Ritu Dalmia, Indian chef with roots in Italy: food is medicine

Heart in India, hands in Italy, mind traveling. Cittamani, a name that evokes the female figure of the Buddha, is the creature of Ritu Dalmia in Milan. She was born in Calcutta in 1973, she manages the Diva Italian restaurant in Delhi, The Cafe café at the Italian Embassy. She is the author of books and TV programs that often have Italy and its food as a theme, Dalmia and? she was awarded the Order of the Star of Italy in 2011 and 2017.
At Cittamani what matters is sharing. At lunch, here are the tiffin like in Mumbai, the famous boxes that arrive at the workplace, the naannini, small breads baked in the tandoori oven, thali and dhosa, Indian pancakes. On video call from Goa, Dalmia radiates passion.

Pakhala Bathaimg, one of Ritu Dalmia’s dishes

What do you miss of Indian cuisine when you are in Italy and of Italian cuisine when you are in India?

“In Italy I miss Indian home cooking and, I mean a terrible thing, a driver, someone who cooks for me and makes me coffee, but above all the feeling that everything is possible. When I’m in India Parmesan, open spaces, but if I have to say only one thing, I miss everything: the aperitif “.
India equals spices.

What function do they have?
“Italian cuisine was my first love, Indian came later and I’m still learning how to use spices. They are what makes or breaks a dish. In India, each area has its own: where it is hot they are refreshing, where it is cold they warm up, they help to digest. Each dish must have a protagonist. Turmeric is great for nausea, cumin fights colds, cardamon refreshes the breath. They are a fascinating mystery ”.

What is the relationship between health and pleasure in the kitchen?
“Food is the first medicine and Ayurveda combines health and pleasure. I suffer from neuropathy and thanks to food I do not get worse. The body type is combined with food: those who are vata (ie a constitution in which the air element prevails, ed) should avoid rice and raw tomatoes; whoever is pitta (fire prevails, ed) should eat vegetables and mushrooms; who is kapha (the earth element wins, ed) it is better if he leaves the heavy things alone. Ayurveda goes along with every cuisine in the world ”.

What do you think of vegan cuisine?
“I was born in a vegetarian family, I have explored everything and now I feel better if I eat vegetables. I like to promote a cuisine without meat and fish and it’s easy, in Italy at least 40% of the dishes are salads, rice, pasta, gnocchi, there is a huge variety of vegetables and legumes. It’s sad when you ask for a second and the grilled vegetables arrive. There is much more, you just need to have imagination ”.

What are the most important ingredients in the kitchen?
“Curiosity, the desire to experiment, but above all never stop learning”.

Ritu Dalmia puts his heart into his preparations

Ritu Dalmia puts his heart into his preparations

Has the pandemic changed the way we eat?
“Humans forget quickly: at the time of delivery we did yoga, meditation and now we are back as before, but we have learned two things: we are more attentive to vegetarian food and not to waste”.

What is food for you?
“It all comes down to what we ingest and what we excrete. Food is medicine: we must be careful what we eat “.

RECIPE: Sambharo and Fafda

Sambhar and Fafda: fresh papaya and carrot salad

Method

Combine all the ingredients, form a loaf. Create the chips, then fry them.
Grease a pan with oil and add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add papaya, carrots and mango.
Arrange chips and vegetables in layers.
Garnish with two mint leaves and serve.


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