New age Indian food: Innovative or gimmicky?

From baigan bruschetta, makkai biscotti topped with saag, Indian chefs are giving a chic global spin to Indian cuisine while trying to retain its essence.
Kathal Tacos made up of makkai roti and vegetables is an innovative spin.
Kathal Tacos made up of makkai roti and vegetables is an innovative spin.
Updated on Jan 03, 2022 06:42 PM IST
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By, New Delhi

Many believe that experimentation and innovation is necessary to survive and shine, while others prefer being original. The idea of change has inspired many Indian chefs to play with desi food to interpret and present them in a unique manner, serving a big dollop of surprise.

“India still doesn’t have the Michelin guide. Have we wondered as India’s custodians of cuisine as to why that is still an elusive dream? I believe that once we bring our own food to the 21st century table in thrilling and unexpected ways without losing their heart and soul, their goodness and freshness – it is only then that the Michelin guide will give us a chance to show the world our culinary chops,” says Suvir Saran, chef and owner of the restaurant Devi in NYC. He says, “Devi got the first Michelin Star for any Indian restaurant or non-European restaurant in North America. It has been closed for over a decade. I wish and hope we make this a reality in 2022.”

Tortilla Crisp Chaat is a new avatar given to the chaat.
Tortilla Crisp Chaat is a new avatar given to the chaat.

Saran likes to make food that is deeply Indian, novel in presentation and connected to the times we live in. Tandoori Chicken Khasta Papadi Chaat, Kerala Lobster Curry with Dhaniya-Pepper Toast, Lemon Rice Arancini with Gujarati Green Curry, Baingan Bharta Bruschetta with Paneer, Kathal Tacos, Parchi Kabab and Teekhi Salad, Bhuni Gobhi and Papad Pasta, Roasted Manchurian Cauliflower are some of his interpretation.

For chef Tarun Sibal, Indian cuisine has ample space for traditional and contemporary work simultaneously. At his vegetarian craft restaurant Street Storyss, Bangalore, he serves Jackfruit Galouti with a mascarpone center and mango gel. “Taste is the first priority, attention is a byproduct. If I can enhance the taste or add new elements, profiles and textures to a dish, I will give it a shot but not because it will get the shutter bugs, but because it will wow my guests with the way it looks and more importantly the way it tastes. I have always believed in content before packaging.” Kulfi floss with honeycomb and rose dust, Masala Hummus with Kurkuri bhindi, Barbecue Smoke pork vindaloo bao are some of his creations. “Our plates talk to us, we exactly know when to stop. Like an artist would know what should be the last stroke on the canvas,” he says.

Coffee Malai, a dessert with Coorg coffee, milk, cardamon, thickened by rusk.
Coffee Malai, a dessert with Coorg coffee, milk, cardamon, thickened by rusk.

The idea is to maintain the recipe while contemporarising plating and presentation, believes Gaurav Mathur, executive chef, Welcomhotel Dwarka, New Delhi. He says, “If we talk about Tandoori Chicken, it has to be roasted and creamy (the authentic way) but its presentation and look can change to make it appealing. Changing sauces and outcast basic ingredients is not my way. We definitely need to bring the Indian cuisines to the International plate like France, Italy and other countries but not by modifying its taste.” Recently, the chef has created traditional makki roti as biscotti and sarso saag moose by blending it with butter. “We had biscotti baked and saag on top of it. We changed the presentation but not the flavours,” says Mathur.

But some chefs are not kicked about the idea of modifying presentation so much that the dish looks unrecognizable. They want to make sure that it passes on to the younger generation in its original form. “As chefs, we have the utmost responsibility of passing on traditional authentic recipes to the new generation without falling for gimmicks. When there are drastic modifications, the younger generations carry them the same way. The true essence would fade off and ultimately vanish. People will start following the modified dishes and the generations will keep copying them believing that this was the way it has to be made,” says chef Reetu Uday Kugaji.

Sarson Saag Mousse and Makkai Biscotti is a modern version of sarson ka saag and makkai ki roti.
Sarson Saag Mousse and Makkai Biscotti is a modern version of sarson ka saag and makkai ki roti.

Foodies, here is your chance to become famous!

Showcase your talent and feature in City Foodies page and our Instagram handle - @delhifoodies.htcity. Also win exciting gift hampers and vouchers from French bakery, L’opera, Giani’s and The Burger Club. If you love to experiment with food, share a recipe and picture of your favourite Indian dish with a modern spin. Renowned chef Suvir Saran will announce the top three winners! To participate in the contest, follow us on our Instagram handle @delhifoodies.htcity and tag five of your friends on the contest announcement post. Send your entry latest by Thursday 5 pm.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ruchika Garg writes on Art and Culture, for the daily Entertainment & Lifestyle supplement, HT City

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022