijiu is made, why it has the characteristics it has, before it becomes more accessible,” he said.

Jim Boyce, a Beijing blogger on China’s booze scene who launched annual August 9 “World Baijiu Day” in 2015 to raise awareness, said baijiu is hampered by how it’s consumed in China: Straight up, with food.

“The fact is, people, at least in North America and Europe, don’t drink lukewarm straight 52 per cent alcohol, so the people promoting this tend to be really into traditional baijiu culture,” he said.

Boyce advocates creative cocktails or novelties like baijiu ice cream, suggestions that provoke blank stares from Chinese baijiu executives seeking his advice.

“It’s been frustrating, frankly,” he adds.

Overseas sales are growing, however. Kweichou Moutai earned ¥2.89 billion abroad last year, up 27 per cent year-on-year. But that’s a drop in the bucket of its ¥73.6 billion overall revenue.

“We’re trying our best to make the world understand, to spread the word about baijiu, just like whiskey and red wine are now known within China,” Su said.

“But there is still a long road ahead.” — AFP

Paris rediscovers appetite for its world-beating ‘bouillons’

Paris rediscovers appetite for its world-beating ‘bouillons’

This file photo taken on February 6, 2019 shows an interior view of the restaurant Bouillon Chartier Montparnasse after a recent restoration in Paris. — AFP pic
This file photo taken on February 6, 2019 shows an interior view of the restaurant Bouillon Chartier Montparnasse after a recent restoration in Paris. — AFP pic

PARIS, June 17 — Every weekend a queue snakes down the street not far from the Moulin Rouge in Paris.

This is not some hoard of clueless foreigners easy prey for the tourist traps that dot Pigalle and Montmartre.

These are savvy and often stylish Parisians eager to sit down to one of the best value meals in the French capital.

Earlier this month the Bouillon Pigalle’s egg mayonnaise was voted the best in the world by a jury of French gastronomes, beating Michelin three-star restaurants and the version served up by President Emmanuel Macron’s kitchen at the Elysee Palace.

For just €1.80 (RM8.43) you can feast on this simple but exquisite French culinary classic.

So it is easy to see why the crowds are flocking there and to a clutch of other older and grander “bouillon” restaurants, which serve classic French comfort food at modest prices.

These places, where you can eat well amid Art Nouveau splendour for as little as €20 for three courses, are having something of a revival.

“What is not to like about this?” declared Edouard, the moustachioed patriarch of the Bordier clan, with three generations of his family from the Paris suburbs seated around the table at Bouillon Julien.

Enormous desserts

“Just look at this,” he said, pointing at the enormous cream profiterole before him and then sweeping his hand out to take in the restaurant’s original Belle Epoque decor.

“And they say the French no longer know to live!” he laughed.

The South Korean fashionistas at the next table, where singer Edith Piaf once dined daily, told AFP that it was their “favourite and cheapest meal” since they arrived.

One, Kim Bo-young, liked its thick paper tablecloths so much she wondered aloud about making a dress out of them.

Bouillons were invented to serve up cheap soups and stews at speed to busy Parisians in the 19th century.

“Bouillon” means broth in French, and it was from the restorative qualities of their principal dish that the word “restaurant” comes.

Bouillon Julien went back to its roots last year and lowered the prices for its clever hearty food after restoring the frescos and mosaics in its beautiful 113-year-old interior.

Rabbit terrine for €5  

Walking through mahogany dining hall with its glade-green walls is like “going back in time”, said Kim, 32, tucking into a rabbit terrine with nuts and ravigote sauce for €5.20.

It is a similar story at Chartier — the daddy of all Parisian bouillons which has been going since 1896 — where the white-aproned waiters write down the orders on the paper tablecloth before totting up the bill with head-spinning speed.

Chartier opened a second enormous restaurant earlier this year in Montparnasse in the south of the city with a stunning brass and tiled interior that dates from 1903.

Serving traditional starters like snails and leek vinaigrette at unbeatable prices, the hip French gastronomic guide Le Fooding saw it as further proof of the trend towards “le retrofoodisme” that has seen French diners re-embrace butter.

Its director Alexandre Cammas said the bouillon revival was a part of a wider return to comfort food.

