Having left his native Jamnagar (Gujarat) to become a domestic and global tour operator in 1987, Shah roamed around the world with his "Heena Tours", but often suffered from 'khichdi pangs', especially abroad where the culinary options were limited.
"As the tour numbers soared, the Indian tourists demanded 'home-style food' in alien lands. I started taking Indian cooks, who made it a point to serve at least 50 per cent of all meals as 'khichdi' in different varieties. My patrons would go wild with joy, enjoying piping hot 'khichdi' in the bone-chilling cold of Russia, the snowy Alps of Switzerland, near the Niagara Falls in USA and Canada, cold rains in Australia, cool climes of Europe, China, et al," he said.
At his outlets in Mumbai's Vile Parle, Mulund, Ghatkopar and Borivali (from next week), Shah started with a manageable 25 'khichdi' varieties, which were lapped up by the hungry patrons faster than they were cooked in huge earthen pots. Now, it has gone up to 111 'khichdi' varieties and with further research, he promises to offer a whopping 250-strong 'all-khichdi' menu, covering all states, regions, community specialities, etc.
"Khichdi finds a reference in our ancient texts, during the Mohenjo Daro era of the Indus Valley Civilisation nearly 4,500 years ago. Unfortunately, its significance has dimmed only in the past five decades with the advent of so-called 'fast foods'. Through my restaurants, I have tried to revive it and people have endorsed it," he said modestly.
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