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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):


Ingredients:

Loose black tea leaves

Water

Milk

Cinnamon sticks

Cardamom seeds

Star anise

Ginger (peeled and chopped)

Method:

Bring the water to a boil and add the cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, star anise and

chopped ginger.

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

wonders.

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