The popularity of desserts as treasured treats is not confined to India. But we Indians are definitely spoilt for choice when it comes to desserts. From dry fruit-based to sugar syrup-based sweets, from comforting halwa to delectable kheer, options are plenty. These days, keeping abreast with the evolving Indian palate, chefs are introducing modernised versions of such traditional Indian desserts.
As a huge part Diwali festivities revolve around sweets, this time one can go ahead and try fusion Indian desserts available across various restaurants in and around the national capital to add to the celebrations. While the age-old recipes and rich flavours of our desserts are always enjoyable, embracing them in a new manner while keeping their essence intact is a step toward this globally trending concept. Jalebi Caviar, Mithai Cheesecake, Gajar Halwa Strudel, Peach/Alphanso Phirni, Kesar Badam Cupcakes, Thandai Mousse, Apple Jalebi and Motichoor Rabri Parfait are some such masterpieces.
This trend is validated by the new kind of fusion cuisine in restaurants these days—two distinct food concepts combined to form one. Sujeet Singh, executive chef at Radisson, shared his point of view on the fusion food boom. He said, “With the battle of East or West, we always agree, why not both? The blend of good things from both sides of the world is a satisfying conclusion. By serving hybrid desserts, you are serving guests something familiar, yet different, to cater to their urge for trying something new.”
Chef Ashish Singh of Cafe Delhi Heights has come up with a twist to traditional Indian dessert in the form of Motichoor Cheesecake. He said about the rising trend, “Desserts with a twist is always a winner with customers. The ideology behind curating such desserts is to amalgamate different flavours in such a way that it tastes unique without losing its authenticity.” They also serve Karachi Halwa Brownie Cake and Khurchan Mille Feuille.
The diverse range of desserts from various regions of India is central to our culinary heritage. So the idea of transforming our beloved desserts might seem odd to some people. Chef Anas of Molecule addressed this issue: “Indian mithais have evolved with time and tradition. In modern kitchens we are just putting our creativity to the test, experimenting with ingredients, marrying flavours and presenting fusion Indian products. Every traditional Indian dessert is iconic but when we fuse these with various flavours, textures and cultures, they go on to a whole new level. The trend is timely, given the affinity and access to global tastes.” Molecule offers Gulab Jamun Cheesecake, Kulfi Panna Cotta Falooda, Anjeer Barfi Mousse, Jaggery Cheesecake and much more.
Chef Anas informed us that while curating such desserts, the flavour profile must never be adulterated. Next comes the texture. There has to be a balance of both. At the end, one just needs to add a little dramatic essence to it. For example, set it on fire, or just instantly freeze it on the guest table, depending on what is the background and concept of the dessert.
Combinations can be based on anything. Two different desserts with different origins can be fused, like a Christmas plum cake layered with Gajar Halwa Mousse. Ingredients can be experimented with, as in Beetroot Tofu Barfi or Oats and Sesame Ladoo. Contrasting textures can be brought together, as in Rasmalai ice cream or Baked Boondi Parfait. Or the dessert could be an expression of the blending of two cultures, like the Ghevar Clafoutis.
The trend of Indo-Western flavours has made an appearance in Brew Buddy’s menu as well. They serve fusion desserts like Black Currant Infused Risotto Kheer, Rabri Coated Gulab Jamun Doughnuts etc. Unlimited, The Break-Free Bar’s Rum Flambé Infused Gulab Jamun has found appreciation from many sweetmeat lovers. For this dish, the chefs have added rum to Gulab Jamun with a technique called flambé, which creates a burst of flames.
Corporate Chef Pawan Bisht, who is responsible for creating Mawa Cheesecake with Rose Ice Cream and Berry Compote, a loved dish at Verandah, emphasised on the plating and visual appeal of the desserts. Another hit at the Era Lounge & Bar is the Gulab Jamun Cheesecake, which is layered gulab jamun atop a cheesecake. Hot Saffron Kheer Ravioli with Rabri Mousse is available at Decode. They also have Baked Jodhpuri Mirch and Zucchini Halwa, Mango Snowball, Shahi Brownie with chocolate cream, Boondi Rabri Cheesecake and more.
With so many modern avatars of Indian desserts out there, it has to be noted that a lot of hit and trials lead to the best combinations. Ultimately it’s about bringing that international flare while evoking nostalgia. Corporate Chef Harangad Singh at Prankster told us about this “progressive nostalgic” twist given to local desserts. He said, “Blend of classic dessert with something more modern and international gives you the end product which is a blend of Western and Indian influences. The idea is simple. Combining two successful experiments by giving twists of innovation creates something unique. You will see more such desserts in the future.” He has come up with a dessert called Malai Kebab, rasmalai base topped with nimish and son papadi. It’s like a mithai sundae. Another dessert at the restaurant is the Motichoor Cheesecake.
Pastry chefs at The Drunken Botanist are also finding inspiration in classic desserts and retaining the basics while giving them a makeover. The fusion dessert available at the restaurant is the Sweet Potato Gulab Jamun Cheesecake.
We got Chef Vaibhav Bhargava from the restaurant to share some tips on giving a contemporary touch to traditional Indian desserts. For starters, he advised to keep it simple—one beautifully presented, delicious mithai will be much more appreciated than a confusing array with lots of variety. Next, most mithai can be be stored for a day or two. Use that time to your advantage. Always keep some dry-fruits and nuts in your pantry to whip up something delicious at a moment’s notice. Most importantly, think out of the box. Do some research to find out what goes well together and apply something new. Fruits and nuts in various combinations add an extra zing to desserts. Lastly, keep the serving sizes small.
The food trends in India have always followed the paths of exploration, and now, with these new-fangled fusion desserts, there is no going back as far as this food fad is concerned.