For Anjana Chaturvedi, making a fluffy cake starts with a trip to the pharmacy.
Like many cooks of Indian origin, the 52-year-old Dubai resident has made a pantry staple of Eno, a bubbling antacid sold by GlaxoSmithKline.
To relieve upset stomachs, the company recommends dissolving the white powder in water and drinking. But Indian cooks around the globe have for years been using the fizz-making substance off-label to bring gastric delight instead, using it as a leavening agent in a variety of savory steamed cakes native to the subcontinent.
Composed mainly of sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, and citric acid, the heartburn medicine was created in England in the 1800s and is akin to Alka-Seltzer in its effect. It is marketed in India as an Ayurvedic antacid, connecting it to the country's ancient system of medicine.
In an emailed statement, Glaxo said Eno "should be used for symptoms of acidity in accordance with the product label instructions only."
Still, Mrs. Chaturvedi swears by the Eno-method for a number of dishes. She switched more than a decade ago from plain baking soda, which she said can change the colour and taste of a dish if used in excess, even in small amounts.
Recalling the "fantastic" results of her first experiment-a batch of soft semolina slabs-she knew she could never go back. She recommends Eno in recipes on her vegetarian food blog, ranging from traditional idli and dhokla to a less-than subcontinental microwave Oreo cake.
"We do use Eno all the time," says Poonam Rai, owner of Stirling, N.J.-based Indian-food delivery service Tiffin Blog. Mrs. Rai, 44, goes through about one 100-gram bottle a month in the roughly 150 weekly meals she dispatches around New York City and New Jersey in an Americanized concept of an Indian lunch-delivery system.
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