Food that’s a ‘big hug’

“This is cooking that gives you a big hug in contrast to (top-end) cuisine which can be very refined and cold,” he told AFP.

But Chartier boss Yann Hulin bristled at the thought that there was anything in the least trendy about what they were doing.

“We have just kept doing what we always did.

“If there is a trend, it is to copy us,” he said, in a swipe at Bouillon Julien and Bouillon Pigalle, which is setting up a second dining room that will feature Alsatian food at a historic brasserie famous for its frescos near Republique next year.

Hulin said that having been made to pay through the nose for trendy food, the public want to be served quickly and “eat good and cheap food, that is prepared simply and well”.

The high turnover of diners allowed Chartier and the other bouillons to keep their prices down, he added.

In another twist on the trend, the Mamma group also have diners queuing around the block at its Paris eateries for back-to-basics Italian trattoria food, with one restaurant-cum-street market set over 4,500 square metres.

Jean-Christophe Le Ho of Bouillon Pigalle said sourcing quality ingredients direct from producers also cut out the middleman.

He said his nostalgic menu was about rediscovering the joy of eating traditional French dishes that are being threatened by fast food, pizzerias and sushi joints.

A century ago Paris had 250 bouillons before their numbers withered to just one.

But the “strong demand we have found… for these dishes our grandmothers made” shows they very much have a future, Le Ho insisted. — AFP

Dads who cook every day for their families

Dads who cook every day for their families

In the home kitchen, most mothers reign supreme. Tales of dads cooking are becoming more common but by and large, women still prevail over the stove.

But no two families are the same and in some homes, it is the fathers who have played a dominant role in producing cherished family meals, often cooking every day for their nearest and dearest – in the name of familial love.

Paying homage to his mother’s food

At the Nunis dining table, dinner is in progress. Dad Glenn Nunis, 48, has just cooked a huge meal and his wife Coco, 43, and three kids Matthew, 22, Shane, 18, and Hope, 17, are busy helping themselves to their favourite dishes. Smiles of joy are etched on everyone’s faces, none more so than Glenn, who is gazing down at his family with unfettered happiness.

“Seeing my kids eat what I have made is very fulfilling. Most of the time, there is nothing left,” he says, laughing.

Glenn cooks for his family every day. From left: Shane, Hope, Glenn, Matthew and Coco. Photo: The Star/Sam Tham

Glenn cooks for his family every day now, but interestingly he didn’t actually cook at all until leaving home as an adult. His late mother was a talented Eurasian home cook and it was his two sisters who were often in the kitchen with her.

“I think it was expected that my sisters would help her. I only helped cut vegetables during festive seasons, like Christmas.

“But my interest in cooking started when I left the house and wasn’t staying with my mum anymore. That’s when I missed her cooking so I used to call her and ask her how to cook this and that. And she would tell me over the phone, although she used the agak-agak method, so I had to learn as I went along,” he says.

After he married his wife and had kids, Glenn’s interest in cooking burgeoned and he inevitably became the main cook in the family, a role he continues to relish even while holding down a full-time job as an IT manager.

“He cooks mostly every day and I think it helps that we live five minutes away from his office. So he’s back home by 6.30pm and normally, he’s already prepared everything the night before, so the cooking process is much quicker. But cooking is really his passion – he even takes the time to garnish meals like a real chef,” says proud wife Coco.

Coco is so invested in Glenn’s meals that she has even gone through the trouble of photographing everything he cooks and uploading it onto an album she has created on Facebook.

“So now we have an album of everything I’ve cooked,” says Glenn, smiling.

Cooking took on an even more important role in Glenn’s life after his parents passed away unexpectedly in an accident in 2015. Since then, he has become even more determined to continue cooking the heritage Eurasian dishes he learnt from his mother.

One of his mother’s recipes that Glenn continues to make to this day is her prawn pineapple curry, a robust, spicy affair interlaced with plump cubes of pineapple and tender prawns.

Glenn is compiling an e-book of all his recipes in the hopes that his children will pick up cooking in the future. Photo: The Star/Sam Tham

“This is a recipe from my grandmother that was passed down to my mum. My mum made the curry paste from scratch and I do the same thing too. And it’s a hit – my wife likes it and the kids love it as well,” he says.

