3 Vegetarian Must-Haves; Foodmantra for the WoW factor at Hakkasan

The beauty of Cantonese food is truly in its simplicity. Unlike the Indie-Chinese preparations that we are accustomed to, Cantonese food is not greasy or spicy. The spices are only used to compliment and enhance the flavor of the dish but they don’t dominate the flavor of the main ingredient. It is one of the eight traditions of Chinese cooking, perhaps among the most nutritious styles of cooking. Ingredients are used at the peak of their freshness; in fact some restaurants across the world also have aquariums to ensure freshest seafood. Steamed seafood and lightly greased, crunchy stir-fried vegetables are among my personal Cantonese favourites.


After a certain 2016 resolution I made to have mercy on my stomach and opt for light, nutritious choices, I was really glad that I had an opportunity to sample a Cantonese menu; the WowTables Fixed 4 Course meal at Hakkasan, Mumbai.


If you are ordering from the Ala Carte menu at Hakkasan, a meal for two comes to around 4000 rupees. So, at first when Wow tables contacted me, I did not understand what was so great about the Wow Tables experience if I would end up spending roughly the same amount for a meal for two! Isn’t it the same thing?

Actually, no, it is not the same thing as ordering from the Ala carte menu. There are a couple of advantages that you have, the first being that you don’t need to pay a penny in advance. Wow Tables or the restaurant does not charge any advance payment for the meal booking. Everything from the table to the set meal can be pre-booked online so your dining experience is smooth and stress-free.

The other advantage in my opinion is for a lazy, lazy evening where in the best of the restaurant’s selection is already hand picked for you, and you don’t need to spend several minutes figuring out the best option on the menu. The best part though, is that you get to sample more variety at the same price. The fixed menu offers each person 2 small eats, 1 main, 1 rice or noodle, an option of dessert and a glass of wine or martini. This range of dishes would cost you more if you were ordering straight from the ala Carte menu. Anything you order over and above these options in the fixed menu is charged extra.


The #Foodmantra Top 3 WoW Factors in this meal were the Crystal Dumpling, Mock Duck Salad (Perfect textured Soyabean meat for Vegetarians) and the Lotus Stem Stir Fry was amazing. I also enjoyed the Pakchoy dumplings, Duck Wraps and the Ginger Fried Rice a lot. The service was prompt, courteous and warm. #Foodmantra for this menu, do try out the vegetarian textured soyabean meats, it is unique and interesting.






To Beer Or Not To Beer ; The Beer Cafe, Mahim

Must TRY

Gateway Freshly Brewed – Stout & Indian Pale Ale.

Must Try – Koliwada Chicken here

Koliwada Chicken at Beer Cafe Mahim

Koliwada Chicken at Beer Cafe Mahim

I was recently invited to eat and drink at the Beer Café Mahim. These review experiences are always nice. The staff treats you well; they recommend their best dishes, therefore universally acceptable and enjoyable dishes. The men behind the bar counters, as well as the men behind the stove are well prepared and extra careful with your food and general experience.

I think it is rarely that one can go wrong with serving beer. When you do boast a menu that carries a 32 varieties of Beer including some freshly brewed lagers by Gateway, Beers from Japan, China, Germany even Spain, there’s noting left for a beer lover like me to question.

For the food, they first threw a big name – a menu curated by Chef Saby. Oh! I said, everyone knows Chef Saby, it must a good menu then. And it really was, give me some batter fried chicken Koliwada – desi style, serve some decent pizza to go with beer and I’m happy. Frankly, who isn’t?

After all, what does one expect from a place that serves beer and fried tit-bits? Good music [check], lots of space to fit as many friends as possible on weekends [In Mumbai? Are you kidding?], and cooked food [check]. But all this was of course a week after the place opened, on a quiet Monday evening. I really recommended this place to a lot of my beer lover friends, boasting about the variety of beers the menu carries. Some of them even visited the place thereafter.

