We’re Talking About: Food trends that can be seen in our restaurant menus with the changes we have made in our eating habits in the past decade. Our new lifestyle is bringing about a food revolution with modern techniques fulfilling our catering needs. Masala Library gives us a peek into the future of food in India.
Even as we blow out the steam from our mouth, we can’t stop biting into those of golden crispy pakoras with chatpata chutneys, juicy kebabs with the aromas of burning coal and the medley of spicy, sweet and sour flavours a crunchy sev-puri is. Yet, the waists of our Kareena Kapoors & Priyanka Chopras are shrinking every decade and our nutritionist insists on smaller portion size and frequent meals. But when we put on our fancy shirt, wear that favourite perfume and slip into those stilettoes (shiny leather shoes for men!) for a sit down meal we want to feel pampered with appealing choices on the menu.
Alternating between multi-tasking at work, social gatherings and no time to eat, less has become the new more. We’re a look-good and feel-good population; we need something that is in tune with our needs. As we try hard to keep up with a healthy eating schedule and find the perfect meals. Our lifestyle has brought in some interesting changes in our restaurant menus and food stores.
4 Upcoming Food Trends in India
Element of Surprise
Putting a new spin to add that X-factor to a classic dish. We have all tried the old classics in our favourite restaurants, be it the butter chicken and kadhai paneer, or the rabdi jalebi and chocolate brownie. Adding an element of surprise in a classic gives it an edge. For instance, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor added an element of surprise to Butter Chicken in Signature, his Dubai restaurant by making the tomato makhni gravy white instead of the Regular-Red. He kept the flavours of tomato makhni intact and added lemongrass for the extra zing in the good old butter chicken. This twist has made a simple dish so intriguing.
The good old chocolate brownie for instance has been presented in so many different ways; on a sizzler plate with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce. The way Masala Library has kept the goodness of drool-worthy classic intact, cause you can hardly make a moist chocolate brownie better, they have put a great spin on the presentation. The chocolate brownie is broken into soil in a pot and served with a watering can. This element of surprise is what will draw you to this dessert each time. Such a play on presentation without messing with classic flavours, makes you want more everytime!
Bite Size Food
Bite size food has always been a part of the Indian diet as ‘Nashta’. Michelin Star Chef Atul Kochhar, who owns ‘Benaras’, one of the finest Indian restaurants in London told me about the importance of ‘Nashta’ in the Indian diet. He shared memories of ‘nashta’ like chaat and munchies like chana or ‘bhutta’ (roasted corn) that he savoured as a child and that are a crucial part of Indian Cuisine even today, during an interview for ‘Chicken Tikka Masala Conquers Britain’ a few years ago.
Earlier on there was the concept of ‘nashta’, between meal snacks and ‘khaana’, the large portions of main meals. With the ‘Want to stay fit and look fabulous’ concept getting contagious in metros we are putting more in every bite. Nashta and Khaana are becoming one as we eat small portions frequently. Small portion adds variety, is handy in social gatherings, and ranges from affordable favourites to fancy haute cuisine. It is also a great way to try new flavours and avoid food wastage.
London based Food Critic & Television Personality; Glynn Christian has been studying global food trends for four decades now. When I interviewed him for ‘CTM Conquers Britain’, he spoke about the increase in the popularity of Tapas-Style food. He even predicted that ‘Indian Tapas’ are the future of Indian food.
Variety of Meats
Food stores like a Godrej Nature’s Basket and online bazaars like Gourmet Company have started storing a variety of meats that were scarcely available in the Indian market ten years ago. Meat meant lamb meat to my father’s generation and I have grown up eating chicken preparations. Lamb has dominated the meat scene in India for centuries and then it’s been chicken for a few decades now. Slowly, duck and turkey are making frequent appearances on our dinner plates with the introduction of world cuisine. Even meats like bacon and beef that were frowned upon earlier are making their way to our dining table.
While religious sentiments are strong, and cow slaughter is still banned in India, beef and bacon are now being appreciated and accepted by many urban diners. While the future of such meats in India is still a big question, poultry varieties may be more acceptable to the religious Indian.
Food Chemistry & Molecular Cooking
Playing with the concept of food is quite popular across the world metros, my favourite Chef, Heston Blumenthal is among the best in such modern cooking techniques. In India though we are still in the ‘Trial & Testing’ period when it comes to applying physics and chemistry to food. Chefs like Vicky Ratnani and in this case, Jiggs Kalra’s Masala Library have introduced new-age food concepts in Mumbai.
