~~By Natasha Dkhar
As the saying goes, “Food is the ingredient that binds people together.” These two men who are food enthusiasts and childhood friends have travelled together across the country in search of various memorable eating experiences. These big, well-built, burly men are none other than Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma — hosts of the very popular show “Highway on My Plate.” The two will take us through their journey to Shillong and also talk about their new upcoming show “Bira Hotstuff.”
Speaking exclusively to TNT-The Northeast Today, let us take a look on what these men have to say….
TNT: So guys tell us something about yourselves?
Rocky: Hello guys! We are Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma-popularly known as Rocky and Mayur even if there is only one of us. We travel across the country; we eat food and get paid to do it!! So probably we have the second best jobs in the world not telling what the first best one is. We have been doing this for 10 years now and also have done a lot of other TV shows. We have written a couple of books on food to promote the regional and street cuisines of India. We consider this a very important job and we take it very seriously.
Mayur: The two of us have been friends for 41 years and now live five houses away from each other
TNT: Tell us something about “Highway on My Plate” one of your famous shows on NDTV Good times?
Rocky: We started our first show on NDTV Good Times-Highway on My Plate 10 years ago. We travel along the big highways of India and go to cities, towns, villages across India to eat and taste the food on the streets and also different regional cuisines. So this is the reason why we love Shillong so much because the food is absolutely incredible. We first came to Shillong in 2009 to shoot our first show here and have since shot two or three more shows in the town.
Mayur: Christmas in Shillong is one of our favourite times of the year. It is fabulous to be here at this time and also the music is what we absolutely love about this place because even if you don’t know how to sing, when you come to Shillong you will eventually learn! Our friend Pauline Warjri and the Aroha Choir have taught us pretty well.
TNT: Can you tell us about your new show “Bira Hotstuff?”
Rocky: Currently we are doing a show for Bira beer which is an Indian beer which is going to be available in all states very soon. The company has started manufacturing the drink in India and it is a very good beer–light, blonde, strong, white .So we are travelling across the country to find an association between beer and Indian food and that association is best translated using chillies as a bridge. So because we use a lot of chillies in our food and love spicy food– a chilled beer really cools you down in the hot weather. Hence, we saw what you could call a logical match between chillies, Indian food and a nice chilled beer. So a combination of the three is put together on the show “Bira Hotstuff “which is now out on YouTube. There are already four episodes online which are out of a total of nine. Each episode is about 6 to 7 minutes long. So guys! Check out “Bira Hotstuff”- it is a lot of fun and you will get to know a lot about chillies from all over the country.
Mayur: The show is all about going to different places and finding the chillies that people love, getting a cuisine using those chillies and enjoying some chilled beer along with it.
TNT : Experience in Shillong (post the shoot for Bira Hotstuff)
Rocky: Shillong people are really lucky because they have done wonderful things with chillies. The variety of chillies in Shillong is almost impossible to catalogue. We went to shoot in Bara Bazaar and picked out 10 different types of chillies whereby we got to see the array of flavours and textures of the chillies which are absolutely incredible. I just love this place! I love ja doh! Love the fact that you guys are crazy about pork!! So am I! But the chutneys are something else and are very special and I could say the chutneys that people in Shillong make are probably the best in the world.
Mayur: I had a fantastic dish here which was a vegeterian version(pumpkin) of the pork and black sesame paste dish. That was really nice. The combination of the dark and smoky taste of the pumpkin with ja stem (turmeric Rice) was awesome.
TNT: Why did you choose Shillong and Guwahati from among all the Northeastern states to be featured on the show?
Rocky: The most famous chilly in India and the world is probably the Bhoot Jhalokia or maybe even the Naga King chilly. Personally I have tried it everywhere and find it the hottest in Assam and Tezpur so we definitely wanted to get down in Guwahati and explore Bhoot Jhalokia in all its glory. Guwahati is an obvious choice but knowing Shillong as I have been here many times, we could not really miss out on it. The Naga chillies are fierce and we will probably go there in the next series but for now I just want the colour of Shillong because it is a beautiful time to be here as it is the autumn season which is absolutely incredible. The market is alive with the colours–yellows, greens and reds! And to see chillies everywhere is superb. It has really paid off and I think this episode of “Bira Hotstuff” is going to be one of the best ones we have ever shot.
TNT: Do you think local channels should promote indigenous food and maybe come up with food shows in Shillong and Northeast India?
Rocky: Yes, it is very important because so much harvesting and gathering is taking place in this area so it would be a huge loss if not promoted. People should talk and write about the food scenario and the sooner they do so the better. As it is Khasi food is comparatively unknown across the country which is a shame as it is a distinct, vibrant and healthy cuisine.
(The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)