Pakistani and Indian chefs compete on reality TV
In this Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012 photo, a Pakistani chef prepares a traditional dish at Lahore's food park in Pakistan. Archenemies Pakistan and India have competed in a dangerous nuclear arm race, are going head-to-head for the first time in a pair of reality TV shows that pit chefs and musicians from the two countries against each other. (AP Photo/K.M.Chaudary)
ISLAMABAD (AP) — For decades, archenemies Pakistan and India have engaged in a dangerous nuclear arms race. Now they're also competing in a more cheerful forum. The outcome will be mouthwatering curries and soothing Sufi ballads, not violent conflict.
The fractious neighbors are going head-to-head in a pair of reality TV shows that pit chefs and musicians against each other. Producers hope the contests will help bridge the gulf between two nations that were born from the same womb and have been at each other's throats ever since.
But so far it hasn't completely worked out that way. The top Pakistani chef on the cooking show, which is called Foodistan, quit the contest early. He accused the judges of bias toward India and is threatening to sue. The producers denied the allegations.
Pakistan and India were founded in 1947 following the breakup of the British empire. They have fought three major wars, two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
The TV shows do not try to hide or brush over this painful history. They make light of it.
"Now the world's greatest rivalry is going to get spicier," said co-host Ira Dubey during one of the early episodes of Foodistan, which first aired in India on Jan. 23 and will be shown in Pakistan starting in mid-February.
Her counterpart, Aly Khan, said the aim of the two teams "would be to grind the opposition into chutney, to make them eat humble pie, to dice them, slice them and fry them on their way to culinary glory."
Eight chefs from each country were scheduled for individual and team competitions over 26 one-hour episodes, with the winner authoring the first Foodistan cookbook and receiving a trip to three cities of his or her choice anywhere in the world.
There is significant overlap in the cuisines of both countries, as there is in language, music and culture. Pakistanis and Indians both love curry, kebab and biryani — a spiced rice dish. But they often use different ingredients, and dishes can also vary from one region to another within the same country.
Pakistani dishes often include beef, which is not eaten by many people in majority Hindu India for religious reasons. India has more vegetarian dishes, and the food is often cooked with ingredients like coconut milk that are rarely found in Pakistan.