Recently, an old college mate reviewed the Beer Café Mahim, the hangout being fairly close to my old college, IHM Mumbai. I would say we Hospitality snobs are usually picky about what we put into our mouth [no punn intended]. This college-mate of mine found a piece of chicken that was pink near the bone, half the beers on the menu weren’t available, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience for him in general, quite contrary to my own experience during the review I did couple of months ago.

Would I visit Beer Café Mahim again? Most certainly, everyone has their off days, my experience here was good and I would like to know how well they are maintaining their quality of food, service and stock of beer. You’re probably doubtful, even confused by my mixed opinion. Good then. Make your own opinion about the place. Grab a beer, enjoy a slice of pizza after a long day at work, it’s the perfect place for that, even if you decide against it, you’re still going to enjoy that beer!

The truth is, it is easy for me to tell you that you must, must visit this place I went to, like I told all my Beer lover friends. They have 32 types of beer, some yummy fried snacks and a decent pizza for a Friday night. But, if they haven’t maintained that stock of beer, their quality of food and service then you’re probably going to curse me in your head and not take my word for it the next time.

It is never just about good or bad. It is about consistency. It is about maintaining that quality of experience over several visits. Roughly the same set of people would be visiting the same place over and over, specially with a place like this where you tend to build a comfort zone. It is how well, Beer Café maintains that level of customer satisfaction, whatever it takes.

With the location of this place being right in the heart of the city, and so close to the colleges in the area, I know that it will work [hush, hushh below 21s] and why not, it is a very easy-to-choose place with the brand name, beer and all. I just hope that when you and I visit Beer Café Mahim, we are served well-cooked food and as many types of beer as they have promised to us on the menu.

How to Become a World Class Chef in 10 minutes? 42 Spices Unleashes Kitchen Sorcery

Couple of weeks ago I ate the best Thai curry that I have ever eaten. This is in spite of the urban jewels like Thai Pavillion in Mumbai city that have flaunted their curries for over a decade, or even every “multi-cuisine” restaurant and chinese corners that serves Thai Curry around town. I’d dare to say that this was the best Thai Curry ever! For me, it was a combination of fresh, authentic flavours and a sprinkle of love. What made this Thai Curry so special was that my man had cooked it for me after a hard day at work. Before you go, “Awwwww..!”, let me stop you right their and tell you all about his Thai Curry Sorcery.

Recently, a friend of mine, from my old Masterchef India team, Abhishek, started a small venture of his own – 42 Spices. I am not sure why he calls it 42 and not 41 or 43, but let me tell you how it works. 42 Spices is a cooking kit, which helps you create authentic and exotic recipes from scratch. It literally translates into – now anyone can cook anything!

All the hard work is already done for you. The kit consists of cleaned, measured and chopped ingredients to help you create your favourite Indian or International dish. They provide you with a printed copy of the recipe and they even send you a short video link on “How To Make” the dish. So whether you are Indian, Chinese or Italian by nationality, you can now cook Indian, Chinese or Italian just as easily with these authentic ingredients.

What I loved about this concept was that it is almost as convenient as making maggi after work. Okay, may be it takes a little longer than 2 minutes, but its totally worth it. It is exotic, special and doubly quick because most of the work is already done for you.

  • You don’t need to hunt for authentic ingredients; go to expensive gourmet stores, the city market or request your vegetable vendor a day before to source the ingredient. No need to pray you get all the authentic ingredients that you need to cook your favorite dish.
  • No need to buy full bottles of authentic condiments that you may not use for the next six months, or wonder what to do with exotic veggies you bought in quantities.
  • You don’t need to do any of the grunt work like googling and shortlisting the perfect recipe, measuring the right quantities or the chopping and peeling.
  • You don’t need to worry that after all that hard work you may ruin the dish. The step-by-step procedure is explained to you, and the recipe is tried and tested.
  • It is super quick and anyone can cook it. If you are a non – cook, trying out a new cuisine for the first time, or simply don’t have the time to cook after work, this is a fresh, healthy and yummy alternative to ordering in every other day.

