In the last 24 hours, a video of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi relishing kalaan (mushroom) biryani at a village in Tamil Nadu has gone viral. It was uploaded on the Village Cooking Channel on YouTube.
This isn’t your regular food channel but a team of four cousins, led by their grandfather, M Periyathamb, a former banquet cook. They stir up a feast with the enthusiasm and energy of kabaddi players. Their spirited cooking involves calling out the names of each ingredient like catchy cheerleader chants.
The channel has garnered more than 7 million subscribers for showcasing popular Indian dishes, such as Chettinad mutton, idiyappam and roshogulla, to intriguing finds, like winged termites, goat intestine soup and quail fry. Their cooking is done banquet-style, in the outdoor, in large vessels, often overlooking paddy fields in the village of Chinna Veeramangalam in Tamil Nadu's Pudukkottai district. The quantities are exceptionally large (one of the videos is titled "500 eggs gravy"). Then the food is distributed among members of an old age home.
The video with Rahul Gandhi was perhaps shot when he visited Tamil Nadu for election meetings before Republic Day. Karur Congress MP S Jothimani and the party's Tamil Nadu in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao joined him in the video. Jothimani was his translator as Gandhi attempted to make an onion raita just as his hosts would do, call out ingredient names like a sports chant during every step of the process. As an army person would shout orders, he said ‘vengayam’, onion in Tamil, then ‘thayir’ (curd), before adding them to make the raita.
Although the video featuring Gandhi started to trend quickly and has clocked in more than 7 million views in a day, it has a long way to go to catch up with the 49 million views on a video featuring village wedding food. Another one, on watermelon juice, where the cooks are seen harvesting the fruit has about 43 million views, while a video on mixed fruit salad has more than 47 million views.
When Gandhi sat down to enjoy the kalaan biryani, served on banana leaf, with Periyathamb’s team of cooks, they made no attempt at disguising how starstruck they were. The Congress leader complimented them in Tamil by saying the food was "romba nalla irukku" (it is very nice).