An experimental voyage

An experimental voyage

The vibrant street food culture of India has finally caught attention of restaurateurs and chefs who are busy marrying this integral part of our culinary tradition with global cuisines and are putting an interesting mix of fusion dishes on the menu. With innovative names like Chinese Bhel, Nacho Crusted Mexican Fish Fingers, Mumbai Pav Bhaji Fondue, Oreo Rabri Cake and Ras Malai Tiramisu — consumers are tempted to try dishes that offer the best from both worlds.

However, this arrangement is a carefully-crafted arranged marriage which, the chefs, hope gets translated to a long-lasting partnership. “The flavours being fused could be from varying cuisines and palettes, but ultimately they need to come together and present a taste and experience that is beyond ‘one time novelty factor’,” restaurateur Sohit Goyal tells Metrolife.

“A ras malai with strawberry syrup could backfire but maybe a ras malai flavoured cake is where the balance lies. It gets harder to mix strong flavours, but if played the right way fusion can tone down certain overpowering flavours,” he adds, saying they offer fusion drinks menu inspired by Indian masalas and vintage banta drinks.

The culinary blending of cultures in the food industry isn’t new, as Indians have always been accused of “Indianising” global cuisines. But this kind of fusion is more about bringing chatpata food to compliment other cuisines.

It was the nostalgia for street food that led to the conceptualisation of Imly, a restaurant which has an array of interesting options like Kalmi Vada, Kanji Vada, Mushroom aur Malai ki Tikki and the Golgappas on offer.

“Indian street food is considered to be one of the most gruelling one when it comes to fusing because of the presence of a wide range of flavours. But we enjoy the perks of being born here and brought up eating such food,” says Varun Puri, owner, Imly.

“Indian street food can be paired with Japanese, Chinese or Italian. Like we have Japanese Wasabi Aloo Tikki, it is very much like the standard Aloo Tikki, but wasabi is added to the potatoes, giving them a kick. And then the potato patties are covered in panko, a Japanese style bread crumb, which gives them an outstanding crunch as a contrast to the spicy interior,” he adds.

Fusion cuisine basically blends the culinary traditions of two or sometimes more nations to a more creative and enthralling level. According to Puri, fusion food tends to be more common in places with diverse cultures and metropolitan area where there is wider audience for such food.

Having said that, it just isn’t the street food fusion that is making inroads into the fine-dining space, staples like vada pav, keema pav and pav bhaji have made their way into these sophisticated spaces not only in India but abroad as well. Dishoom in London started the trend of Irani/ Mumbai food cafes outside Mumbai and they not only have popular items like Akuri and Bun Maska on the menu, but a dish named ‘Kejriwal which, the menu says, shouldn’t be confused with Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

“It is a good trend because people get bored eating regular food. It also depends on the concept of the restaurant, and if the concept and cuisine is strictly fine dining then there is no point adding street food as it would look out of place,” says Gaurav Mehta, another restaurant owner.

“At present, restaurants in India are following just one theme i.e. serving everything under the roof even if the restaurant concept allows for it or not. You can’t blame restaurants for this because customers look for a lot of choices and are easily bored with smaller menus,” he adds.

This experimental streak with cuisines is here to stay as new restaurants and cafes are opening quite frequently in the city. It is the food that will script the success of these new joints, so exciting days lay ahead for food connoisseurs.

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