Glenn’s flavourful chicken pongtey was also trawled from his late mother’s recipe arsenal. “That is something that my mum used to make for us when we were growing up, especially when we were younger because we couldn’t handle spicy food at the time,” he says.

Because their grandmother played such a pivotal role in their lives, Glenn’s children also remember her cooking and have delivered the ultimate compliment to their father: “My dad’s food tastes exactly the same as my grandmother’s food,” says Matthew simply.

As his children are fast growing up, Glenn is now busy compiling all his recipes in an e-book, to ensure that his kids will be able to easily cook the meals he has prepared for them for years, should they ever want to.

The recipes in the book run the gamut from heirloom Eurasian recipes to meals he created himself as well as Filipino fare gleaned from his travels to the Philippines with Coco, who is Filipino.

“I am hoping that the kids will pick up the recipes and learn. I am actually compiling it the way I cook it, so that is something that I can leave behind for them one day,” he says.

Glenn says he knows he’s a bit different from other dads as most of his male friends who are also dads don’t cook at all. But to him, cooking is all about family anyway, which is why he loves doing it.

“I guess I am different from other dads in a sense, but it pleases me to see my family enjoying the food I make,” he says.

 CHICKEN PONGTEY

Serves 6

For pounding together to a paste
5 to 6 cloves garlic
4 shallots

For cooking
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp heaped minced tauchu (bean paste)
1kg chicken thigh, cut into 4 pieces per thigh
1 tbsp thick caramel black soy sauce
2 chicken stock cubes diluted in 2 cups of hot water
1 small sengkuang, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 carrots, rolling cut
3 potatoes, cut into quarters
salt and sugar to taste

To make
In a pestle and mortar, pound garlic and shallots to a paste. Set aside.
Heat oil in a wok and on low heat, lightly stir-fry the garlic and shallot paste; do not let it brown. Add the minced tauchu, stir constantly on low heat until fragrant. Add chicken and stir on medium heat for about 1 minute. Then add the thick sauce until the chicken is fully coated in the sauce.
Add chicken stock. Simmer with lid closed for about 10 minutes. Add the sengkuang, carrots and potatoes, cover with lid and allow to cook on medium heat until the chicken and vegetables are cooked, about 15 minutes. Add salt and sugar to taste and serve hot.

PINEAPPLE PRAWN CURRY
Serves 6

For blending into a paste
20 dried chillies, rinsed and soaked in hot water
4 medium red onions
4cm turmeric
2cm lengkuas
4-5 cloves garlic
3 stalks lemongrass
2cm young ginger

For cooking
2 tbsp oil
1 chicken stock cube, diluted in 1 cup water
salt to taste
1 tbsp assam jawa (tamarind paste), diluted in 1 cup water
1 small whole honey pineapple, cut into wedges
sugar to taste
1kg medium sized prawns, deveined, shells intact

To cook
In a blender, blend all the ingredients for blending until smooth. Set aside.
In a wok, add oil and stir-fry the blended rempah paste on medium-low heat until a layer of oil emerges, about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and salt. Add the strained tamarind juice and cut pineapples and let simmer for about 2 minutes.
Add sugar to taste and simmer for 10 minutes. Add prawns towards the end, stir to combine and allow prawns to cook until just tender. Once done, serve hot with white rice.


A lifetime of cooking

In his daughter’s sun-drenched kitchen, 72-year-old Henry Kok is cooking up a storm. His performance – and yes, it is indeed a sight to behold – is nothing short of masterful, like a ballet dancer gracefully alternating between different movements – deftness you will instantly see as he slices spring onions with precision, fries up some prawns and stirs the sauce for a dish.

In less than 30 minutes, Henry has whipped up three stunning dishes, barely breaking a sweat and maintaining his sweet, disarming smile.

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In many ways, Kok’s prowess in the kitchen began at a very young age, as a child growing up in a financially-strapped family in Perak.

“I was one of seven siblings and when I was small, I used to help my mother in the kitchen. We were fortunate because my father’s boss let us stay in a wooden house with plenty of space. So to help ease the burden of buying groceries, we reared our own ducks and turkeys and planted vegetables and fruits, so we were more or less self-sufficient,” says Kok.

Kok learnt how to cook from his mother but adapted and changed many recipes along the way. When he moved to KL for work, he continued to cook for his siblings, many of whom had also moved to KL for job opportunities.