Honestly, forget about everything else I just said, for a minute; forget about the ease, freshness and all those things. What is the one that makes you drool just thinking about a dish? The crunch, the moistness, the velvety sauce flavoured with aromatic herbs, the Taste. It is the taste that matters in the end. In my experience the taste over anything else is what will make you go back for more of this Thai curry. If 42 spices continues to impress us with the taste an quality of their other dishes as well I don’t see why this can’t be the perfect weekend meal with friends and family. No one needs to sweat it in the kitchen and you get to eat world cuisine and delicacies for affordable prices in the comfort of your home.

The Dum Pukht Biryani: How to Achieve Spiritual Awakening through Food?

Dum Pukht Biryani

Dum Pukht Biryani

It is the most gratifying aroma, and also the most painful craving that comes with the scent of a steaming-hot Dum Biryani. That aroma of basmati rice & robust spices flirting with my nose is divine, so comforting in the midst of a winter evening just setting in.

As the waiter sets it onto the next table, I can’t help but look lustfully at the golden yellow grains of long, unbroken basmati rice studded with the large chunks of moist, browned meat. I must look like a hungry tigress I thought, almost ready to jump shamelessly to the next table and attack that gorgeous biryani. But as I saw the proud glare on the face of the woman who was just about to eat it all by herself I quickly turned my head and shied away, as though I had been caught.

Although I hadn’t completely ditched the thought of attacking her biryani, I was now stealing a glance or two, pretending like I was searching for the waiter at Dum Pukht. There are few things in the world that can make you feel as good and satisfied as a Dum Pukht Biryani. After all, it is hardly ever that I feel envious and make eyes at another woman’s dinner!

It was a sticky situation but as I waited for my own Dum Pukht Biryani I managed to steal a few glances at that rich, regal-looking dish and my heart was pounding, as she was about to slice into that chunk of meat. The moment she touched the meat with her fork, the meat just slipped off the bone. “Ah!” I said, as the lady closed her eyes and enjoyed that first bite of her Dum Pukht biryani. Lovely.

As I looked eagerly at her face, searching for an expression of indulgence and gratification, she slowly opened her eyes and looked at me, almost dizzily in love. There it was an instant love-for-food connection, and we both burst into a chuckle. “I’m sorry I can’t share this Biryani”, she said with a funny face. “Neither can I”, I said as my Dum Pukht Biryani arrived at the table.

Suddenly, I felt like a five year old child, my eyes twinkling as I was being handed the lollypop. I had been good this year and my reward was finally here. Sometimes in life, it is best to enjoy a meal all by yourself, just drown in the dream, close your eyes, inhale the aromas, slice it softly, chew slowly and just let every sense of your being enjoy that bite of biryani, as if it were your last. That’s what I did.

As I slowly worked my way through every bite, each one was a medley of flavours & textures, and each awoke a separate sense of my being, I don’t mock spirituality, but for me this was like enlightenment. This meal, suddenly made me feel alive. I was there, in that moment with every bite that I ate. Call me crazy but I think that food like this is answer to real spiritual awakening, Haaahaa..

In the end, I felt sad that it was over but I was enchanted by the experience, and perhaps addicted to the biryani. As the lady from the next table left, we exchanged a pleasant, “I know how you feel” look. It is amazing how people and how many people connect over food.

There was something about this Dum Pukht Biryani that kept making me want to come back. Frankly, I could not afford to come every now and then for this special treat, and certainly could not afford to bring a dozen of my loved ones here to try it out, so I took the other road. The other road being, learning how to make this brilliant, regal-looking Dum Pukht Biryani from the man himself, Chef Mohammed Shareef the Dum Pukht Masterchef at ITC Maratha Mumbai.

It was a pleasant evening, we shared a laugh over food talk and he gave me so many little tips about making this biryani right. Apparently, there are some people in the world who still take their art very seriously, and it is not just about the recipe, it is everything from the perfect quality of Basmati rice, cut of meat to the choicest of spices and the order in which they should be added!

With the Chef’s guidance, I successfully recorded the step-by-step recipe of “How to Make the perfect Dum Biryani?”

Here’s the video of the Dum Pukht Biryani recipe for you.

