The Art of Jugaad – Making Pizza in India

Jugaad Pizza on a Tava

Lack of resources, while terrible in itself, does wonderful things to people. Many of you may have heard of William Kamkwamba from Malawi, who, with a little more than tremendous willpower constructed a windmill from scrap. If you haven’t read the book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind“, please do yourself a favor and read it. In India, there is a word for this – Jugaad, which loosely means to creatively use resources available to you.

As India has developed, the chasm between the haves and the have-nots has reached scary dimensions. While the folks on the prosperous end of the economic scale have seen a surge in the resources available to them, most people continue to suffer and being resource poor, improvise, or apply Jugaad.

So what does any of this have to do with a food blog? Well, on a recent visit to India, I offered to make pizza for my family. Given that my family lives in a boom-town, fresh basil and mozzarella were available – the basil was superb, the cheese average. Yeast was difficult to procure and ovens were virtually impossible to come by. My sister-in-law had a small toaster oven that I could use but since I had to cook in bulk needed to get a parallel cooking track going. I took the cue from Susmit Sen (the lead guitarist of Indian Ocean and an old friend) who had explained me how he uses Jugaad to make pizzas in India.

Pizza cooking on low heat with a cover

I started off by cooking the pizza on a tava (an iron griddle) on low heat on a gas stove, once the cheese had started to melt, I covered the griddle with a steel plate to confine the heat. Voila, I had pizza! It was good, even great compared to the vast majority of options available in India, but it still wasn’t good enough. To fix that I started finishing the pizza in the toaster oven. With the slight browning of cheese, I ended up with pizza as good as any I have made in my resource rich kitchen in Dallas. Amazing what a little Jugaad can do…



Filed under Catch-all, Indian, Italian

6 responses to “The Art of Jugaad – Making Pizza in India

  1. When I lived in Finland, I was asked to make something “American” for a large group of people. We were at some university campus and there was a tiny kitchen available to us. The other American and I decided chocolate chip cookies would work. After we mixed the batter, we realized there weren’t any cookie sheets, so we turned a few pot lids upside down and cooked them on those. We only cooked about half the dough. We rolled up the rest of the batter into balls and served both baked cookies and unbaked cookies — calling them both “American delicacies.” Sometimes you just have to wing it.

    • I agree. Love the creativity in served cooked and uncooked batter. BTW, about to start my Christmas cooking and will be making truffles. Every time I make them I think of you and the fabulous platter of truffles that you had once given us.

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