Eating out was a treat, a once-a-month festival in several Indian households back in the day. Today it’s something that’s done nearly every other day. Attribute it to the rise in disposable income or the change in people’s attitude, but it’s a trend that seems to have only grown over the years.
India now has a large appetite for food, which in turn is making restaurateurs bring more and more varieties of cuisines to please the always hungry market. In the last few years, the country has witnessed a plethora of international food chains opening shop. But what’s common in all these outlets is that the food is irrevocably “Indianised”.
“Indianisation of food does become necessary for we Indians are used to certain kinds of flavour which an authentic recipe will not possess. Take Italian food for example. If an actual Italian eats the Italian we serve in India, he is going to flip out for they hardly use the spices we put in our pastas and pizzas,” says Neha Deepak Shah.
It’s not that we Indians lack the sense of adventure when it comes to food but it’s just that our taste buds are accustomed to different flavours. That doesn’t mean we don’t have places that serve authentic recipes.
26-year-old Shah was the first runner up in the last edition of Master Chef India. She says, “The thing is we are used to gravies and spices which is something several of the international cuisines lack. One can also say that the basic reason behind it can be that not all of us are well travelled. Even the ones that are, they book travel packages that will serve you Indian food while you travel across Europe or America.”
It’s not that we Indians lack the sense of adventure when it comes to food but it’s just that our taste buds are accustomed to different flavours. That doesn’t mean we don’t have places that serve authentic recipes. You can satiate your taste buds with almost anything your heart desires especially if you happen to be living in the metropolises of India.
“When in Rome do as Romans do. This fits perfectly in this regards. In order to seem more local and a part of ‘us’, the menus at restaurants are tweaked to suit the Indian palate,” Shah added.
In the words of Master Chef Tetsu Akahira, Sakura at The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa, “An authentic Japanese Sushi marries the sea (the finest raw fish) and the land (rice seasoned with vinegar). In Japanese Sushi, the fish used are very soft because they are raw, while Tandoori items are cooked and are not soft compared to Japanese. The level of spice is different. Presence of sauces in Indianised Sushi gives it a completely different flavour compared to these Japanese bite-sized finger foods. In authentic Japanese Sushi, chef ensures flavours of the basic ingredients to shine through without too much seasoning.”
To provide guests with unusual food experiences, Sakura keeps organising food festivals. “Our guests, who are well travelled and are culinary enthusiasts like Sushi. Now we are providing them something unique that is a complete palate-pleaser to them. In this festival, we have carefully created different kinds of Sushi Rolls that are infused with Indian flavours. We have chosen the best and most popular snacks from the Indian menu and combined them with Japanese Sushi. Tandoori Chicken, Tandoori Prawns, Tandoori Paneer have always ruled and are hot selling appetizers in the North. Keeping these flavours in mind, we have created Tandoori Chicken Sushi, Tandoori Prawn Sushi, Tandoori Paneer Sushi and much more. When these Tandoori ingredients come in the form of Sushi it enhances the flavour of Sushi along with the sauces like mint, mayo, etc,” Akahira added.
Japanese cuisine is proving to be a hit among culinary enthusiasts in India now. Customers have started liking the taste of Sushi, and Indian palates have grown accustomed to different tastes over the years. Yet we do have a few local patrons who are not very comfortable with the idea of raw food but at the same time they want to eat non-vegetarian only. To please these kinds of guests, restaurants like Sakura come up with Indianised dishes.
Sakura, which held an Indo- Japanese Sushi festival till today, says, “It was quite a liked fair and is proving to be a hit amongst the culinary enthusiasts. Guests are appreciating and enjoying Indianised Sushi. Feedback like these keep motivating us to continuously strive for bringing something new and unique during such festivals.”
Burger Singh, a Delhi-based burger chain, has taken the same route to provide customers with completely Indianised burgers. As per Kabir Jeet Singh the founder, “The food market in India is growing rapidly and the only way to have continuous footfall is to give the customers something they can enjoy or relate to. Take our Chinese for instance — it’s nowhere close to the authentic Chinese food but we Indians love it.”
Singh adds, “The burger market in India is growing massively just like the pizza business did a few years ago. We had a few American places offering pizzas but the ones who Indianised faster are leading the race today. That’s why Dominos is what it is today. We are trying to do the same with burgers, a completely Indian burger which you can enjoy over and over.”
But coming back to flavouring the Indian tongue, “If you speak to industry observers or people who specialize in these things you will see that it’s the same the world over. Indian dishes in, let’s say, London or New York or Sidney or any other part of the world are twisted enough so that the locals there can enjoy it. It’s called blending in,” says Anurag Chadha former employee of Firmenich, a Swiss company that specializes in flavours.
“Take Lay’s for instance. The flavours that Fritolay, which is the company that has given us Lay’s (Chips), are nowhere even close to ones it markets or sells in Japan or Brazil. It’s all based on research upon the countries’ tastes. Companies like Firmenich which specialize in flavours spend millions of dollars on research to make and get these flavours right,” Chadha adds.