“When my siblings moved to KL, we all lived together and I was the only one who churned out all the food and everyone enjoyed it. Along the way, I experimented and came up with a lot of dishes myself. So that’s my passion,” says Kok, grinning.

Even after he married his wife Margie Chong, 73, (herself a talented cook) and had his two daughters – Wendy Kok, 48, and Mabel Kok, 45, he continued to cook.

“I’ve been cooking for umpteen years, my family enjoys my food. Even when I was very, very, busy, I would go home and cook,” he enthuses.

Kok is a devoted father and grandfather who believes that a family that eats together, stays together. From left: Darren, Wendy, Cassandra, Margie, Kok, Mabel and Steven. Photo: The Star/Yap Chee Hong

This is made all the more impressive given that Kok is one of the co-founders (alongside his two brothers) of Bina Warehouse, Malaysia’s leading specialist retailer and distributor of luxury bathroom and kitchen brands.

So even as he was building a mega business, he still found the time to cook for his family every day!

“It was an experience from when we were young. My dad used to make us get involved in kitchen activities like going to the market, cooking and cleaning, so we learnt from there and it’s always been a memory from young that we are a cooking family. Having watched and learnt from my dad, I also cook every day for my family,” says Mabel, who is now the CEO of Bina Warehouse.

These days, Kok has semi-retired from the business, although he still serves as the company’s managing director and puts in regular half-days.

But his passion for cooking remains and Kok still cooks for his daughters, their spouses Darren Chong, 39, and Steven Chu, 49, and granddaughter Cassandra Chu, 15, at least three times a week.

“Sometimes I go to their houses in Seputeh and I’ll bring the food I’ve cooked for them and sometimes they come to my home in Ampang and I cook for them there. I strongly believe that a family that eats together, stays together,” he affirms.

Some of Kok’s signature dishes include his assam fish, a triumphantly buoyant, lively affair with fiery underpinnings and citrusy elements underscoring the entire meal.

“It’s a Nyonya dish and the conventional way of cooking it is to use tamarind juice but I thought ‘I want to give the dish some oomph, I want the sourness and sweetness to stand out’. So I began to experiment with kalamansi juice and also pineapple juice. I added it together with tamarind juice – so there are three types of sour juices – and it turned out so beautiful. I’m happy with it,” he says.

Kok’s zest-driven deep-fried prawns with honey lemon curd sauce is also a thing of beauty, as the crunchy prawns are coated in a rich, sumptuous lemon curd-honey-mayonnaise sauce that elevates it to a whole new dimension.

“It’s also my own concoction. I’ve got a nephew whose wife makes homemade lemon curd jam, so I bought some and thought ‘Why not come up with a dish by making use of lemon curd jam?’ So I experimented and came up with this,” he says simply.

Kok says he doesn’t really think of himself as an anomaly, despite the fact that most home cooks are – for whatever reason – often female.

“I think fathers have been cooking, just that it’s not made known. The perception is that ladies always cook, but I’ve been cooking all my life. I have always been the main cook, more than anybody else. And cooking makes me happy,” he says succinctly.

“To which, Kok’s only grandchild Cassandra pipes in, “I don’t think he’s unusual – we’re all just so proud of him,” she says, beaming up at her grandfather.

HENRY’S ASSAM FISH
Serves 8 to 10

1 golden pomfret, about 800g (can be replaced with snapper)
7 to 8 okra, tip removed
10 tbsp cooking oil
3 stalks lemongrass, white part only, smashed lightly
15 to 20 shallots, blended
10 cloves garlic, blended
5 to 6 dried chillies, blended
10 fresh red chillies, blended
5 candlenuts, pounded
5cm belacan (6mm thick), flattened to 2mm and toasted over gas fire
6cm fresh turmeric, pounded
2 bunga kantan (torch ginger buds), sliced
a bunch of daun kesum (Vietnamese mint), sliced thinly
2 tbsp tamarind pulp, soaked in rice bowl filled with 3/4 water
1 whole pineapple, halved (1/2 cut into slices for curry, the other 1/2 juiced)
10-12 kalamansi limes, juiced
salt to taste
sugar to taste

To make
Steam fish until cooked; discard steaming liquid.
Microwave okra until tender, then cut into 2cm slices.
Heat wok with cooking oil. Fry lemongrass with blended shallots and garlic. Add blended chillies, candlenuts, belacan, turmeric, bunga kantan and daun kesum and stir to combine.
Add tamarind juice, pineapple juice and kalamansi juice and stir to combine. Add salt and sugar, then put in pineapple slices and adjust seasoning to taste.
Add okra and fish right at the end and stir to coat evenly for 1 to 2 minutes until flavours soak fish. Serve hot with rice.

