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The Curious Case of the Missing Ingredient!!!

Hello foodie, welcome back to another blog post. When was the last time you had to worry about a missing ingredient in your dish? This is just another story and not one of those long detailed informative post. If you are up for a good read then stay with me and I will try my best to make this time entertaining for you. We all know how important all the ingredients in a dish are and if we miss any of the ingredient then the dish turns out to be abysmal. This is a fun take on one such important cooking tip.

Missing Ingredient Story begins…

It was a long busy day on a weekend. Raghav was busy with the food preparations and cooking operations. A 26 something guy who was relatively new to this place, which was Delhi’s most famous restaurant the ‘Roshan-e-Hind’. Just 8 months at this place and within a short span of time he worked hard to gain respect from his mentor Ustad Naushad Kohinoor.

Ustad Naushad was second generation chef who was with Roshan-e-Hind and grew up learning about cooking from his father Ustad Salim Kohinoor. The culinary magic ran through his veins and it was a hereditary boon passed on to him. Though most of his fine skills were the ones taught by his father but the basics and traditional secrets were taught to him by his mother.

Missing Ingredient
Picture Courtesy Engin Akyurt from Pexels

He was a chef who didn’t live for laurels, for him simplicity and freedom mattered the most. Being just 35 years of age he still had 20 years of experience, as he started working here since the age of 15. He was often approached by big chain of restaurants to work as head chef but his loyalty towards Roshan-e-Hind was beyond fitting into accolades.

Apart from his exemplary cooking skills, he was famous for finding out the missing ingredient from any dish without even tasting the dish. He was well respected in his circle for the proficiency he has achieved. Raghav used to be inspired from his Ustad and wanted to reach these kind of skill levels. This maybe the reason that in a short duration he became Ustad’s favorite disciple by working hard as per Ustad’s instructions.

Raghav started learning about cooking and culinary skills after he turned 18, when he had to leave his home to move away for further studies. Till graduation he stayed in Lucknow and for Post-graduation specialization he was in Hyderabad. Post this he worked in a small fine dine restaurant for almost 3 years and moved to Delhi for better exposure.

“That fish is not going to be crispy after you fry them.” Ustad said to one of his cooks who was 24 and on his first cooking duty. Confused and panicked the 24 year old Rajiv looked clueless. Ustad asked with a little smile on his face “Beta, can you tell me how you fry a fish?”

Rajiv was stumped and nervous at the same time. A simple question but when asked by the head of cooking operations there is no scope of error. He started slowly in a hushed tone “Cleaning the fish thoroughly, deboning it with precision, washing it with cold water.” He glanced at the Ustad for any clue if he was missing any point. Ustad was at his poker best with no expressions at all. Rajiv was tensed, yet he gathered courage and continued “Add salt, pepper and our secret seasoning then put the fish on a heavy bottom pan on medium heat. Fry till the seasoning start to burn and skin becomes crisp.”

Ustad smiled and kept a hand on his back to ease the tension. Ustad said “Rajiv, everything was perfect except one crucial step you missed. You didn’t pat dry the fish before seasoning it. This is where you won’t get a crisp outer crust and a moist inner mass.” Rajiv was little embarrassed and apologized for the mistake. Ustad comforted him and told him that he will learn everything eventually so do not worry and focus on your work.

Raghav was patiently observing the entire episode and he was simply awe-struck. He approached the Ustad and told him “Each day I think that this is the best you could offer your students, but the very next day you come up with a new thing that startles us.” Raghav was smiling in admiration. Ustad replied “Son, when you cook for 20 long years, then you definitely learn tips and tricks that transform you as a cook.”

Missing ingredient
Picture Courtesy cottonbro from Pexels. Image used for demo purpose.

A week passed by and another weekend arrived. Raghav was given the duty of making a huge batch of Dal khichdi and Dal Tadka. Each one was cooked in a large cauldron with heavy copper bottom. As always, he called upon Ustad to check on the taste. Ustad walked in that section and inhaled the aroma with a deep breath. His nostrils swelled up for a second and when he exhaled, out came the words “The Dal Khichdi lacks salt.” Adjust the salt and you are good to go.

Raghav was shocked at hearing this. He was so confident and sure that he added the salt to both the dishes. Now he was in dilemma, about how to check it in front of the Ustad as it might have offended Ustad. Ustad Naushad gauged that dilemma from Raghav’s face said “Go ahead Raghu, taste it and then add salt to it. No pressure!” Raghav felt more embarrassed after hearing this. Now he couldn’t deny the order of his mentor, so he took a spoonful of dal khichdi, blew it to cool it a bit and then tasted it.

Raghav realized how miserably he has failed. At the same time he was so much impressed with this skill of Ustad that he couldn’t hide his excitement. He always heard of this special skill from other staff, finally he experienced it by himself today. He pleaded Ustad to teach him this special skill. “Ustad please teach me this secret skill of yours and I will be forever indebted to you.” “Please Please Please…” Ustad was enjoying this moment. Of course who doesn’t love flattery? The ones who say they don’t love flattery are definitely liars.

Ustad said, “I will not teach you this because these skills are better acquired on your own through experience”. Raghav was crestfallen which was visible on his face. Ustad put his hands on both shoulders of Raghav and continued “Raghu, you will someday become a better chef than I am, this is the reason I want you to learn these things on your own by experiencing them.” Still there were no expressions on Raghu’s face. “OKAY! I will tell you only about the salt, rest everything you will have to learn on your own. Is it fine?” Ustad added in an effort to cheer Raghav.