Keeping the essence of Indian flavours and relatable textures intact, Molecular cooking, using special equipment and chemicals to prepare food is a revolution in Indian cooking. For instance, I savoured the crunch, the syrupy mouth-feel, the richness and the flavours of Rabdi & Jalebi in just one bite. Thanks to the technique used, this classic was every bit the same in bringing joy to the senses but lighter and better.
Masala Library makes you see how Bite Size Food and Molecular Gastronomy put together smartly can concentrate the joy in every bite. When the extravagance of an Indian feast fit for kings is brought together in a single bite then you’ve got the best of both worlds. It also allows you to sample a variety without making your stomach work a double shift.
Jiggs Kalra is a visionary, who knows the past, present and future of food in this country. We were in the future at the pre-launch party of Masala Library, as it went beyond from what we already know to what it could become. Modern techniques, the use of molecular gastronomy have been combined with Indian flavours to design this menu. All elements of Indian classics are put together in one bite. It is simply a wonderful explosion of different textures and flavours. These are some of the dishes that caught my attention among those that were featured in the prelaunch.
Crunchy Caviar of Jalebi with a Saffron Rabdi foam
While preserving the essence of the flavours in a jalebi and rabdi, they introduced a crunchy pop candy like texture in the Jalebi caviar. Each caviar was so tiny and yet so crunchy that it tingles your tongue, the rabdi that goes with it is so light and beautiful. Close your eyes and imagine that crunch of a million tiny pop like jalebis, the moist syrup in the jalebi along with flavour of rabdi in a light milky foam which is usually made with Lecithin from the kitchen laboratory. This is how fun and flavour both fit into one bite.
Sphere of Curd
A very dramatic dish, with vapours of dry ice flowing from under it, was actually a sphere of flavoured yogurt or raita. A film forms on the circumference of a liquid, forming a sphere when Calcic and Algin are used to make it. It is like a small ball of yogurt, which breaks once you put it in your mouth and the liquid raita inside flows into your mouth. This dish was more dramatic than it was flavourful.
Want to Eat A Chocolate Plant?
This dish is simple and deliciously so, yet exciting in a unique way. The style of presenting a chocolate brownie as a potted plant may come as a pleasant surprise, but the flavours in here are traditional and fantastic. A green watering can with chocolate sauce is served on the side to pour into the chocolate soil. While this concept is great, it seems as though it was borrowed from Heston Blumenthal’s Garden Salad with olive dirt (Image Below). The concept has been adapted well to suit Indian taste and sensibility, and eating straight out of a plant! That’s just good sense now, isn’t it?
The Kashmiri morel mushroom known as guchchi is priced at no less than twenty thousand rupees a kg as on date, which is a hundred times the price of button mushrooms. Is it a hundred times better? Incorrect, it is a thousand times the earthiness, the meatiness of a button mushroom and has such an intense and characteristic flavour that will make you drool. Guchchi with the world’s most expensive and by default most flavourful mushroom, truffle is used to make a stuffing for this kulcha along with the added creaminess of cheese in bite size kulchas. There were also other varieties such as the prawn balchao kulcha and the egg kulcha but Guchchi kulcha was the hero.
Coming back to the world of more regular bite size food, there was the prawn chettinad, juicy and succulent, mildly coated with spices. The spices were not overpowering the flavour of the fresh prawn, so all you could taste and feel was the freshness of the prawn.
Among other interesting items that featured on the menu, there was duck curry canapés, mishti doi lollypops served in a vase, sarson ka saag and make ki roti quesadillas, lamb curry canapé on a varqi roti base, to name a few. What did I tell you about revolutionizing every bite in Indian food! In Masala Library the innovative menu is the hero and the food tasted great too, so it will continue to lure you even when you stop being amazed by its look.
We’ve been reading and hearing about the French pre-appetiser, amuse bouche intended at teasing the appetite. Well, this selection of canapés, caviars and crisps did more than just tease the appetite, given that we were pretty full even after sampling the variety with some wine.
While the #BiteSizeFood trend is picking up, it may take a while for people to be able to relate to tiny-looking food on their dinner table. Finger food has always been more popular in parties but it will be sometime before we get rid of the big pot of biryani to sum it up with. It will also be interesting to note the shift in restaurant menu choices, home kitchens and breeding-for-meat in India. But I’m most excited to know what degree of molecular surprise factor we Indians can take in a plate.