DEEP-FRIED PRAWNS WITH HONEY LEMON CURD
Serves 8 to 10

2 green apples, skin removed and diced
4 tbsp lemon curd
4 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp honey
700 to 700g class A prawns, shelled and deveined
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of five-spice powder
rice flour to coat a plate

In a bowl, mix apples with lemon curd, mayonnaise and honey.
Season prawns with salt, pepper and five-spice powder and coat well in rice flour until batter is evenly distributed.
In a frying pan, deep-fry prawns until cooked but still tender. Coat prawns well in lemon curd mixture and serve immediately.

Watching India vs Pakistan match? Check out some delicious foods that both countries have in common

Watching India vs Pakistan match? Check out some delicious foods that both countries have in common

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While India has various vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies that are a gastronomic delight, Pakistani food culture thrives on meat-based dishes. (Source: File Photos) (Designed by Gargi Singh)

While on the field it’s the cricket rivalry that drives both India and Pakistan crazy, it is food that brings them together. While India has various vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies that are a gastronomic delight, Pakistani food culture thrives on meat-based dishes.

“On my numerous visits to Pakistan, I’ve observed that many dishes are common and why shouldn’t they be? Just until seven decades ago, Pakistan was a part of undivided India,” Sumit Paul, advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, civilisations and religions, who writes extensively on food and religion, tells indianexpress.com.

Historically, people of both India and Pakistan are known to be food connoisseurs who take immense pride in their cuisines.

“Food, like music, has no country or religion. The ethos, especially, the culinary ethos, of both the countries are same. What’s tried, tasted and appreciated here is also appreciated in our neighbouring country and vice versa,” adds Paul.

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To celebrate the India-Pakistan match at Trafford Stadium, Manchester today, we bring you a list of delicious dishes that are common to both countries and are loved by people equally on both sides of the border.

Parantha and Saag

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Sarson ka Saag is famous in India. (Source: File Photo)

Interestingly, Indian Punjabi food has strong similarities to Pakistani food, and there are some overlaps of flavour and taste. Delicacies like Parathas and Sarson ka Saag are regularly enjoyed on both sides of the border. So are Mughlai Paranthas.

“Though I’m a hardcore vegetarian, I dare say that the famed Mughalai Parantha of the subcontinent can be had only in two places: Kolkata and Lahore. And when it comes to vegetarian fare, there are so many similarities,” says Paul.

Dosa and Upma

Notably, Dosa and Upma are made by Malayali Muslims in Chitral, Pakistan. They migrated to Pakistan from Kerala after the Partition. “The Madrasi Para behind the Jinnah Post Graduate Centre in Karachi is home to some 100 Tamil Hindu families, who still speak impeccable Tamil along with Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi”, says Paul.

Pulao

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While vegetable pulao is a popular dish in India, in Pakistan, meat broth cooked with rice is famous. (Source: File Photo)

While Pulao in India is vegetarian, in Pakistan, it is prepared in meat broth (traditionally mutton but chicken too). Meat plays a key role in Pakistani and Afghani cuisine. Vegetables and lentils, which are hugely popular in India, are only kept as side dishes or as generic home meals there.

Samosa

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Deep fried and crispy, Samosas are made for dunking in sauces. (Source: File Photo)

This famous golden triangle has been immortalised by Indian and Pakistani shops across the world. Traditionally stuffed with spice-laden minced meat or potatoes and deep fried, this crispy snack is meant for dunking in yogurt or coriander sauces and then relishing it.

Dum Aloo and Chole Bhature

Pakistan has its Dum Aloo Peshawari (often garnished with the slices of boiled eggs) and also the most authentic Dum Aloo Banarasi. “I had it at an insignificant eatery near Faisalabad (erstwhile Layalpur) cricket stadium in Pakistan and at the canteen of Islamabad University. I had it with masala poori, a cross between maide ki poori and kachori,” recollects Paul.

