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Zarina’s Culinary Journey: A Story of Passion and Perseverance

Zarina's Culinary

Growing up, her family were huge fans of MasterChef. They’d gather around the TV, glued to every episode, hanging on to the judges’ comments. Inspired by the show, they’d rush to the kitchen afterward, trying their hand at the dishes they had just seen. In 2022, something changed for her.

Zarina’s Culinary Journey &Passion

Her  Passion knows no boundaries. With memories of their shared Chef Master moments, she set her sights higher. And then, the opportunity arrived: MasterChef India Tamil welcomed her. The same show she’d followed so closely became her stage to showcase her love for cooking.

Zarina's Culinary Maliai kofta taken from Zarina instagram
Malai Kofta By Zarina

Growing up, my family and I were huge fans of MasterChef. We’d gather around the TV, glued to every episode, hanging on to the judges’ comments. Inspired by the show, we’d rush to the kitchen afterward, trying our hand at the dishes we had just seen.

In 2022, something changed. The UAE Chef Master season, hosted by Lulu Group, caught my attention. Encouraged by my husband, I decided to participate. And guess what? I won! It was a wake-up call—I realized that age shouldn’t limit our dreams. Passion knows no boundaries.

With memories of our shared Chef Master moments, I set my sights higher. And then, the opportunity arrived: MasterChef India Tamil welcomed me. The same show we’d followed so closely became my stage to showcase my love for cooking.

 What are the challenges you have faced to be in this position?

The Challenges I have faced to reach this position were significant. One of the biggest challenges was staying away from my family for three months. Since my marriage, I had never travelled alone, and this was my first time I had to be by myself. Another Challenge was adapting to a completely new environment and routine without my usual support system. 

 What is your favourite dish you always wanted to cook and have?

My favourite dish to cook and enjoy is biryani. Biryani holds a special place in my heart because it embodies the essence of my culinary heritage. The layering of flavours, the perfect balance of spices, and the aroma of basmati rice make it a truly extraordinary dish.

Every time I prepare biryani, it’s not just about cooking; it’s about creating a dish that tells a story and brings people together. The process of making biryani, from marinating the meat to the final ‘Dum’ cooking, is something I cherish, and the satisfaction of serving a beautifully aromatic and flavourful biryani is amazing. 

 How has your cultural background influenced your culinary tastes and cooking styles?

 My Nawaiti background has deeply influenced my culinary taste and cooking style. After I got married, I was surrounded by the rich and diverse flavours of Nawaiti cuisine, which is known for its intricate use of spices and herbs. This instilled in me a love for bold and aromatic dishes.

Additionally, South Indian cuisine, with its emphasis on fresh ingredients and unique preparation techniques, has been a significant part of my culinary journey. These influences are evident in my cooking, where I blend traditional Nawaiti flavours with South Indian culinary traditions to create dishes that are both nostalgic and innovative. My goal is to celebrate and preserve my heritage while also exploring new culinary horizons.

 How do you think globalization has affected traditional cuisines?

Globalization has changed traditional cooking by bringing in new ingredients, techniques and ways of cooking from different parts of the world. This has led to new styles of cooking and new types of food which leads to fusion dishes and thus culinary innovation. It has also increased global access to traditional foods. However, it can sometimes dilute the authenticity of traditional dishes due to standardization and the spread of fast food. 

 What advice would you give to someone trying to learn about a culture through its food?

Learning about a culture through its food is a wonderful experience. I think food is a universal language that can bridge cultural gaps. My advice would be to start with an open mind and a willingness to try new things. As food is deeply connected to the history, traditions and value of culture, so one should take time to understand the stories behind the dishes.

Its always not just about tasting the food, but also appreciating the context in which it is made and enjoyed. I think paying attention to the ingredients and cooking methods is very important as they often reflect the geography and history of the region.  

For instance, if you look at traditional Nawaiti cuisine, you will notice that many dishes prominently feature seafood. This reflects the coastal geography of the region, where fishing has been a vital part of life for generations. Additionally, use of specific spices and cooking methods, such as slow cooking in clay pots, tells a story of trade routes and historical influences from neighboring regions. By paying attention to these details, you can give insights into how the environment and history have shaped the culinary practices of the community.

 What are the challenges and benefits of preserving traditional cuisine in a rapidly changing environment?

Keeping traditional cuisine alive can be hard because modern food trends and ingredients can replace old recipes. But it’s worth it because it helps us stay connected to our culture, promotes healthy eating, and supports local producers. By mixing old traditions with new ideas, we can preserve our culinary heritage and share it with the world.

Your top 5 cuisine which you like the most?

I love South Indian Cuisine which is known for its diverse range of flavours, ingredients from Tamil Nadu , Kerala, Karnataka( again includes nawaiti cuisine), and Andhra Pradesh , Apart from this I also love  Middle eastern, Chinese, Italian and Nawabi Cuisine.

How do you see the balance between authenticity and adaption in modern cuisine?

 I believe the best way to balance authenticity and adaption in modern cuisine is to stay true to the fundamental flavours and ingredients that define a dish’s cultural identity. By preserving those core elements, we honour the traditions of the cuisine. However, to elevate and innovate the dish, we can incorporate modern cooking techniques such as sous vide, poaching, etc.

These techniques allow us to enhance textures, intensify flavours and improve presentation without compromising the dish’s authenticity. For instance, if we consider a traditional Indian Meat Curry. The spices and base flavors should remain authentic to preserve its cultural essence. However, instead of traditional stovetop cooking, we could use the sous vide method to cook meat. This would ensure meat remains tender and flavorful without altering the fundamental taste of the curry. 

Top 5 dessert you like the most?

 First dessert that would definitely be my favourite, is Dill leaves Pudding, the dessert that got me into the MasterChef Kitchen. Apart from this, I love Manni, which is a traditional Nawaiti dessert. I also like Middle eastern desserts like Kunafa, Bakhalava etc. I would prefer Indian desserts like kheer, Halwa because they are classic choices that offer a wonderful taste and sweetness that’s hard to resist compared to international desserts.


News Shot 24
Author: News Shot 24

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