Getting to Know You: Food Writer Vritti Bansal
A series of Q&As with members of the vibrant Irish international community to share their cultural heritage, food memories and stories.
Vritti Bansal is an Indian food and travel writer based in Dublin. Vritti has written for National Geographic Traveller India, Time Out New Delhi and Dublin Inquirer among many other publications. Follow her instagram and twitter @vrittibansal and check out her website www.vrittibansal.com
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in New Delhi, lived there until I was nine, and then moved to Dubai for six
years. Most of my formative years were spent in Dubai where I lived with my mother
and stepdad. My stepdad was Parsi. Parsis are a religious community that migrated
to India from Iran. So, I grew up eating a lot of Parsi food, mainly cooked by my
mother. Dishes like dhansak (a lentil curry) and prawn curry were mainstays at the
dinner table. My Parsi neighbours also sent over chicken farchas (fried chicken)
sometimes. Back then, I didn’t enjoy anything except for the chicken farchas but
later grew up to relish most Parsi food.
My mother and I moved back to New Delhi when I was 15. It had always been our
tradition to go to a coffee shop for cold coffee (an Indian version of iced coffee that
also has ice cream) and egg sandwiches, which continued well into my adulthood.
I moved to Ireland full-time in 2019. I always visited before that—for months at a
stretch—because my mother had been working in Dublin since 2016. My MPhil in
Intercultural Theology and Interreligious Studies (as part of which I studied the food
practices of the Indian-Jewish community) at Trinity College Dublin made me move
to Ireland. Since I used to visit before, I was already familiar with the place and felt at
home easily. I enjoyed travelling and exploring different parts of the country, but
always felt the strongest connection with Dublin. There were a couple of racist
incidents that really affected me, but the majority of my time here has been pleasant.
Do you cook? (Totally OK if no). If so, when did you learn and why? Who are the
best, and the worst cooks in your life?
I do cook, but sporadically. I learnt most of the cooking I know very recently, mainly
during the lockdown. Like most people, I had more time on my hands since I wasn’t
going out and craved different dishes. I learnt how to make a Thai mango salad,
butter chicken and spicy mushrooms.
The best cooks I know are my mother and my grandmother. They’re both
vegetarians but my grandmother used to cook eggs for me, and my mother cooks
meat. The worst cook would have to be my uncle—he doesn’t cook at all! Besides
that, I’ve always liked the food whenever someone has cooked for me.
What is your favourite dish, and your favourite food memory? Likewise, what is your most traumatizing food experience? (Everybody has one!)
My favourite dish would have to be the malatang at M&;L, a Chinese restaurant in the
City Centre (Dublin). It’s a very spicy soup with glass noodles, tofu and vegetables. I
could eat it everyday.
My favourite food memory is the time I got to be in a video with Chef Manish
Mehrotra, an Indian celebrity chef. It was for India Today, a well-known magazine in
India. For the video, Chef Mehrotra prepared a dish inspired by his daughter:
Kurkure bhel. Bhel is an Indian street snack made with puffed rice, but the chef used
‘Kurkure’, which are like Indian crisps, instead. He told me that his daughter and him
often ate them while watching TV, and so he wanted to incorporate them into a dish.
The result was so tasty, and I found the sentiment behind it very sweet.
My most traumatising food experience was when I got food poisoning because of
work. I used to work for Time Out magazine in New Delhi, and had to eat out more
than thrice a week. I still don’t know which meal caused it, but I fell terribly ill and had
to eat only home-cooked food for a week. And I live to eat out!
Where do you shop? Is there something that you crave that you cannot get here?
For food, I mostly shop at either Tesco or Dunnes. I also go to Ingredients in
Stillorgan for Indian ingredients, Asia Market on Drury Street for snacks, and Real
Brasil on Capel Street for pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread).
I feel like I have been able to get almost everything I crave in Dublin, except for Parsi
food! Also, Northeast Indian cuisine. The food scene in Dublin is otherwise very well-
rounded and global.
Are you particularly excited about the cuisines of other cultures, and if so, which ones?
Likewise, are there ingredients/dishes that have repulsed you?
I’m very excited about the cuisines of other cultures and Jewish food tops the list. I
have been researching Jewish food for a few years now, and particularly enjoyed the
food when I visited Israel in 2019. There is a huge variety within Jewish cuisine, from
Ashkenazi to Sephardi dishes and even Indian-Jewish food. I especially love
salatim—the Israeli tradition of serving multiple salads before a meal.
The only ingredient that has repulsed me is insects. I am terrified of them, and have
thankfully never come across a place selling them.
Finally, if you are so inclined, we would love it if you would share a recipe.
Here’s a recipe for masala chai (milky, spiced Indian tea):
Loose black tea leaves
Ginger (peeled and chopped)
Bring the water to a boil and add the cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, star anise and
Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Then, add the tea leaves and simmer for another minute.
Add milk and simmer for another 2 minutes or longer, depending on how strong you
want the chai to be.
Once the brew has a satisfying brown colour, strain the chai into cups.
Drinking masala chai is a loved activity in India, especially when it rains. My
grandmother used to make masala chai for me whenever I had a cold. It works