India discovers gold-plated food

gold dosa
Image caption It's a dosa, but not as most Indians know it

The humble dosa - a pancake made from rice batter and lentils - may be very popular in southern India, but the country's newly prosperous middle classes can now relish a gold-plated version of this dish.

Dosas come in many varieties, for example plain or with a potato masala filling. And they are not very expensive, costing between 50 and 100 rupees (94 cents-$1.90; 60p-£1.20).

But the Raj Bhog restaurant, in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru (Bangalore), now offers dosas covered in a coating of pure gold.

The luxury comes at a price. Each gold dosa costs the princely sum of 1,011 rupees ($19; £12.25).

Diners are promised that they can tuck into one milligram of gold, spread out over 12 cm by 12 cm of pure gold foil. The gold is added to each dosa in the final wrap - very much like adding a thin sheet of cheese or butter while applying the finishing touches to the dish.

Gold consumer

For the restaurant it is probably just an innovative way of marketing itself, an attempt to stand out in Malleswaram, an upmarket area of India's IT capital Bengaluru.

But as Indian society becomes more affluent, the restaurant squarely aims at those who have the ability to spend on such fancies.

"The drive behind this innovative venture was to capture the market with a different idea and the trials showed it could be a big hit," says Vasant Kumar, one of the partners of the restaurant.

He dismisses accusations that the "golden dosa" is a cheap publicity stunt to promote the business.

There may be scepticism about the use of precious metals in the food industry, says Mr Kumar, but the restaurant received a food safety certificate from the Bengaluru Corporation, and the gold foils are procured from an ISO certified company in the north Indian state of Rajasthan.

And there is some precedent. Some luxury sweet shops in India have long used thin silver foils to wrap their sweets.

The country also has a tradition of using gold and silver in various indigenous medicines, though medics differ on how effective they are. The Ayurveda system of Indian medicine has certainly been using gold in traditional medicines for many centuries.

While the volume of gold production in India is negligible, the country is the biggest market for gold in the world.

According to the World Gold Council, India bought around 1,000 tonnes of gold in 2011.

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