Butter, it’s a staple in our daily diet. From the humble buttered toast to the richer pav bhaji with melted butter, you’d be hard-pressed to think of a day when you haven’t consumed butter in some form. And for Indians the taste of butter is also the taste of Amul. It is indeed ‘the taste of India.’
The tag line is true in more ways than one, Amul butter is not just a taste that is loved by India, it’s actually a taste that is derived from India and its traditional dahi butter, or makhan, as it is better known. In this episode, Vikram Doctor talks Amul and its battle with Polson’s, a dairy brand that was started by a Parsi named Pestonjee Eduljee. Pestonjee was known for pioneering the dairy business in Anand, the same town in Gujarat where Amul came up in 1946.
Polson’s may have gone out of business, but it has fans till this day. In this episode of The Real Food Podcast, Vikram talks to Shapur Irani, a 64-year-old Parsi gent who has been involved in Mumbai’s hospitality industry for several years, and who still remembers the taste of Polson’s butter. He describes Polson’s as rich and just a little salty – but wait, that sounds exactly like how you’d describe Amul butter today, right? Well, Amul may have had better business and marketing strategies that helped it beat Polson’s, but its butter actually mimics the taste of Polson’s, which, as Vikram explains, is due to the addition of a natural chemical called diacetyl. This gives Amul a taste that is cheesy, tart and salty, which are all qualities that are associated with the traditional Indian makhan.
Such is Amul butter’s draw that today simply slapping the word Amul in front of a dish’s name somehow makes it premium – head to a local sandwich stall, and sandwiches with Amul butter will find a prominent mention, along with a higher price tag. And it isn’t just street food, even Kainaz Messman Harchandrai, who runs a chain of upmarket bakeries called Theobroma in Mumbai swears by Amul. According to her, Amul’s extra salt flavour can work in desserts, provided you know how to handle and balance it. For her, Amul is one of the best butters today – which is something that gourmet, food and travel magazine Saveur agrees with. It included Amul on its list of 30 Great Butters, calling it, “[A] sweet cream butter from India [which has] has a slightly sharp, full-bodied taste, pleasantly reminiscent of cheddar cheese’s.” Interestingly, Sagar Pure Ghee, another popular Indian brand, also finds a mention on the list.
The story of how Amul butter’s taste evolved is interesting to say the least. Don’t miss out on the podcast as Vikram tells you about some lesser-known aspects of the taste of India, which is partly the taste of Polson’s and that of dahi butter.