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Re-emergence of Indian flavours

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Re-emergence of Indian flavours

Plating of Indian street food, resurgence of regional cuisine, farm to table, and the growing demand for tasting menus — these are a few trends that have emerged in the country lately. Whatever be the choice, a clear winner in all this is Indian food, writes Navneet Mendiratta

One of the many highlights during my recent trip to Suryagarh, a luxury space in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, was a well-curated Halwai Naashta. The breakfast of pre-plated set meal comprising the most popular street snacks like onion kachori, hari mirch ka pakoda, besan ki papdi, mirchi vada, poori bhaaji, and doodh jalebi, served in tasting portions had everyone at the table beaming and yet not overtly stuffed as one would be after gorging on deep fried preparations!

Halwai Naashta, as Karan Singh Vaid, President of MRS Hotels that owns the property, pointed out is one of their most popular meals. Prepared by a well-known halwai from Jaisalmer, the naashta is as authentic as it can be — in recipe and flavours. To me, that breakfast pointed to a very interesting trend that seems to have emerged in the recent times. Actually, two. One, it pointed to the plating of Indian street food, and two, it indicated how tasting menus are making it big with the diners.

Later, while discussing the trend, Vaid called it “the return of Classicism”. Tasting portions, he shared, made sure that more could be enjoyed rather than have big servings limit the number of dishes ordered. “It also balances your meal, breaking it down to smaller servings and at the same time, be your conversation point for the experience,” he shared.

Not only breakfast, Suryagarh and even Narendra Bhawan and Laxmi Niwas Palace (both) in Bikaner, the other properties owned by the same group, offer tasting menus and pre-set thaalis with traditional cuisine as part of their culinary experience. Clearly, the concept has worked well with the guests.

Agrees Saurabh Khanijo, MD, Kylin, that has 10 different restaurants under its umbrella: “The art of plating is making space for itself and pre-plating of Indian food is doing particularly well for itself. People no longer find going to restaurants that don’t make effort with their presentation worth any more. Fine, they may love food from a particular restaurant, but if it is not presented well, they would rather order home than dine at that outlet.” The restaurants better get innovative and thinking there.

Talking of traditional fare, Indian regional cuisine is making a comeback and in a big way. Says Manish Mehrotra, the award-winning chef of Indian Accent and arguably one of the finest promoters of modern Indian cuisine: “Even better, we are going to see more and more home cooks come out of their homes and showcase their talent in public. And they are definitely going to give all the trained chefs a run for their money!”

He goes on to share a recent experience from a pop-up hosted by a home chef and recounts the flavours you can only find in home food. “Just think how rich we are going to be with the number of home cooks coming out with their home secrets and family recipes. Assamese ghar ka khaana, Maharashtrian ghar ka khaana, Benaras ke ghar ka khaana… there are already so many opportunities popping up for food lovers, thanks to these cooks,” he adds.

The reach extended by social media has only helped these home cooks find footing. Talking of social media, online food ventures like Foodcloud.in and offline promoters of regional cuisines like EatWithIndia and Commeat have done a good job in promoting the cuisine and home cooks alike. The gatherings are now turning intimate as these home cooks find a way to showcase their talent and reach out to a larger audience. At the user end, you also have the option of ordering authentic home style meal from a region you like. It’s win-win for both sides.

Agrees Zorawar Kalra, Founder and Managing Director, Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd: “India is a treasure trove of and, in my opinion, the only country in the world to have so many regional cuisines. While the Indian regional cuisine has been led by Punjabi cuisine to the global audience for over five decades, I see the coming years focusing on regional Indian fare from across the landscape of India being taken forward to the international audience not just within India, but overseas as well.” An indicator of this trend is Indian regional cuisine pop-ups coming up in places like London or even New York!

“I am really happy to note the exploration of individual South Indian cuisines as against popular tiffin items like idli, vada, and dosai. Finally, people are asking for micro cuisines such as Mangalorean, Kannadiga, Andhra, Chettinad, Kongunad and so on,” quips Manu Chandra, Chef Partner, The Fatty Bao, Toast & Tonic and Monkey Bar, and Executive Chef, Olive Beach. 

