Millet cuisines of India make waves in China

BEIJING, 21 Feb: Millets, the cereal providing staple food dating back to prehistoric times, made a rousing comeback in Indian restaurants across China as Indian diplomatic missions in this country celebrated the International Year of Millets-2023.
The year 2023 has been designated as the ‘International Year of Millets’ after a proposal for the same was brought forward by the government of India and endorsed by members of the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), governing bodies, as well as by the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.
The proposal was backed by over 70 countries. The Indian embassy here and the consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong have announced programmes to popularise this initiative. The Indian embassy in Beijing has lined up several events for the promotion of IYOM-2023, which includes a roundtable discussion on IYOM-2023 with the participation of the FAO representative to China. The embassy will also launch a ‘millet’s recipe book’, and organise a ‘millets cooking challenge’ and ‘millets selfie competition’.
Indian restaurants in Beijing, Shanghai and several other Chinese cities have come up with several exclusive millet dishes to popularise them among their Chinese guests.
They have also kept a variety of Indian millets on display in special enclosures to highlight their importance for nutrition and food security. Beijing’s oldest Indian restaurant, Taj Pavilion, has come up with an exclusive new millet menu that includes millet dhokla, goti pokodi, tomato ragi omelette, chicken bhuna sargam, and barlie barlie mutton pulao.
“Chinese are well-versed with millets. They have conjee, a porridge with a mix of total millets and total grains every day,” the Taj Pavilion owner MH Pastakia said.
“With exclusive millet dishes, we are trying to show our Chinese customers that millets can be tasty in a main course like parathas and desserts,” he told PTI.
“In some of these dishes, we have innovated with a mix of spices and included them in the main course and surprisingly they are being received well by our Chinese customers,” he said.
Another popular Indian restaurant, Dastan, hosted a Millet Festival-2023 with 25 dishes on 17 February, which saw the participation of Indian Ambassador Pradeep Kumar Rawat.
“In that event, we served 25 exclusive millet dishes, which are widely appreciated by the Chinese, international and Indian guests,” Rabiul, an Indian chef who last year started a new Indian restaurant called Dastaan, told PTI.
A host of exclusive millet dishes were served at the Millet Festival, held by his restaurant on 17 February.
On Monday, Consul General of India in Shanghai, Dr N Nandakumar, held a press conference with Chinese and Beijing-based Indian media to highlight the events planned by his mission to popularise Indian millets. The mission plans to organise the celebration of the International Year of Millets on 23 February, in which the China representative of the FAO will take part. The event aims to create greater awareness about millets, their health and nutritional benefits, and to demonstrate the diverse range of food items that can be easily made using millets and millets-based products, Nandakumar said.
Besides serving Indian and international cuisines with millets at the event, the consulate will also hold a small exhibition to provide information on how millets can be a win-win for all and the initiatives taken by the Indian government in promoting millets.
Nandakumar said India is a major producer and consumer of millets in the world and recognising it can play a vital role in food and nutritional security.
The government of India notified millets as ‘nutri cereals’ in 2018. Subsequently, 2018 was proclaimed the National Year of Millets in India. Millets were also brought under the National Food Security Act, he said.
The consulate general also held an exhibition-cum-presentation on millets for the diplomatic corps based in Guangzhou. Millets historically are popular in China as well.
The Xia and Shang dynasties were regarded as “millet cultures,” during which millet and related plants were the staple crops. One of the founders of the Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BC) was Houji, who was called ‘Lord of the Millet’.
The UN’s declaration as IYM-2023 has been instrumental for India to be at the forefront in celebrating the millet year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also shared his vision to make IYM-2023 a “people’s movement” alongside positioning India as the global hub of millets.”
Addressing the members of the Indian diaspora in Vienna last month, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India can grow millets which offer a solution to the growing food demands across the globe. The global millets market is projected to register a CAGR of 4.5 percent between 2021 and 2026. (PTI)