Fancy Allo Parantha in Slovakia?

Gaurav Mehra

The discovery made me almost jump with excitement! I was researching what fancy meal to eat in different parts of Europe while planning my Europe exchange program during my MBA when I came across Sloavakian Lokše. To my utter disbelief, Lokše is basically 95% beloved North India craze- Allo Parantha (Indian flatbread filled with mashed potatoes & spices). Now culinary exchange around the world is fairly common, especially in India where the cuisine takes its roots from Central Asian Muslim legacy, Chinese, Arabic, African, moor, Portuguese, Iranian and British influences over the years. The majority of Indians do not know but their most favorite day-to-day dishes which they swear by are of foreign origins. Our national snack “Samosa” comes from Uzbekistan (It is believed that traders brought “Samsa” to India somewhere in the 13th to 14th century)

Indian Samosa or Uzbekistani Samsa? Image courtesy: Wiki

Amir Khusrau who was a famous Mughal prince and literary figure wrote in his book that Samosa was a favourite among the royal circles. Samosa or Samsa back then had no potato in it but minced meat as the traditional Uzbekistani “Samsa” is served.

A lot of nationalist hearts will definitely break when they come to know that even “Jalebi” (famous Indian dessert made of liquid gram fermented gram flour, fried in oil, and soaked in sugar syrup) did not originate in India. “Jalebi” also originated in Central Asia where it was brought to India from Persia by royal cooks in Mughal ‘Durbar’ (Royal court). ‘Zulbia’, as it is called in modern-day Iran, is still a popular sweetmeat there.

Indian ‘Jalebi’ or Persian ‘Zulbia’ ? Image courtesy : Wiki

This list is never ending and we will have to devote a dedicated informational article or may be a series of articles on this. However, Central Asian legacy on India cuisine is predictable and there is no surprise that lot of Persian, Uzbekistani, Azerbaizani, Iraqi, Turkish or Mongolian dishes end up in various forms in India.

However, it is baffling to understand how two very distinct cultures that never came in contact with each other through any recorded means of cultural exchanges in any period of history whatsoever, have a dish that is almost identical. I will not exaggerate when I say that there is absolutely nothing in common between the tough Slavs of the frozen Tatra mountains and the hot, dusty, and intense by-lanes of Gange’s planes. It, therefore, is a great wonder to me about this shared heritage of potato filled flatbreads.

One key difference between Indian Allo Parantha vs Slovakian Lokše is the use of spices which Indians do aplenty while predictably is absent in the Slovakian version. This gives me the idea if I ever befriend a Slovakian, I am going to serve him pipping hot and spicy ‘aloo parantha’ and see if he gets hooked onto the spicy version of his Lokše. That will be fun, isn’t it!