The run of the millets

City Health Top Story

She pondered over the menu for a long time; the Chinese items looked especially enticing. Flipping a back a page to the “Healthy food section”but then flipping over again, she finally called for the waiter and ordered, “Two ragi mudde with sambar and papad please.”

Madhulika is one of the many Bengalureans who is opting out of conventionally tasty dishes in favour of healthier ones. Several restaurants in the city have diversified their menus to include dishes made out of organic foods such as millets and whole grains, in order to fulfill the recently growing demand for tasty-yet-healthy foods.

Rohin, a student of Jain University said, “I have read and heard terrible things about consuming refined flour and polished grains. I prefer nutrient rich, coarse foods now. Millets have become my current favourite and I have them almost everyday.”

Madhulika said that she was a big fan of street food until her dietician told her to opt for greens and adopt better dietary habits which will not only keep her weight in check but also improve metabolism. “It is tough, but I almost always order millet dishes or salads in restaurants. I like that many restaurants have millet food options these days.”

Mulling millets: Millet Square, a popular millet restaurant in Bangalore offers millet fried rice, ragi rolls and ragi paranthas

Archana Das, manager at the Millet Square restaurant in BTM layout said, “Since the opening of the restaurant, sales have only gone up.” She added that her restaurant offers a wide array of millet-based dishes such as ragi paranthas, khichdis and desserts made from millets.Customers are becoming increasingly food-conscious; and are ready to pay more for healthier alternatives. The challenge is to also make them taste and look delicious,” she added.

A regular customer at the restaurant said that he wished more restaurants which sell millet foods come up. “When it comes to picking millet restaurants, I think choices are limited.”

Preethi U N, owner of Millets Mane Oota said that dosa, idli and uttapam made from millets at the restaurant are popular choices. She added that the special masala millet paddu sold the most last year. “In the past six or seven months, we have seen a 15 to 20 percent increase in the number of customers,” she said. She explained that millet meals range from Rs. 80 to Rs. 200 at the restaurant.

Lalitha Kamath, proprietor of Kamath’s Organic and Millet House, a millet retail outlet said, “We decided to offer home delivery services after the demand for millets steadily rose. We recently also introduced the 15 kg millet packet to catch up with the demand.” She added that she sells anywhere between 110 to 150 kg millet each month; a year ago, the number was somewhere between 70 to 80 kg.

B.S. Shamiullah, owner and manager at Herbal Forum, an organic food store said that finger millets or ragi sell the most at his store. “We see many regular customers who say they have diabetes or suffer from heart diseases buy millets,” he said. Asha, a customer at the store said that millets have not replaced the staple rice and wheat in her kitchen. “However, there are several recipes for millets available online, I follow them and cook millet dishes quite often,” she added.

According to the E-Catalogue for Export of Millets and Value Added Products Karnataka 2023, released by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Bengaluru urban recorded one of the highest yield of millets across all districts in Karnataka. According to the report, which terms Bangalore the “millet hub of India”, the nutritional and health benefits of millets have led to a demand surge for them.

Data from APEDA also shows that the yield of jowar went up from 1194 kg/ha in 2019-20 to 1204 kg/ha in 2021-22. The yield of bajra increased from 1140 kg/ha in 2019-20 to 1161 kg/ha in 2021-22.

A food which traces back to many centuries, the United Nations had declared 2023 ‘The International Year of Millets at India’s proposal. The Millets and Organics International Trade Fair organized in Bengaluru from Jan. 5 to Jan 7, 2024 was aimed at furthering deliberations around the sale and consumption of millets in the country. At the fair’s inauguration ceremony, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah announced that millets were to be included in Indira Canteens and mid-day meals.

P.C. Rao, President, Bangalore Hotels Association connected the growth in the popularity of millets with the growing awareness about nutrition and ingredients. He said, “People at restaurants do not blindly consume these days, they are selective about what goes inside their food.” He added that the people preferring millet meals is actually beneficial for the economy as millets require little effort and attention to grow and can withstand hot weather conditions. “However, awareness about millets and number of millet cafes or restaurants is still low. One of the reasons could be cooking millets in a delicious way requires efficient culinary skills, which chefs lack,” he said. He added that very few chefs in hotels know how to cook millets properly.

Ayushi M, a food technologist from Bangalore said that millets are gluten-free, rich in protein, fiber and antioxidants. They are also found to be helpful with the reduction of weight, maintain a balanced Body Mass Index (BMI), and high blood pressure. “Since they are gluten free, millets can be a tasty and nutritious supplement for people allergic to wheat and flour,” she added.