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Indian-American youngsters attend fifth annual Kids’ State Dinner

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First Lady Michelle Obama addressing the 56 winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge at the 2016 Kids’ State Dinner held in the East Room of the White House.

First Lady Michelle Obama addressing the 56 winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge at the 2016 Kids’ State Dinner held in the East Room of the White House.

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — One of the most exciting and endearing events at the White House, the Kids’ State Dinner was hosted this year by First Lady Michelle Obama in an effort to recognize winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a nationwide recipe contest for children to promote cooking and healthy eating.

This year, three young members or the Diaspora took their talents to Pennsylvania Avenue to be recognized for their winning recipes in 2016. Shakthi Ramachandran, 8, for her chicken tikka pita with cucumber raita; Priya Patel, 10, for cooking a healthy and delicious Tex-Mex veg-head lasagna; and Abhijith Jenkins, 11, for his tropical vacation with catfish and quinoa delicacy.

All 56 contest winners were welcomed to the White House by the First Lady, the young aspiring chefs were treated to a meal with Mrs. Obama. “You guys blew us away with your creativity and your skills in the kitchen,” she said to the assembled youngsters.

The White House recipe contest is part of her “Let’s Move” initiative to keep kids healthy. Since 2012, the initiative has hosted five such dinners, welcoming more than 270 young people and their families to the White House. More than 6,000 recipes have been reviewed as a direct result of the program.

“And, of course, we ate a whole lot of good food,” the First Lady added.

About her recipe, Shakthi said “My dad is from India and I like Indian food, especially chicken tikka masala.” She’s also a fan of eating a lot of vegetables. “This recipe combines all these things and is very tasty and delicious. In the summer, most of the vegetables we eat are from our garden. The cucumber raita dressing makes it delicious.”

Young Priya revealed a secret at the dinner: She was the first to concoct her recipe back home. But she had a little inspiration.

“I was first inspired to make this recipe by my Mom. She always tells us to add vegetables to everything we make and to experiment,” she said, adding, “you can substitute any veggies and fruits you like. The possibilities are endless. My Mom says not having or liking one ingredient is not an excuse to not try a recipe or to buy fast food.”

Mrs. Obama implored the children to continue with their cooking habits, and to get their friends involved as well.

“I know you guys can do this”, she said. “I see this every year. I see the work of kids, the magic you all do. People change because of kids. They change how they eat. They change the way they think. They change the way they see one another. You guys are so powerful and you don’t even know it.”

Arts & Culture

Microsoft executive to meals on wheels

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Shama Joshi (cq), of the food truck Roll OK Please, serves a customer during lunchtime on the campus of T-Mobile in Bellevue.

Shama Joshi (cq), of the food truck Roll OK Please, serves a customer during lunchtime on the campus of T-Mobile in Bellevue.

SEATTLE (DIYA TV) — Shama Joshi and Seema Pai, the duo who run the Roll OK Please food truck in Seattle, left their cushy jobs to pursue their culinary passions, and represent what they refer to as the “ridiculous diversity” of India — Joshi previously worked at Microsoft for 14 years, Pai was an associate professor of marketing at Boston University.

Now, Pai accompanies Joshi when the two roll their food truck onto the Microsoft campus. Customers “would come to the truck and look at her and look really confused,” said Pai. The two have been pals since college, and both used to prepare banquets and other functions for buddies, joking one day that they’d open a street-food stand together one day. After Joshi decided her passion for the tech world no longer existed, Pai left the university, and the two collaborated to bring the joke to life.

“It’s been an adventure every day, and a story,” Pai says.

The two are known specifically for their signature Kathi rolls — a delicacy which is prepared by grilling rounds of roti flatbread coated with a beaten egg, stuffed with various fillings like spicy goat meat or potato-cauliflower curry. Extra ingredients like a vibrant, labor-intensive mint chutney or a spicy green chili sauce have made the two’s truck must-try for the lunch crowd.

Joshi’s father served in the Indian army, which resulted in her family’s frequent relocation. Each stop along the road exposed Joshi to another variation of India’s vast cuisine. Pai came from Bombay, a city notoriously known for boasting foods from every region of the country. Pai noticed quickly that only a “very small sliver” of India’s cuisines are represented in the U.S., mainly saag paneers and biryanis. Pai said that’s where the inspiration for becoming the representation of India’s “ridiculous diversity” was drawn from.

The two have become rockstars of Seattle’s embraced food culture, and have enjoyed every minute of it.

“It was so heartwarming for us!” Joshi says. “It’s a testament, to me, to Seattle’s food scene, people being so open to new food.”

They and their employees do most of the cooking in a shared commercial kitchen, with the goal of creating the most healthy food possible. They employ whole-wheat flour and all-scratch ingredients in their recipes, and use techniques which were passed down from their mothers in all of the dishes. All aromatic spices in their ingredients are ground by hand, and all of the paneer cheese used is homemade.

Information from the Seattle Times contributed to this report.

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