This is the authentic recipe of the Avadhi aka Lucknowi Pakki Biryani as seen or eaten at Dum Pukht, ITC Hotels. Do try this recipe and whichever part of the world you come from, do tell me how it turned out because I am really curious to know. .

Restaurant Review: New Thai Food Menu Haaochi Sun N Sand, Mumbai

Name: Haaochi, Sun N Sand

Location: Next to Novotel, Juhu Beach

Date of Visit: 12th December, 2014 (Dinner Hour)

What is your relationship with food? Do you look at it with honest love or passionate lust? You see, this questions becomes very important when you drool over butter chicken, but it is pure love when the item that you’re drooling over is Broccoli & Waterchestnut Dimsums – without sauce. As for me, my relationship with food started out as lust, pure greed and the have-it-now attitude but slowly it has grown into deep love. And one can only hope that yours will too, after this meal.

I first visited Haaochi, the Oriental restaurant at Sun N Sand, Juhu last year, right after its opening. Ever I always remember this place for its tea and dimsums. When you think of going for an extraordinary white tea with golden tips or think of gorging on gorgeous dumplings with subtle notes of flavour weaved in textured stuffings, think of going to Haaochi. After my extraordinary experience with the tea and dimsums at this place last year, I was really excited to taste their new menu with which they have recently launched Thai food.

One thing that is worth noting about this place is that the food and menu at Haochi has an edge. While they understand the Indian palate, common preferences and design their menu for our taste, it is still not a common menu. It is certainly not common food. Haaochi does their food differently, and not in the modern “playing with concept way” but they just make every dish very well. You can see study, balance and patience in each of their dishes. While I am not a fan of the slightly crowded ambience, I always enjoy the food because sometimes it is the hardest to do common favourites that well.

For instance, whether it is the succulent – Wild Catch Black pepper prawns from the new menu or that gorgeous piece of art that is called the Broccoli & Waterchestnut Dimsum, the flavour in every dish, doneness, freshness and texture is just perfect. I have cooked in restaurant kitchens and I have cooked at home, so I can tell you that this is food cooked with love. May be it helped that we were there on a weeknight, so there wasn’t a crowd.

It may as well be that they were taking special care back in the kitchen but the new menu was not that regular old satays and Thai Curry rant, it was really new, and different and had the right balance of flavours. Like any other Thai food it was fragrant but designed for the Global Indian taste buds. How often do you hear that “Mieng Kham” or a Thai paan is being served at a restaurant? Not very often. In fact I had never tried this chaat-like Thai style appetizer before. It was a betel leaf served with five bowls of accompaniments, lime, peanuts, plum sauce, ginger and spring onion. I won’t say it tops my chaat list but it was interesting. Then came the spare ribs, charred, with were way to sweet for my liking and a wee bit tougher meat than I like. This was followed by the wild catch prawns from the new menu, topped with browned lemon grass julienne and my hot-favourite crystal chicken and vegetarian dumplings from the old menu.

The main dishes included Massaman Lamb Cury along with coconut fried rice. The fried rice was a fresh concept and fairly coconuty and its light sweetness paired nicely with the robust flavours of the lamb curry. The curry had great consistency with deep meaty flavours, an enjoyable addition to their menu. Some of my proud “Bangkok-return” friends might say that the food doesn’t taste the same in Thailand. These dishes are as authentic as easily accepted by our Global desi palate. If it doesn’t taste exactly the one that you had in Thailand it is because it is designed to comfort our taste buds aka Global Indian taste buds. The food must be enjoyable, balanced in flavour, consistent and pleasing in texture and theses dishes from the new menu most certainly all that. Haochi is one of those restaurants that can easily become your comfort zone. It is familiar food designed to please, the ambience albeit a little crowded, is no-frills, old fashioned and pleasing. It serves Chinese food with gorgeous Dimsums made by an expat or imported Dimsum specialist from China.

