Indian Platter Goes Casual; Eateries Reap Bounty

Monday, 24 October 2011, 04:34 Hrs
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New Delhi: A large helping of green Tex Mex salad, a handful of tangy olives, chives, noodle, kadhai paneer, potato augratin and naan: the Indian dinner plate cannot get any more global than this.

The art of dining is changing in India as the well-travelled and cuisine-conscious foodie -- with moolah to binge on gastronomic adventures -- is moving from star hotels to the informality of the trendy neighborhood eatery.

And the restaurant trade is booming.
The fare is multi-cuisine, allowing the foodie to jump the dividing lines between eclectic salads, starters and the main courses.

"If you look at the history of India in the last few centuries, it has drawn people and cuisines from all corners of the planet. The French came to Puducherry, we said come.The Portuguese came, we said come. And the Tibetans came. Who was getting richer?" Vikas Khanna, the new judge of Star Plus Master Chef India-2, told IANS.

"The Motherland gets richer. The Indians and the Americans are absorbing. I have told President Obama that India is so absorbing," New York-based Khanna, a Michelin star chef, said.

Khanna, who has kept the Indian cuisine alive at his restaurant Junoon in New York, says the new Indian food is a reflection of nation's younger generation.

The changing taste of consumers has made available a wide variety of cuisines to Indian diners, observed restaurateur and entrepreneur Romola Bachchan, a co-partner of the Olive Bar & Kitchen in the capital.

"The new consumer is well-travelled and more aware with technology and satellite connectivity. They are more demanding in their preference for food and are moving away from five-star chains to stand-alone restaurants," Bachchan told IANS.

Bachchan's eatery caters to the global appetite of Indian diner "with festivals of food from different nations like Greece, France and Germany.

A Spanish festival is round the corner.

"There is a definite difference between the Indian and the western diner. While the West eats its meals in courses from fixed menus, Indians want a little bit of everything on their plate. We like to taste all," Bachchan said, explaining why Indians like to heap their plates with fare from around the globe at buffets and banquets.

Star Master Chef season 1 judge Ajay Chopra, an executive chef at Westin Mumbai Garden City Hotel, says "whenever there is a revolution in any sphere, it is when people travel".

"They travel with their cuisines and spices. For the last five years, Indians have been going in and out a lot," Chopra told IANS.

The globalization of the platter has also resulted from more Indians eating out.
A survey by Franchise India, a business opportunity platform, says, "The average Indian urban consumer today eats out at least once every two weeks on an average, as opposed to once every four weeks in 2003."

Sixty per cent of foodies under 30 like to experiment, the study notes.

"In India, the size of the consumers in the age-group of 22-35 years is quite huge. These are the people trying out new stuff. Youngsters, who go to study in the US and the UK return with international palates," Shalin Gambhir, the executive sous chef at Radisson Blu MBD Hotel in Noida, told IANS.

The global journey of the Indian foodie began a little more than a decade ago when Turkish and Mediterranean cuisines captured the country's culinary imagination, Gambhir said, recounting the history of assimilation.

"The Zodiac at the Taj in Mumbai introduced fine western dining. It made way for casual dining a few years later with stand-alone restaurants like Indigo and Olive. They offered Indian and western cuisines. We are now in the era of fusion and nouvelle cuisine -- light fare with more emphasis on presentation," Gambhir said.

The arrival of multinational fast food chains further freed the palate. The changing nature of dining has unleashed a boom in the stand-alone restaurant, says Shibu T.P, a leading hospitality consultant.

"We have lent our expertise and ideas to at least 600 eateries in 30 cities in the last 15 years. Free standing restaurants serve the best food," Shibu T.P. told IANS.

His new eatery, the Hinglish Colonial Cafe in an essentially Punjabi-dominated neighbourhood in west Delhi, has revived "the Anglo-Indian food from British India with an Indian twist".

"The essence of the menu at the cafe is like the word Hinglish -- Hindi and English -- with dishes like the mutton curry stew, nazza -- naan with pizza topping -- chicken tikka and paneer makhani croissant, kaathiroll sandwiches and tiffin meal," the food consultant said.
Source: IANS
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