Mirchi at the Table

Last year,when Mumbai-born chef Floyd Cardoz,who specialises in India-inspired food,won Bravo’s Top Chef,it was a harbinger of things to come.

Written by Shantanu David | Published:July 21, 2012 2:17 am

Last year,when Mumbai-born chef Floyd Cardoz,who specialises in India-inspired food,won Bravo’s Top Chef,it was a harbinger of things to come. This year has been internationally hailed by food magazines as the year when Indian food comes to the forefront of global dining. From haute new fine-dining restaurants to the infusion of Indian ingredients such as turmeric and tamarind into Continental fare — India’s never been hotter.

Vishal Atreya,Executive Sous Chef,at The Imperial in Delhi,explains,“Earlier,there was a lot of tweaking of steaks,soups and other dishes with Oriental flavours. So it’s a natural progression that led chefs to start playing with Indian flavours. Now,there is a huge trend to use cumin and coriander. We recently tried out an experimental dish in our banquet menus — a salmon steak roasted in a crust of crushed dhania seeds,served with a coffee and orange mousseline. The response was phenomenal,both among Indian and foreign guests.”

Subroto Goswami,Executive Chef at Radisson Blu,Paschim Vihar,agrees. “Experimentation with Indian flavours in various cuisines is becoming prevalent because the strong and dominating flavours of Indian spices add a new twist and dimension to many dishes,” he says.

The New York-based Tulsi restaurant,run by Chef Hemant Mathur who hails from from Jaipur,is heavily inspired by the tandoor — with menus featuring dishes such as Tandoori Wild Boar Chops and Tandoori Salmon. There are also interesting options such as Semolina-Crusted Curried Monkfish and Parmesan and Onion stuffed Kulchas. Closer home,Delhi restaurant Varq at The Taj Mahal features Kale Channe ki Cappuccino (a soup). In Mumbai,Pali Village Cafe offers keema with a ‘sunny side up’,while the city’s F Bar,Lounge and Diner serves grilled prawns with asparagus on a bed of upma,and Tandoori Prawns with Wasabi and Curry Leaves.

At Indian Accent,New Dehi,Executive Chef Manish Mehrotra,who has concocted Meetha Achar infused Canadian Spare Ribs and Khandvi Ravioli,believes it’s the changing mindset of consumers which has led to this advent of Indian flavours into international fare. And vice-versa. “People are travelling more and seeing experimentation and fusion in other cuisines such as the Japanese or Vietnamese,and they want Indian food to be part of this as well. Television is flooded with food cocktails that people want to eat when they go out. Also,eating habits have really changed in the past 10 years,” he says.

“Earlier,people used to go to a restaurant only on special occasions. Now,dining out is a matter of course and diners are much more adventurous. When we used the Gujarati khandvi instead of pasta sheets to make ravioli,people were surprised but eager to try it,” he adds with a laugh.

However,chefs warn against too much experimentation,in case things go awry. For Chef Paul Kini,Executive Chef of the InterContinental,Marine Drive,the old saying,“Fusion leads to confusion” comes to mind. “Apart from spice level,people don’t want to taste Indian flavours in international dishes,” he says,adding,“How these dishes are prepared depends entirely on the chef’s creativity and how well the flavours go together. Something you really need to be conscious about.”

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