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Saturday, November 27, 2021

What We Ate

Trends that defined 2013 — from tasting menus to local flavours

Written by Shantanu David |
Updated: January 9, 2014 5:31:05 pm

fooodIs it a bird,is it a grain?

“UNESCO declared 2013 to be the year of quinoa and why not? The world has woken up to the gift of the Incas. It’s a light,highly nutritious and very versatile grain. I have used it across the menus at Olive in a number of dishes,” says chef Sabyasachi Gorai,who worked with the Olive group of restaurants earlier. Quinoa starred in many restaurant menus across the country in a number of guises,from upma and risottos to breads and tagines. The South American-origin grain has a close cousin in India called bathua,which is used extensively in north Indian cooking.

The Triumph of Jughead

Archie’s crown-capped sidekick was celebrated more for his predilection for junk food,not to mention his prodigious appetite,rather than an evolved palate. How the tables have turned,with Forsythe P. Jones’s staples of burgers and pizzas having achieved snob value. Burger bars are mushrooming all over the country (often serving burgers studded with exotic mushrooms),while artisanal pizzas are finding pride of place in haute menus.

Smaller is Better

Good things come in small packages is no longer a sheepish one-liner,but a statement of fact when it comes to food. “Diners today are looking for varied experiences when it comes to food. And as chefs,we are more than happy to oblige them. This year,tasting menus have become really popular,with guests ready for smaller portions but more courses. Mini dessert platters have specially become hot sellers,” says Abhishek Basu,executive chef at The Park,New Delhi.

Local Lovelies

Following the rupee’s flogging by the dollar,prices of imports sky-rocketed and restaurants,which imported meats and herbs,felt the pinch. Some chefs started looking to their own backyards,or domiciles,especially since the quality and range of food items in India has improved. And domestic suppliers were happy to oblige. “These vendors have really improved in terms of quality and range recently and we’ve started sourcing a lot of our meats and herbs locally. While some ingredients like salmon are still imported,items like watercress,which were earlier only available abroad,are now present in Indian markets,” says chef Shamsul Wahid of the Smoke House Deli chain.

Desi Du Jour

Move over chicken tikka masala,the khandavi ravioli is here. While contemporary Indian has been brewing quietly on the sidelines with some of the country’s restaurants serving modern authentic Indian food with a twist,it was Indian restaurants in the US and the UK (think Vikas Khanna and Vineet Bhatia’s boutique restaurants in

New York and London,respectively) that were in the limelight. Now the trend is back where it started,with Indian metros gobbling up Indian flavours in global avatars,whether it’s khichdi with bacon or tandoori pork chops.

Restaurant Roulette

The year 2013 saw an unprecedented number of city-based restaurants crossing borders. If Delhi’s Mamagoto set up shop in Mumbai,Mumbai’s Indigo will see the opening of its first Delhi outpost very soon. Meanwhile,Bengaluru’s much vaunted Monkey Bar has crossed the playground and opened in Delhi. And last but not the least,two of Delhi’s favourite eateries,Gunpowder and the French Rara Avis have opened in Goa this year. Happy eating.

Comfortably Ful

The biggest trend this year has also been the most basic: the advent of comfort food and spaces. From the rising popularity of home-style cooking to the emergence of rustic dishes to the burgeoning small-scale dining format,chefs,restaurateurs and diners alike returned to the basics. Karela (bitter gourd) and kathal (jackfruit) that were primarily used in ghar ka khana are now a part of restaurant menus. “This year was about smaller restaurants,toning down the fine-dine aspect and concentrating on making food more approachable. Old-school cooking techniques are back in vogue,” says Gorai,while Mehrotra mentions the appearance of previously forgotten classics like makhana (fox nut) on menus.

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