Like his Disney Channel debut, Twirl, premieres, famous director Manjari Makijany gives a glimpse into Indian culture that will give families eager to discover more. While Disney Channel movie follows Rhea as she explores her deeply rooted connection to music, sounds are only part of the seasoning of this original Disney film. In some ways, the family’s Indian restaurant and the food on the table are just as integrated as the rhythms playing in the background.
Recently, FoodSided had the opportunity to specialize with Makijany on his film and the importance of music and food in Indian culture. Specifically, she said people come together through the celebrations. And “there is no party without food and without music”.
As seen in the film, this concept is closely related. From those special Sunday dinners to the sounds in the kitchen itself, every element builds upon each other. Much like a large dish, when taken in whole, it is the most memorable experience.
Although Rhea is the hero of the film, the family restaurant, Spirit of India, is a character itself. In some ways, this is the character that brings everyone together. Sometimes grueling, sometimes exhilarating and even sometimes combative, Spin is not complete without the restaurant and its Indian cuisine.
Makijany said it was intentional to make the restaurant “contemporary and make it a kind of beautiful, warm and welcoming place”. Just as the family “are proud” to have designed this welcoming restaurant, Makijany wanted to include authentic aspects.
Although it is often heard in the movie, Sweet Butter Chicken, this level of spice is an integral part of Indian cuisine. For example, Makijany appreciates that these “subtleties were important to create in the film”. Like she said, “What happens when you go to an Indian restaurant, the first thing, after you order, they’ll tell you what, how spicy you want it is?” Is it going to be average? Is it going to be sweet or is it going to be spicy? Creating this authentic palette connection was vital.
One of the memorable scenes from Twirl it’s when Rhea’s father and his teacher taste an Indian pastry. Although her teacher loves donuts, Rhea’s dad is convinced that his Indian dessert is far superior. After a tasting, everyone agrees on the best sweet treat.
Makijany wanted to include this Indian treat because it is classic. Jalebi is maida flour that has been fried and dipped in a sweet syrup. From spirals to syrup, this is a classic treat that is a staple in Indian cuisine.
While some viewers may never have tasted this tidbit before, they may appreciate the connection. Every culture has iconic food that instantly brings joy. More importantly, when this food is shared with one another, it opens up a conversation to embrace the other’s culture.
Although there are many Indian dishes in Twirl, Makijany hopes the film invites people to have a conversation about food and culture. Whether it’s trying an Indian dish for the first time or having a family chat about culinary traditions, the table is a warm place.
And, if you want to try a special Indian recipe, Makijany has shared her favorite recipe. Here’s how to make his version of Biryani.
Manjari Makijany shares his Biryani recipe
- Meat on the bone, 1kg / 2.2lbs Small portions
- Basmati rice, 3 1/2 cups / 750 g, washed and soaked
- Tomatoes, 2-3 medium / 200 g, thin round slices
- Potatoes, 2 medium / 250 g, peeled and cut into wedges
- Plain yogurt, 1/2 cup / 100 g, whipped
- Onions, 2 medium / 175 g, thinly sliced
- Garlic paste, 2 tbsp
- Ginger paste, 2 tbsp
- Small green peppers, 10-20 whole
- Coriander, 1 cup chopped
- Mint leaves, 1 cup / chopped
- Cooking oil, 1 cup / 175 ml
- Shan Sindhi Biryani Mix 1 sachet, Mix in 1/2 cup of water
- Sauté the onions in hot oil until lightly browned. Add the chicken and garlic paste. Sauté 4 to 5 minutes over high heat.
- Add 3 tbsp. a Biryani Mix Powder or make your own Biryani Mix by adding these whole or fine powdered spices (1 bay leaf, 2 star anise, 3 green cardamoms, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1 stick of cinnamon, 5 cloves, 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds, 2 tablespoons of ground cumin, 1 tablespoon of ground nutmeg)
- Then add the potatoes, yogurt, ginger paste and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add water (4 cups beef / lamb, 2 cups chicken). Cover and cook over low heat until the meat is tender.
- When cooked, there should be about two cups of the sauce left so that the rice can be fully cooked in it. If there is more sauce, heat it over high heat until 2 cups remain.
- Place the sliced tomatoes, green peppers, fresh cilantro and mint leaves on the meat. Do not mix the meat and the green masala. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Do not stir.
- Separately: Boil the rice until it is 3/4 cooked. Remove and drain carefully. Then spread the cooked rice evenly over the meat. Do not mix rice and meat.
- Cover and cook over low heat until the rice is tender (5-1O minutes). Mix well before serving with Raita (yogurt) and Kachumber salad (finely chopped cucumbers, onions and tomatoes with salt and lemon)
Spin is an original Disney Channel film. The film tells the story of Rhea, an American-Indian teenager who balances family life, school, responsibilities and friendships while discovering her passion for music.