Food

Heard of 'One Pot One Shot' cooking? Ramki boils it down

Ramki is looking to revolutionise the way we cook with simpler options

Ramki is looking to revolutionise the way we cook with simpler options   | Photo Credit: Shaju John

Butter chicken in six minutes. Sounds implausible? Not for Ramki and his rapidly growing army of OPOS believers

Amid files, printers and books stands a little pressure cooker. Beside it, there’s a bowl of raw chicken. And, in the centre, towering over an induction cooktop set on an office table, stands B Ramakrishnan aka Ramki, who — as always — is in the eye of a storm, and loving it.

His enemy du jour is the Instant Pot (IP). A recent story in The New Yorker celebrated Urvashi Pitre, a Dallas-based food blogger, who posted an IP butter chicken recipe, that required 10 minutes of cooking time and got 41,600 shares. The recipe reportedly prompted NRIs to throw out their pressure cookers and replace them with sleeker, programmable IPs.

However, in India, Ramki is leading a crusade of his own, encouraging Indians to cook with pressure cookers, using a trademarked technique he calls OPOS (One Pot One Shot.) The community, connected by social media, consists of a Facebook group called OPOS school with more than 13,300 active members and a marginally more relaxed OPOS support group with about 15,500 members.

Ramki is leading a crusade of his own, encouraging Indians to cook with pressure cookers, using a trademarked technique he calls OPOS

Ramki is leading a crusade of his own, encouraging Indians to cook with pressure cookers, using a trademarked technique he calls OPOS   | Photo Credit: Shaju John

As belligerent as he is bright, Ramki attacked the IP recipe head on, calling on the community to collaborate and create a quicker, easier version with the pressure cooker. They responded with enthusiasm: firing up stoves from Chennai to Dallas. Eleven experiments and four days later, he’s cooking up the final six-minute OPOS version in a little office space in Parry’s corner, Chennai. He marinates half a kilo of chicken with one spoon each of Kashmiri chilli powder, ginger-garlic paste, dry fenugreek etc. Then, he pours precisely 60 ml of water into a 2-litre pressure cooker, and layers 1/4 cup butter, 1 tsp sugar, chicken and scooped-out tomatoes filled with two tablespoons of almond powder on top. It cooks for six minutes and eight whistles, after which he adds cream and butter.

The resulting butter chicken is astonishingly creamy. More importantly, it’s perfectly cooked. “The pressure cooker is faster, greener, lasts a lifetime, costs peanuts to fix and can survive multiple falls,” he says, adding wryly, “OPOS butter chicken is cooked in the time it takes an instant pot to heat up.”

An MBA in Marketing and Finance from XLRI in Jamshedpur, Ramki is a restless entrepreneur, constantly on the lookout for the next big idea. More than 10 years ago, he came up with One Page Cookbooks, which broke recipes into building blocks. He started Pizza Republic. But OPOS is clearly his favourite project, even though after eight years of relentless experimentation, he is yet to use it to make money. “I feel it would be wrong to keep this information to myself,” he says, adding “OPOS is constantly shaped by the feedback of thousands of volunteers from over 20 countries.”

Years ago, the method kicked off so many arguments on a Facebook Food Group that it resulted in Ramki and about 100 other people being kicked out: Much to his delight. “I started a group called United By Food, about five years ago.” That’s when the experimentation began. “We began fine-tuning recipes, burning our way through dishes and blowing up safety valves on a daily basis.”

“One part water becomes 1600 parts of steam when heated. So you need just half a teaspoon of water to cook this,” he says, pointing at a cup of beans. “If your water dries up, your safety valve might blow. If you put in too much water, there’s a build up of steam. The biggest fear is burning, not bursting,” he adds, explaining why people should not be afraid of their pressure cookers. “It is virtually impossible to blow up. I have been trying to do that for ages. Unsuccessfully!”

With this system, food is cut and layered according to cooking times and density.

With this system, food is cut and layered according to cooking times and density.   | Photo Credit: Shaju John

With this system, food is cut and layered according to cooking times and density. “Watery veggies at the bottom. Starchy on top so they don’t burn. Length doesn’t matter: only thickness.” Recipes and cooking time are standardised, and newbies are firmly told to stick to the rules. “The key is to cook food in its own juices. In the highest possible heat for the lowest possible time.”

This enables users to put together elaborate meals unbelievably quickly. “Six minutes. That’s how long it takes to cook myself lunch. My mother used to take half a day,” says Ramki. Of course, there has been the inevitable push back. Chefs and traditionalists tend to be cynical, often resulting in heated online wars. “It’s hard to have a rational discussion. Either people love me or hate me.” A pressure cooker cult? He laughs. “I kind of think that is true. It has become a cult. Probably because of my personality...”

He says his confidence stems from babies. “When people started posting that their babies loved OPOS food we knew we were on to something. Baby senses are very acute... Good food is hard-wired into us.” He continues, “This technique will change food. It will become the only way people cook. It will change every cuisine. Every cookbook.”

Overly quixotic? Not if you listen to his legion of admirers, who address him as ‘Chef’ or ‘Sir’, and breathlessly follow his every update. Many are housewives once forced to spend hours in the kitchen to please picky in-laws, husbands and children. They talk of OPOS changing their lives by unchaining them from the stove.

As for the tough moderators and inflexible rules? “OPOS comes with a built-in punishment,” Ramki chuckles. “The more you veer away from the recipe, the more scrubbing there will be in the end.”

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2020 9:58:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/ramki-on-opos-and-cooking-under-pressure/article22521160.ece

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