Sialkot (birthplace of Allama Iqbal) and Rahim Yaar Khan in Pakistan’s Punjab province are famous for Chole-Bhature – there they serve it with spiced yoghurt or dahi-bade.

Chicken Tikka

The pinnacle of versatile street and restaurant food is the immortal Chicken Tikka. From drive-in food stops to roadside dining and wedding catering, this barbecued spicy chicken, popular in India, is Pakistan’s go-to dish as well. It is also popular in Afghanistan, though the Afghan variant (like many other Persian, Turkish, and Arab dishes) is less spicy compared to the variants in the Indian subcontinent and uses beef and lamb in addition to chicken.

Kebabs

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Like Indian street food, Pakistan is known for its variety of street foods including Bun Kebabs which are a softer version of a Burger Patty. The kebabs sandwiched within these seared buns are either meat or potato-based or more commonly made of ground lentils, powdered cumin seeds and omelette. Condiments on the side include onions, chutney and ketchup.

Faluda

Faluda is a classic choice to beat the sweltering heat in both the countries. Made from mixing rose syrup, vermicelli, sweet basil seeds and jelly with milk, it’s sometimes served with ice-cream.

Kulfi

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Local flavours like mango, pistachio and almonds lend kulfi a unique taste. (Source: File Photo)

Kulfi can best be summed as a version of popsicles, with less emphasis on cream and more on flavours like mango, pistachio and almonds. A refreshing end to a heavy meal, you can find them in street stalls, grocery stores or even at the friendly neighbourhood mobile ice cream seller cart.

Looking for healthy muffin recipes? Try this Whole Wheat Mango version

Looking for healthy muffin recipes? Try this Whole Wheat Mango version

Whole Wheat Mango recipes, easy muffin recipes, mango recipes, fruit muffins, healthy muffin recipes, healthy mango recipes

Whole Wheat Mango recipes, easy muffin recipes, mango recipes, fruit muffins, healthy muffin recipes, healthy mango recipes

Indulge yourself with this Whole Wheat Mango Recipe.

Indians love their mangoes – there is no other way to put it. A bite of this highly nutritious, sweet and pulpy wonder, and one can be lost for words. With shops already stocking up on the ‘king of fruits’, make sure you try as many varieties as you can this season. But if you are also looking for unique ways to keep the goodness alive then go for this Mango Muffins recipe.

With the goodness of flaxseeds and whole wheat, this eggless recipe was prepared in one of my cooking workshops where the participants were in between 8-15 years. The best part about the workshop was when these young and bright kids decided to opt for a healthier lifestyle. They understood that a home-baked delicacy is always yummier and healthier.

Whole Wheat Mango Muffins

Yields: 18

Ingredients:
3 cups – Whole wheat flour
1 cup – Mango puree
1/2 cup – Blueberry jam (or any jam)
1 cup – Castor sugar (or powdered sugar)
2/3 cup – Cooking oil
4 tbsp – Flaxmeal egg replacer
2 tsp – Vanilla extract
1 pinch – Salt
4 tsp – Baking powder

Method:
* Preheat oven at 180 degree celsius and grease and dust the muffin pan.

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* For flaxmeal egg replacer, measure 4 tbsp of flax meal along with 12 tbsp of water. Stir well and let the mixture rest for about 15 minutes. This process of resting helps the flax meal mixture develop a gelatinous consistency similar to eggs. Please note that flaxmeal is nothing but pre-roasted flax seeds powder.

* In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and oil until it’s light and fluffy. Add the flaxmeal, mango puree, vanilla extract, salt, baking powder, whole wheat flour and beat well until it’s mixed well.

* Pour the mango muffin batter into the muffin pan followed by ½ tbsp of jam in the middle. Cover it with the batter again.

* Place in the preheated oven to bake for 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

* Once done, remove from the oven and allow muffins to cool completely. Top them up with more jam and sugar.

Health benefits of Mango and Flaxseeds

* Mango is high in fibre, and is a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C. It also contains folate, B6, iron and a little calcium, zinc and vitamin E. Mangoes are a good source of antioxidants, containing certain phytochemicals such as gallotannins and mangiferin which have been studied for their health benefits.

