GUJU KHAKRA AND BHAKRI CHOICE: A better option to today’s junk food biscuits; suburban Mumbai stores now stock a variety of these wholesome bhakri in large and small sizes, make your choice wisely! Also check if they’re made in women’s co-operative kitchens attached to the store or in a food factory

Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

By Tara Narayan

OF all the foodie loot I got back from my recent visit to Mumbai do you know what I miss the most? Oh, I miss a lot of things but for my daily tea-time hunger snacking I miss good, old-fashioned Gujarati “bhakri.” But these bhakri which I am waxing lyrical over here are of the mini crisp biscuit kind and I think they are baked, not fried in a slew of triglyceride refined oils or hydrogenated vegetable fats as they are called euphemistically to con lay consumers …pity, I’d just picked up two of these savory bhakri packets, one wheat bhakri and another “multigrain masala” bhakri, the second one is so invitingly desirable that…well, I wish I could get steady supply of them here in Goa. I refer exclusively to the range of better quality bhakri.

Deep-fried version bhakri also exist and one may find them here in Goa along with that other popular fryum  called “khakra” (thin savory discs in various flavors and these too come roasted or fried); the biscuit bhakri I’m referring to here are all the rage in Mumbai health-conscious circles and are replacing our slew of industrial biscuits regardless of whether they are internationally branded or all-Indian. Biscuits as we know them must be the largest selling junk food in our lives and I hate it when the hubby tells me to pick up biscuit packets for tea-time “if there’s nothing better to eat in the house!”   

Anyway, I’d  bought these excellent mini biscuit-styled  roasted savory “bhakri” of multigrain masala – “home made” and of “pure wheat, bajari, jawari, nachani, gram flour, jeera” from one of the two  Chheda Stores in Matunga (East) and wish I’d bought more! There are two Chheda Stores here next door to each other, namely Chheda Dry Fruits and Yash Chheda’s Chheda Stores which deals with provisions of various familiar and not-so-familiar kind. One of them stocks all the savory and sweet snacks of the Gujarati kind.

At one time there was a “khakra” wave and folk decided dry roasted wheat khakra in a myriad flavors were the greatest, the fried ones too have many buyers. Then I guess khakra became just that too industrialized and were no longer good and pure to eat if one cared about one’s body beautiful. Now let me say it’s the bhakri wave which is sizzling out in suburban Mumbai and especially out in the distant Western suburbs of Santa Cruz, Vile Parle, Khar, Bandra, Khandivali and so on. One may serve these biscuit bhakri with chutney or pickle and I love too spread some home-made garlic yogurt cheese atop them before relishing them.

Plain baked millet bhakri too is to live for but I couldn’t find exclusively millet bhakri. If its baked or roasted it’s health food, although if one’s gluten intolerant one may shun all the wheat flour based bhakri and khakra. In fact, gluten intolerance is a very big issue, for most of us wheat has become a staple grain and much of our wheat is genetically modified, apart from wheat being rich in gluten. Many digestive systems are gluten intolerant and if you suffer endlessly from stomach problems check out for gluten intolerance….stop eating wheat in any form and see what happens in three months down the road.

It’s because we became such wheat maniacs that wheat and wheat snacks got industrialized! All our wonderful millets got left behind and I don’t know if that’s a mercy or not…in the Indian countryside most humble households, even in Gujarat, still prefer one of the millet rotis for evening meals. Millets are non-gluten grains and not genetically modified yet for larger commercial use yet. . The more I live and the older I grow the more I think the closer we eat to fresh and non-industrialized the better health we enjoy.

In any case since vegetarian India is hooked on refined carbohydrates we should do a re-check on how much refined carbohydrates we consume in various ways because carbs are indicted big time now in diabetes, heart disease (along with refined oils, salt and sugar, industrialized ingredients all) and much else which is connected.

INDIANS and especially vegetarian Indians need to eat more proteins, less carbohydrates. Even the fabulous Dr Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya, India’s most famous and compassionate heart specialist — who revolutionarized heart disease treatment so effectively that costs dropped dramatically for poor patients who suffer all manner of heart ailments – confirms this! In a chat with WIPRO employees he said take care of your heart by eating less carbohydrates, more proteins, less oil. Plus, exercise, half-an-hour’s walk at least five days a week; quit smoking; control your weight and blood pressure and yes…cut your sugar consumption!

You may or may not know that cancer feeds on sugar! Well, here we go again, sugar is an industrial ingredient – if you can do it get rid of as many industrial ingredients as you can from your daily eating habits and then see the difference….

Other things Dr Devi Shetty shared in the aforementioned chat: There is something called a silent heart attack and it can happen to stressed out folk, he says, “Change your attitude towards life. Do not look for perfection in everything in life.” He says walking is better than jogging for jogging may lead to early fatigue and injury to joints; he has been inspired by Mother Theresa for she was one of his patients; cholesterol accumulates in the cardio-vascular system from childhood; we tend to eat junk food when habits are irregular and body enzymes released for digestion get confused; the secret to staying fighting fit is to “control diet, walk and eat walnut.”

And some more:  Dr Shetty says the best food to eat is fruits and vegetables and the worst — oil. Someone asked about what to do in a heart attack scenario and he replied, “Help person into a sleeping position, place an aspirin tablet under the tongue with a sorbitrate tablet if available, and rush him to a coronary care unit, since maximum casualty takes place within the first hour.”

Vis-à-vis our steep increase in heart problems he laid the blame squarely on sedentary lifestyles, smoking, consumption of junk food, lack of exercise in a country where people are genetically three times more vulnerable to heart attacks than Europeans and Americans…hey, and I’m thinking this, many of us don’t even know what defines junk food!

Sit down and make a list of all the junk you eat day in and day out…begin with how much sugar, how much oil, how much salt, how much refined, how much industrial food snacking, etc. Don’t kid yourself, white bread, confectionary, biscuits, cookies, pastries and cakes are injurious to health no matter how seductively beautiful they look. Of course, death may come swiftly while crossing the road and it may not even be your fault.

Which reminds me to rue the fact that I’m becoming a samosa fan all over again! They’re serving samosa at press conferences and at the Atmaram Borkar Road Pastry Paradise the veg samosas  (Rs 12 each) are to die for. While roaming about town I’ve taken to stepping by here for a samosa or two or three…if you’re checking my word out be sure to go mid-morning hours though. Sometimes samosa connoisseurs come and collect the entire stock of samosa the moment they arrive in the morning!

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