This new addition to the menu offers Thai Curries and delicious fried rice, noodles and extends that comfort zone some more. After all curry is always a welcome addition, right? Haaochi is the right place to go with family or to plan a business lunch because with the new additions in the menu there’s something for everyone, even choosy kids! When you don’t know what everyone will eat, curry & fried rice are always that safe bet that ought to be there. And that is the “That thing about this place”. If I have to describe it in 3 words, I will call it – Comforting, delicious & simple. I was at Haochi for a review invite. The new menu includes Thai food delicacies and will now be permanently available on their menu.


Ambience : 3/ 5

Menu: 3/5

Food: 4/5

Service: Not Applicable due to Invite

Value for Money: 3/5

That thing about this place: 3/5

Rating: 3/5 – Good    

Pune Weekends: White Water Rafting in Kundalika River, Kolad

The Drive

The Drive

Have your ever felt like you were walking on a cloud? It is the best feeling in the world. Well, driving on a cloud just as good, even better than that. The clouds were so thick that we couldn’t even see the road. We could see no more than two feet of the way forward amidst the thick mist of clouds.


To me the monsoon is my fondest memory growing up in Pune. Year after year, as the clouds kiss the earth, the mountains turn into emerald green all draped in fluffy white clouds, we set out on long drives. Singing old hindi songs with family, humming tunes that we had forgotten. It is the best time of the year. Truly, it is the season of love even if you aren’t one of those couples walking hand in hand in the rain.


Around the rains and the Ganesh Mahostav the city of Pune turns into a gorgeous bride, bright, youthful and lush. If you are just visiting then even the outskirts of the city will mesmerize you and make you want to stay back forever. If you already live here, you will find all the weekend treasures the city has been hiding through the touch summer.


This year, over all others has been so rich in long weekends, and seems like Punekars have been blessed with an opportunity to discover all the weekend getaways around the city.


I have already visited Mulshi Dam, Khadakvasla lake, Pavna Dam Picnic spots a zillion times. Bhushi Dam with the water staircase in Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani have always been on the monsoon-to-do list. The best weekend getaway is always the ride and trek up to the Sinhgad fort during the monsoon. You work up an appetite and then have the most extravagant and surprisingly cheap monsoon feast up there.


There is romance in enjoying hot bhutta (corn) cooked on coal and sprinked with masala, sipping steaming cutting chai on a hilltop and savoring the oh-so-comforting wada pav and kanda bhajiyas on a damp, chilly day in Pune.


Many little travel, adventure and experiential tour travel websites and operators have popped up in Mumbai and Pune in the past few years. These websites have opened up a lot of weekend experience and homestay options. After spending over two decades enjoying monsoon treks, picnics and zunka-bhakar with thecha on Sinhgad fort, this year dad and I decided to do something different this year. We found out about a group trip from “The Western Routes” a Kothrud based travel community going for Kundalika River for White Water Rafting this Sunday.


Dad and I enjoy the adrenaline rush so we decided to book our rafting tickets right away. We found that the weekday trips were cheaper and since dad loves driving on hills during the monsoon we decided to drive down to Kundalika river for rafting two days earlier than the community trip (which by the way is great for solo travellers).


We had to leave by 5.30am because it is a 100km drive from Pune and the rafting trip goes only once a day starting at 8.00am. The rafting season is restricted to the monsoon months, the heavier the monsoon the better the rapids in the water for rafting. If you go at the peak of monsoon or during the last spell you are likely to get a good speedy water flow. The rafting vouchers costed us Rs 1035 for weekday (Rs1445 on Bank holidays & weekends). We did not opt for the dining hall lunch, which was priced at Rs 350 for a vegetarian spread.


Even though the driving directions were pretty clear (if you set your odometer correctly on zero at Chandni Chowk) , we detoured about 5 km on another downslope road, and reach technically reached the start point before the office. We only got to the Mercury Himalayan Explorers rafting office (www.mhe.co.in) at 8.45am after we found our way back. The guides had come on contract from the Himalayas and were well trained and practiced in rough waters, so even if you don’t know how swim, with the gear provided and the guides, you will survive this voyage.