* Flaxseeds, a boon for diabetics, is a good source of Omega 3 fats, improves digestive health, lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol, and reduces the risk of cancer.

Shalini Rajani is the founder of Crazy Kadchi and holds innovative and healthy cooking workshops for all age groups.

Peloton is about to IPO. Here’s why its business could enchant investors the way its exercise bikes have dazzled fitness geeks.

Peloton is about to IPO. Here’s why its business could enchant investors the way its exercise bikes have dazzled fitness geeks.

Peloton CEO John Foley is steering his startup to an expected initial public offering later this year.

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Peloton CEO John Foley is steering his startup to an expected initial public offering later this year.
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Peloton

Michael Duda knew from the first time he met John Foley that he wanted to make a bet on Foley’s fitness equipment startup, Peloton.

Duda liked Foley’s idea of trying to make a stationary bike that looked like a piece of art, and pairing it with a subscription service that would stream fitness classes and instructors straight to users’ homes. He also thought Foley’s timing was right: when they met in 2012, SoulCycle and Flywheel were both starting to make names for themselves in the fitness market with programs built around groups exercising together on stationary bikes.

But mostly what impressed Duda was John Foley himself.

“He had a drive, had a passion, and what certainly has been shown to be an insatiable focus on disrupting a category,” said Duda, a managing partner at Bullish, a startup accelerator and investment firm that’s also backed online mattress firm Casper and eyeglass retailer Warby Parker.

Duda’s bet is looking pretty smart these days. Peloton’s valuation has skyrocketed from $17.5 million when it completed its first venture round that year to $4.2 billion when it got its most recent round of financing last August.

Read this: The inside story of Peloton, a fitness media company that was rejected over 5,000 times by investors but is now worth $4 billion

And the company’s value could soon jump even higher – perhaps as high as $8 billion – if public investors are anywhere near as bullish on it as their private counterparts. Peloton last week confidentially filed for an initial public offering.

Peloton is trying to be a combination of Apple and Gillette

Peloton is technically a fitness equipment manufacturer. It now makes a treadmill to go with its fitness bike. But from the beginning, Foley and his team have aimed to offer more than just run-of-the-mill exercise equipment.

Peloton expanded its lineup last year with the Tread, a smart treadmill.

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Peloton expanded its lineup last year with the Tread, a smart treadmill.
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Peloton

The company is trying to do something that had rarely been done in the fitness market before it came along. Like Apple or Tesla, it offers a complete package of goods and services. It not only makes its equipment, it provides the service that’s streamed to its devices, and it sells its gadgets through its own chain of retail stores.

“I don’t know anyone else who’s come close to that, and he’s done it,” Duda said.

But it’s also taken a page from the likes of Gillette – its business model is similar to the classic razorblade model. Although it sells its equipment at high prices – its stationary bike starts at $2,245, including delivery charges, while its treadmill goes for $4,300 on up – its subscription service is what actually generates fat profits for the company.

The company charges customers $39 a month, but that service only costs it about $4 per user to provide, said Andrew Mitchell, a general partner at Brand Foundry Ventures, which was an early investor in Peloton but later sold its shares. Better yet, Peloton equipment owners frequently stick with the service for the long term.

They “sell the bike into your house [at] barely any profit, but reap the benefit of a software … margin and on retention,” Mitchell said in an email.

The company’s streaming service, which allows customers to participate in live workouts or stream recorded ones, has been one of the keys to its success, said David Minton, founder of The Leisure Database Company, a market research firm. Those programs have added an element of fun and interactivity to its equipment that rival gadgets typically haven’t had, he said.

“Traditionally people have purchased gym equipment for the home that then becomes a clothes horse,” Minton said. “The reason why Peloton has revolutionized that particular market is because you get so engrossed in the programs that you’re streaming.”

Business is booming

Peloton doesn’t disclose detailed financial reports to the public, at least not yet. But the indications are that its business is booming.

Peloton streams classes to the screens on customers' equipment including ones led by cycling instructor Cody Rigsby.

