As identical twins Radha and Prabha prepare to compete on reality cooking show, My Kitchen Rules this year, they're determined to own their cultural identity and the way it's portrayed on screens.
Promos for the Channel 7 show ahead of its September 4 release have already shown Radha and Prabha leaning into their Indian background, telling viewers "You've never tasted Twindian".
Some from the South Asian diaspora (and otherwise) perhaps may cringe, question the purpose of a racialised pun, or assume it's a westernised attempt to capitalise off one's culture. However, Radha and Prabha came up with the phrase themselves, choosing to use it because they want to, and not because someone has asked them to do it for ratings or ridicule.
"It's unique to us, who we are and what we believe in," Prabha told Draw Your Box.
"I think it's such a beautiful thing," added Radha, explaining that "if there's one word to describe what we are in the competition, it is 'Twindian' – twins bringing Indian food to the table".
With their family hailing from the state of Kerala in South India, the sisters are excited to showcase the flavours and cooking they've long relished since growing up in Western Sydney. The connection between food, family and a sense of belonging underpins their dishes from the start of the competition, with promos already showing the twins moving the judges to tears as they serve their late father's favourite dish.
"We lost our father when we were two years old, but mum made it a personal mission that we never felt his absence," said Radha.
"Food is everything in Indian culture, right down to what kind of spice you use, [and] what kind of meals are the family's favourites, and mum wanted us to learn [in order] to know who our father was. It was a very special thing in the kitchen when she would teach us and then basically, she would annotate like, 'This is what your father liked, or this is how he was in the kitchen'. Even though we grew up without him, we can actually say we still know him."
While Radha and Prabha have kept tight-lipped on what the mouthwatering dish is that brings judges Manu Feildel and Colin Fassnidge to tears, they do divulge that even sharing the personal details about their dad was a huge step, and one that was carefully considered beforehand.
"We had to take that leap of faith and really open up a part of us that we don't really always like to open up, because it's a lot of tears, a lot of hurt and a lot of [I guess] absence of losing a parent," said Radha. "But I think through the food, we were very proud to showcase that to our idols Colin and Manu."
Speaking of the judges, their key advice for Radha and Prabha was to "cook with love, because they can taste that".
"If you're a bit stressed in the kitchen, they'll be able to see it and taste it," explained Radha. "They're very experienced chefs and cooks, and so they know what they're talking about."
As for what comes after the MKR experience, the reality TV stars promise food will always be in the equation.
"Our ultimate dream is to actually open up a cafe," they say. "There's a lot of recipes that we have that mum's taught us and that we're very proud to showcase to the community. We'd love for the Indian community to also see what we're doing in our home as well."
My Kitchen Rules premieres on Monday, September 4 at 7:30pm on Channel 7 and 7plus.