Indian Food on YouTube: The Vah Reh Vah Chef

Chef Sanjay Thumma is my current favorite time suck.

It’s refreshing to watch someone demonstrate mouth-watering dishes with uninhibited joy, a matter-of-fact globalism and minimal make-up. It helps that I love so many cuisines in India, but what immediately appealed to me is his stance as a teacher. It’s a very different experience to learn about traditional foods from someone who assumes, from the beginning, that his audience is not comprised of outsiders. Like a student whose teacher sets high expectations, viewers and home cooks rise to the challenge.

His balance of expert advice with friendly reassurance is neither oversimplified nor condescending. He’s a professional who knows his stuff, yet he doesn’t gleam with that over-polished, over-packaged look of television. Each video, from 2 to 10 minutes, covers one specific dish — just enough for a mouth-watering work break if not dinner inspiration.

Don’t expect super-high production value. Two still cameras and a complete lack of location shots does not a sexy food show make. But what Thumma’s demos lack in glamour, he more than makes up with passionate enthusiasm (a taste of Hydrabadi mutton biryani literally brings him to tears), humor and generosity. Both veg and non-veg recipes appear in his demos, and he discusses the food of diverse communities across India.

Thumma seamlessly blends traditional techniques and modern adaptations. His simple yet brilliant two-step rice cooking for biryani ensures perfectly cooked basmati throughout the pot. His secret ingredient for butter chicken reveals the wonderful ways that food crisscrosses the oceans. Mentioning Indian restaurant cooks in the U.S. and England, Thumma holds up a bottle of “tomato ketchup” and squirts some into his sauce to finish it with just the right texture and tangy flavor.

While cooks already familiar with basic Indian spices will have a headstart, the demonstrations are geared to beginners, whether you’re mixing your first raita, simmering a batch of comforting chana masala, making your own herb-infused paneer or–for the ambitious–rolling and stretching roomali roti to serve with kebabs.

There are many, many cooks demonstrating recipes on YouTube. I’m looking forward to watching the better ones emerge as new stars of the wide, wild culinary world.

Author: Thy Tran

San Francisco-based writer specializing in history and culture of food.

6 thoughts on “Indian Food on YouTube: The Vah Reh Vah Chef”

  1. Born in US and always learning foods from this continent made me a kind of food outcast among my family and friends of Indian origin
    Finally i found vahrehvah and this is truely inspiring and I cooked my first Indian dish and it turned out excellent ,

  2. pooja — I’m glad to hear that you’ve been inspired to cook by vahrehvah. What did you make?

    Best of luck as you explore more of India’s amazing cuisines!

  3. I never get chance to cook till my marriage. I came to uk with my husband.for two days he cooked for both. He is a good chef. I dont know to cook. Then i started searching for the site where i can get good information about cooking I got vahrehvah site and i started cooking.I have tried vegitable pulao, aloo mutter gobi,aloo paratha… everything turned out excellant. Thanks a lot.

  4. I had tried making butter chicken many atimes at home, but never turned out so nice and tasty as when I tried this one. My family could not believe, I had prepared it, they thought it came from the hotel.

  5. hi i am chitra. i have learnt many receipes by watching your show. i feel really interested to watch those.CAN YOU PLEASE SHOW SOME DISH OR ANY GRAVY OR ANYTHING BY USING CAPSICUM.
    this is because i am learning cooking ,i love capsicum but i know only to prepare a curry out of it using onions & tomatoes.i want to really learn some different dish from capsicums. CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME

  6. hello.Mr. Sanjay. I was at pioria near chicago and read and also see yours vidio clippings of all vegetable recipe and also made butter paneer Its test was wonderfull we all family enjoyed it very much and also decide not bring form any restorant on words , so thank you for your website, now I am in india and also trying to make all dishes for my guest so very much thank you

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