Raghav’s eyes sparkled. “Thank you Ustad, you don’t know how much value these lessons add to my life. You are not just a best Chef, but a best person too.” Ustad laughed at this and replied “Fine we have a deal, but I want something in exchange to make it a fair deal.” Raghav was perplexed on hearing this. Ustad told him “Do not worry, I won’t ask you to make anything that you couldn’t.” Raghav was relieved on hearing this.

Ustad said “So Raghu, before I tell you one chapter of finding the missing ingredient, I want you to write a short poem on cooking or food, as I know you are good at this.” Raghav felt anxious because he never shared his poems with anyone. To share something with Ustad, he has to come up with something better. He couldn’t afford to miss the deal and hence he agreed. He was given 2 days for the task.

Two days passed by quickly and finally after the day ended and the cleanup was done. Ustad and Raghav sat at the back yard of the restaurant. Under the open sky, but barely visible stars due to high pollution levels of Delhi. Raghav bought a kettle which had this aromatic Kashmiri Kahwa and poured it in 2 glasses and offered one to Ustad. He knew that Ustad won’t consume alcohol and Kahwa was the only drink that pleased him.

They both started with casual talks and then came to the point finally. Ustad ordered “Let’s get started Mr. Chef in the making!!!” Raghav hesitantly started his narration only after warning Ustad that this is not his best of work with words. He knew he could only manage an ultra-short poetry which is going to be more of a shayari. Yet he went on with it because he had no other choice.

Khush hojate khane waale…jab dil laga dete hum jaise banane waale…
Achha khana mil jaaye kahi…toh wohi aashiyana bana de saare zamane waale…
Rasoiya wahi asli…jo khane me halki si Rajaiyat laaye…
Aisi baariki hunar ki…jo khane wale k mann ko bhaaye…

Lagega jab aisa majedaar Tadka pyaare…
Daude chale aayenge khane ke shaukeen saare…
Swaad khane ka jab dil ko chhu jaaye…
Hunar rasoiye ka tab ubhar k aaye…

Zaika ho, Nuskhe ho aur namak swaad anusaar…
chuninda masalo k saath jab daala thoda sa pyaar…
Ungliya chaat jaaye har koi, aisi dawaat pe jo aaye…
khaatirdari aisi ki mehmano k mann ko bhaaye…

Khush hojate khane waale…jab dil laga dete hum jaise banane waale…
Achha khana mil jaaye kahi… toh wohi aashiyana bana de saare zamane waale…

Raghav was in a trance, even after finishing the poem. Ustad was clapping with joy as he genuinely liked this light take on their culinary journey. He applauded Raghu and raised his glass of Kahwa to which Raghav raised his glass and they clinked the glasses and said “CHEERSSS!!!” Ustad kept praising Raghav for next 5 minutes and by the time the Kahwa glasses were empty.

Now was the time for Ustad to hold up his end of bargain. Raghav was expecting Ustad to start. Ustad knew how eager Raghav was to know the secret. Ustad started “That day in your Dal Khichdi the salt was missing and I told you without tasting. Son this is the easiest thing that anyone could have asked me to do.”

Raghav knew all this, yet he was listening patiently. Ustad carried on “When you cook something with turmeric and forget to add the salt, then the pungent aroma of turmeric floats in the air. The reason being, salt mellows down the strong aroma of turmeric and this is how a seasoned chef finds out the missing ingredient. Which was salt in this case.”

Raghav was smiling in disbelief that a simple tip like this could make a huge difference and such simple tips are often underrated in cooking. Raghav replied “When did you learn this Ustad, who taught you?” Ustad looked at Raghav and said “5 years ago I was cooking at my home and my mother enters the kitchen and challenged me in the same way that I did to you.” Raghav was surprised to know that this skill of Ustad was not as old as he thought.

Ustad told Raghav “See this is why I tell you, you will eventually learn many more things on your own and at its own sweet time. You do not need to rush anything. Experiencing things before learning them is more important in cooking.” Raghav was obediently nodding his head in agreement. Somewhere in back of his mind he was extremely satisfied that now he can practice a skill which no culinary school can teach. After a good exchange of words they left the place with new insights about their cooking journey.


This was all about a short story on the missing ingredient. A no fuss story about two culinary experts who have learnt things in their own ways. Did you know about this cooking tip? If yes then let me know in the comments below about any more tips that you want to share with other readers. The characters and the names of the places are completely fictional and are work of my imagination.

The poem is my original work, which you can feel free to share with your friends and family without giving me any credits. Just kidding!!! Though not required, but a little credit will be much appreciated. I do write such crazy stories and you can check my other food stories on this link here.

With this, your foodie_khiladi signs off for the day in a hope that I entertained you and it was worth your time. If you have any queries or suggestion then feel free to DM me on foodie_khiladi007 or mail me on [email protected] See you soon in my next post. Till then keep smiling, keep sharing and keep spreading smiles.


Hello... My name is Akshay, I love to cook and love to eat equally. Founder of a newcomer in blogging world. I write by nickname of foodie_khiladi

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Mitali

    This was amazing.. Please write more stories.. I love to read them😍😍

  2. Dipika

    Wow! It was interesting. Also this tip was not known to me. Superb write up! And ofcourse how can I miss to mention about ur poem. You always write great poems. Keep writing 😇

    1. foodie_khiladi

      Thanks Dipika… Now you know a tip which you can share with others… 😉

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