If regional is one big wave riding high on fresh cooking, use of fresh ingredients or going local is the other big so-to-say trend in the industry. Concepts like farm to table, superfood menus, gluten free offerings or Keto diets are the other big trends worth taking note of.

“Farm to table is a recent phenomenon, being championed by many chefs and restaurants around the world. It incorporates adopting certain agricultural practices, embracing a more organic and sustained form of farming,” says Kalra.

“The advent of this concept is attributed to promoting service of local food, achieved via a direct relationship between the producer (farmer) and the user (restaurant), and restaurants including my own Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, New Delhi, are already developing their own edible flowers, herbs (basil, all spice, celery, lemongrass), micro greens and green leafy vegetables like pui saag (an East Indian spinach) to use fresh and organic produce in their menus,” he shares.

Agrees Manu Mohindra, chef and promoter, Under One Roof Hotel Consultants, “As I see it, café food is seeing a makeover. There is more innovation in the way menus are being planned. There is a conscious effort to use healthy and local ingredients. While there is a big question mark on how organic is your organic ingredients procurement, now it is about provenance. Where are my ingredients coming from? The awareness about the produce is bringing about a new revolution.”

Not that this did not exist earlier. Attempts have been made by chefs and restaurant owners to reduce footprints in the past, but the voice is getting stronger now. Chef Chandra puts in a rider though, “True, there are a lot of exciting flavours emerging out of local produce, but I feel an endeavour made in an earnest way is enough. That’s when the differentiator comes about. You cannot replace every item with local. One should not push it so much that it becomes pretentious.” Point noted.

Another interesting trend that Chef Mehrotra points towards, but is yet to catch up in a big way is the coming up of boutique outlets run by producers with select items for retail sale. It could be two or three different kinds of flavoured meats or fish that a butcher may sell in addition to his regular items. Or a wine varietal that is limited and specific to only a particular winery. “This has been a norm in the West, but is now showing up in India as well. You now have places run by suppliers putting out a limited number of varietals with a set up of three to four tables serving something unusual,” he shares.

With diners opening up to experimenting and rediscovering what India has to offer, it looks like the flavours are going to get really varied and interesting in the coming times. Whatever be the choice, a clear winner, point out indicators, is the regional cuisine. Surprise us some, as all foodies would say.

 

The art of plating is making space for itself and pre-plating of Indian food is doing particularly well for itself. People no longer find going to restaurants, that don’t make effort with their presentation, worth any more. Fine, they may love food from a particular restaurant, but if it is not presented well, they would rather order home than dine at that outlet

— Saurabh Khanijo MD, Kylin

 

India is the only country in the world to have so many regional cuisines. While the Indian regional cuisine has been led by Punjabi cuisine to the global audience for over five decades, I see the coming years focusing on regional Indian fare from across the landscape of India being taken forward to the international audience not just within India, but overseas as well

— Zorawar KalraMD, Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd

 

Café food is seeing a makeover. There is more innovation in the way menus are being planned. There’s a conscious effort to use healthy, local ingredients. While there is a big question mark on how organic is your organic ingredients procurement, now it’s about provenance. The awareness about the produce is bringing about a new revolution

— Manu Mohindra, Chef, Under One Roof Hotel Consultants

 

There’s an exploration of individual South Indian cuisines as against popular tiffin items. People are asking for micro cuisines. There are a lot of exciting flavours emerging out of local produce, but I feel an endeavour made in an earnest way is enough. You can’t replace every item with local. One shouldn’t push it so much that it becomes pretentious

— Manu Chandra Executive Chef, Olive Beach

 

Halwai Naashta (comprising street snacks like onion kachori, hari mirch ka pakoda, besan ki papdi, mirchi vada, poori bhaaji, and doodh jalebi) is one of our most popular meals. Tasting portions make sure that more can be enjoyed rather than have big servings limit the number of dishes ordered. It also balances your meal, breaking it down to smaller servings

— Karan Singh Vaid President of MRS Hotels

 
 
 
 
 

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