Before our adventure began we enjoyed some chai, wada pav and batata bhajiyas at a little tapri next to the Mercury office. It was the perfect setting for a great day. The raining was lovely and pouring down, pattering on the thatched metal roof, it was chilly and our hearts were racing with excitement. That sukha mirchi, peanut, coconut and garlic chutney was doing wonders to those garlicky steamed and warm potatoes with curry leaves in that crispy wada. You can never have enough wada-pav. Wherever I go in the world, no matter what fine foods I eat, I will always come back home to wada-pav, it is just that kind of love.


Finally with a short introduction on “How to save your life while rafting” we were in the river. Our nerves had already picked up pace before we actually hit our first rapid. The raft tossed, and turned from side to side, but luckily for us it did not topple. The first rapid came as a shock; we weren’t prepared and drank up a lot of the water. By the second rapid we were ready to fight the waters and make our way forward. In fact we were ready for more rapids, going farther into the water and towards that frothy white wave.


After several minutes of tireless rafting, we made into a patch of slightly calmer waters, and I decided to just jump inside the water. With a thumping heart, I just went ahead and jumped. It was fabulous, I haven’t felt so alive in such a long time. The water was cold and the soft rapids were slowly coming towards us, the rescue kayak was right behind me. First big wave hit, and I went straight into the water. Drank a lot of it as well. By the time we hit the second wave, the water was still in my lungs, but I did not panic, just sneezed it out.


Then another rapid came and this time I was not in the boat but not unequipped in the water, my body was just flowing into the rapid. I did not struggle or fight this time, just went with the flow and enjoyed every turn.


Ten kilometers of rafting and 3 kilometers of swimming later, I felt lighter, like a different person, and like I was the only person left in the world. It was a moment when I really felt like I am alive, feeling my life on this planet; I didn’t care for the boat, or the sounds I had left behind me. I just felt ecstatic, just extremely happy to be there.

White water rafting in Kundalika River is a safe sport and a rich experience. I’m glad that I finally decided to just go for it, it had been my dream for many years and I think I would love to venture into the Himalayan waters sometime soon for a more bold white water rafting trip.


On the way back we drove through an even denser fog of clouds. It was a picturesque drive. Every two meters that we drove there was cheerful waterfall gushing down the mountains. Along a stretch of 40 kilometers we were driving alongside a mountain range with a string of waterfalls, like a picture frame.


We made a pit stop at Mulshi for some bhurji-pav and chai at a tapri still hung over on the awesome experience we had. Our shoulders were aching with the crazy arm activity in the rafting. I slept for three hours straight after waking up at 5 am followed by a tiring day. If you want to feel exhilarated, tired and refreshed all at once you should try this too.


There are a bunch of Travel and Tour operators for short and adventurous weekend trips and treks. In my opinion, these are some of the ones that I have tried and trust for safety.


  • Western Routes
  • Infinite Journeys
  • Pugmarks
  • Empower Camps & Z-Bac Adventure are right next to Kundalika Rafting sight
  • Nature Trails
  • India Adventure Curry
  • Breakaway – Experiential Tours



Want To Eat A Chocolate Plant? What To Expect When You’re Eating

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

Trend #1

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.

Lemongrass Butter Chicken at Signature, Dubai Courtesy TimeOut Dubai

Lemongrass Butter Chicken at Signature, Dubai Courtesy TimeOut Dubai

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!

Trend #2

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.


Trend #3

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.


Trend #4

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.

Jalebi Caviar & Rabdi Foam

Jalebi Caviar & Rabdi Foam

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.

Raiti Sphere on Dry Ice Vapours

Raiti Sphere on Dry Ice Vapours

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?

Chocolate Soil

Chocolate Soil

Heston Blumenthal's Garden Salad, Courtesy Guardian, UK

Heston Blumenthal’s Garden Salad, Courtesy Guardian, UK

Guchchi Kulcha

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.

Guchchi Kulcha and Sarson ka Saag Quesidilla

Guchchi Kulcha and Sarson ka Saag Quesidilla


Prawn Chettinad

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.

Prawn Chettinad

Prawn Chettinad

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.