UAE: 5 food items that remind Indian expats of home

UAE: 5 food items that remind Indian expats of home

We picked 5 things that remind us of everything that is about growing up in India

Maggi Masala noodles
Maggi Masala noodles with vegetables Image Credit: Shutterstock

One evening at work, while discussing foods that remind us of home my colleague happened to tell me that she had never tried Amul cheese. Now, if you are an Indian who hasn’t tried Amul cheese, then, as expected I was shocked. Because, the brand, is so quintessentially Indian, especially the iconic Amul girl mascot.

This set us off on a journey to find 5 food items in the UAE that remind Indian expats of their childhoods past.

Surprisingly, these things had unique advertising jingles too, which had great recall value. For instance, “Amul cheese, yes please” or “Thumbs up, taste the thunder” are a classic. Here is the list of things that brought a smile back then, and do so even now.

A noodle you can prepare in just two minutes? It’s Maggi masala

Maggi Masala Noodles
Maggi Masala Noodles Image Credit: Shutterstock

This instant noodle needs no introduction. A bright yellow coloured packet that has a small Maggi curry masala sachet (that’s the highlight of these instant noodles) with baked wavy noodles. Many have claimed to have eaten it raw too, right out of the packet, uncooked.

“It is plain carbs (carbohydrate), but it’s Maggi after all,” said our 34-year-old Social Media Editor, Evangeline Jose.

But how did Maggi get into Indian kitchens? Especially, traditional households unwary of the instant food fad (trend) back then. Here is how. Being a sought after brand, Nestle, targeted Indian-middle class women who had begun venturing into the job market and could do with help in the kitchen. Right then, the two-minute instant noodle Maggi was launched. Which by the way, was adapted for Indian palates with a zingy curry flavour. And then there was no looking back. #Maggi is also a popular hashtag on Instagram with over forty five thousand tags.

This instant noodle adapted itself to every Indian kitchen and many varieties of Maggi became popular. Make it into a bowl of soupy Maggi, dry Maggi, cheese Maggi, vegetable Maggi and the list is endless. The most accommodating instant snack, ever. What’s interesting is its popularity among both the young and elderly. Because eating it required a new skill and cutlery - a whole new experience, quite oriental in every way. Maggi had made its way into the Indian pantry.

It became a favourite snack of office-goers, students, hostellers, travellers and soon a popular must-have dish.

Amul cheese, yes please…

Grated Amul cheese Image Credit: Shutterstock

Amul derived its name from the Sanskrit word ‘Amulya’, which means priceless. A bite into this salty, pliable cheese and you just might truly have a priceless culinary experience. Like many Indians, I grew up eating Amul cheese, which at a point was a luxury but slowly paved its way into weekend toasties and sandwich brunches.

It was in 1995, that I had an opportunity to visit the Amul factory headquarters in Anand, Gujarat, where a life-long bond with the cheese and brand began.

Nothing quite tastes like India, like Amul cheese does. Maybe it’s the buttery and salty taste that blends with breads or simply the nostalgia that it carries. The jingle does justice and I end up singing – Amul cheese, yes please in my head quite often….

India’s thunderous fizzy drink - Thums up

Thums Up
Carbonated drink - Thums Up Image Credit: Shutterstock

This carbonated fizzy drink from Parle Agro was launched in 1977 and led the Indian beverage market for a good 16 years before its international competitor Coca-Cola took it over in 1993.

How did thums up become a popular Indian beverage?

It is not quite hard to recall the red thums up logo. It was a fizzy, strong and punchy drink that matched Indian taste buds. Over time, the fizz mellowed (quite literally, for reasons best known to the company) but love for India’s first popular carbonated drink held on. Was it the celebrity advertising campaigns that worked? Maybe… but everybody wanted to taste the thunder then.

There were popular combinations or pairings ranging from thums up with salted chips to thums up and Maggi. A sprinkling of chaat masala or black salt in the drink became popular as masala thums up, too. Well, only in India!

The timeless Parle Glucose or Parle-G biscuit – 73 years and still on

Parle G
Parle G biscuits Image Credit: Shutterstock

This biscuit needs no introduction. A biscuit for the masses that paired well with tea or chai and gradually became readily available at every tea vendor and departmental store. Even in the remotest Indian village. India, had it first branded biscuits, which was easy on the pocket, tasted great, what else? When?

Every Indian, at some point has eaten this flat-baked rectangular biscuit that is wrapped in a yellow-and -white package with an illustration of a chubby little girl with short hair. This small rectangular biscuit has a decorative border and name stamped at the centre. The taste, design and packaging has been consistent for nearly 73 years now. So has the love for it, if not grown.

The classic heritage drink - Rooh Afza

Rose-flavoured drink Roohafza Image Credit: Shutterstock

India and Pakistan’s very own rose-flavoured drink, since 1903 is Hamdard’s Roohafza. Hakim Abdul Majeed created this herbal drink from traditional system of Unani medicine, to help with heat and hydration. The drink Rooh Afza in Urdu translates to a – refreshes the soul.

Rooh Afza is manufactured by Hamdard Laboratories (Waqf) Pakistan and Hamdard Laboratories, India. The 1947 India-Pakistan partition posed no threat to the brand. While its popularity grew among the youngsters every year, its memories lingered for the older generation.

This rose drink has been popular with many Indian and Pakistani generations. Drink it as a fruit punch, add it to lassi (sweetened yoghurt), milk, desserts or make varieties of mocktails, it will taste blissful.

For a tangy version, add a pinch of lemon while making it as a water-based drink. As a child growing up in a 90’s middle-class Indian home, making ice-cream or any ice-based dessert was a big deal. And all I could manage to get permission for was to freeze flavoured ice-cubes. I used Rooh Afza for the flavour. And trust me, ice-cubes never tasted better.

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