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Peloton streams classes to the screens on customers’ equipment including ones led by cycling instructor Cody Rigsby.
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Peloton

Its sales went from $160 million in 2016 to $400 million in 2017, the company told the New York Times last year. It expected to bring in $700 million in sales in its most recent fiscal year, which ended in February, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, the company’s share of the US gym equipment market is in the process of rising from basically 0% in 2014 to an expected 6.2% by the end of its fiscal year this coming February, according to IBISWorld, a market research firm.

“Peloton has been a complete disrupter in the at-home fitness equipment space,” said Marisa Lifschutz, an analyst with IBISWorld.

Company representatives declined to comment, citing the company’s IPO-related quiet period.

But its products could have limited mass-market appeal

As quickly as the company has grown and as much success as it’s had thus far, it could face challenges expanding its market in the future. It’s largely focused on selling equipment to individual consumers to use in their homes. That segment represents about 26% of the market for US-manufactured gym equipment, according to IBISWorld. But it leaves out another huge segment – gyms and health clubs, which represent another 24% of the market.

What’s more, the relatively large size and limited selection of Peloton’s equipment will likely rule out purchases by many consumers.

It’s hard to fit a treadmill or even a stationary bike in many apartments or even houses. Treadmills and stationary bikes are two of the most popular categories of equipment made by US manufacturers, but they only represent about 41% of the total market. Peloton doesn’t make a stair stepper, a category that’s nearly as popular treadmills.

Peloton's initial product was its Bike, a smart stationary bicycle.

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Peloton’s initial product was its Bike, a smart stationary bicycle.
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Peloton

Peloton’s market could be limited further by the cost of its equipment. Many consumers simply can’t afford to spend $39 a month on an exercise subscription, much less $2,000 or even $4,000 on a piece of exercise equipment. Other manufacturers charge high prices for similar equipment, but they often get a large portion of their sales from gyms and fitness centers that can afford to pay those prices.

And while Peloton has had success selling home-based equipment, it’s going against the prevailing trend in the market. People are increasingly exercising in gyms rather than at home, Lifschutz said in a report for IBISWorld in April. Consumers recognize that they get access to a more varied selection of equipment and classes in a gym or club than they could get at home, she said in the report.

“The increasing popularity of gyms and health clubs suggests a shrinking demand for home gym equipment among the broader population, the exception being affluent consumers, who are the primary market for home exercise equipment,” Lifschutz said in the report.

Competition is increasing, but Peloton is responding

While Peloton helped pioneer the market for smart fitness equipment, it’s seen increasing competition. Flywheel now sells a smart stationary bike of its own that allows owners to tune in live and pre-recorded spinning classes.

Life Fitness and Amer Sports, two of the biggest fitness equipment makers, offer their own lines of fitness equipment with tablet-like screens that allow users to stream classes or run apps. With some of these devices, owners can track their workouts using their Apple or Android smartwatches. Indeed, the fitness industry could go in the direction of the car industry, where automakers have been able to upgrade their in-car entertainment systems by working with Google and Apple and linking them to owners’ smartphones, said Minton.

If the same trend plays out in the fitness market, consumers may not see a need to pay up for a specialized stationary bike kitted out with proprietary equipment.

The company offers a version of its streaming service for customers who don't own its machines.

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The company offers a version of its streaming service for customers who don’t own its machines.
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Peloton

“The big tech companies all have fitness teams,” he said. “They’ve seen,” he continued, “an industry that’s ripe for disruption.”

Peloton has been working to address some of these challenges. It now offers a financing program that allows customers to pay for its equipment in monthly installments, rather than up front. Under the plan for its entry-level stationary bike, consumers pay $59 a month for 39 months. Customers pay $179 a month for 24 months under its plan for its treadmill.

The company also offers customers a way to get into its ecosystem without having to shell out big bucks for one of its machines. People without a Peloton device can subscribe to a version of its streaming service for $20 a month.

While the company remains focused on the home market, it’s been selling a commercial version of its bike to hotels, opening up a secondary market for the company and a way to introduce its service to new consumers. Customers can get on a Peloton bike and tune in its exercise programs in dozens of hotels around the country.

And it may broaden its lineup. Company President William Lynch indicated that Peloton is interested in developing a rowing machine next, Medium reported earlier this year.

Duda is optimistic about the company’s future. It’s already far exceeded his expectations. It’s benefited from being more than just a fitness equipment maker and likely will continue to do so, he said.

“There’s a lot of upside left in this company,” he said.

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