Fusion Foods in India: A Culinary Trend
Written By Nikeeta J.
Category: Food and Fashion
“Fusion food as a concept is trying to consciously fuse things that are sometimes quite contradictory, sometimes quite far apart, to see if they’d work”-Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, British chef, recipe writer, author, and restaurant owner.
The concept of fusion food can rarely be claimed as one that was discovered “out of the blue.” In fact, the basis of many fusion dishes simply includes food that we have been consuming all along, however of course as individual dishes. Lately, chefs over the world have taken to create “fusion cuisine,” an amalgamation of different tastes, textures, colors and of course, flavor to bring forth a whole new dish. Three of the most sought-after names in India when it comes to fusion cooking, Chef Zorawar Kalra, Chef Vineet Bhatia **and _Chef Manish** Mehrotra,_ own exquisite restaurants in Mumbai and Delhi respectively and most importantly, have largely contributed to the world of fusion food in India.
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The Emerging Trend
Over the years, this “culinary marriage” has been witnessed across some of the most popular restaurants in the country. In recent years, a few restaurants even stemmed from the very concept, with a view of giving Indians a real taste of fusion food. Although the concept may have initially started off with fine-dine gourmet restaurants, it was not long before the trend soared to everything from casual dining places, bistros, cafes and even food trucks that took the interesting trend and gave it even edgier twists. Everything from canapés to pasta, burritos, paella, biryani to classic soups, and macarons to cocktails was transforming. And although there were some major hits and misses, fusion food was soon under the public eye and a great hit with the diners, too.
“It was not long before the trend soared to everything from casual dining places, bistros, cafes and even food trucks that took the interesting trend and gave it even edgier twists.”
Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi were the pioneers of fusion cooking in India. Chefs started putting together different elements on the table, experimenting with aspects and trying to create unusual experiences yet ensuring the combination paired well. The initial reactions to the concept of fusion cooking were varied – everyone from Michelin star chefs to cookbook authors and food critics did not shy away from voicing their opinions about the style. While some could not stop raving about how different aspects worked wonders when brought together, others ridiculed it beyond measure. Open-minded diners, however, begged to differ. It was not long before restaurants that catered exclusively to fusion food sprouted in these cities, with Pune and Kolkata too, following the crowd.
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Concerning the industry of fusion food****, there were some that took the cake (pun intended) while others failed to make a great first impression. Whatever the case, fusion menus were often twisted and changed as per diners’ feedback, unlike classics. It made fusion food a unique trend since most dishes could be customized as per customers taste and thus, there were no set rules. In fact, adding a fun element, incorporating what you like and eliminating what you don’t make the concept fresh, exciting and a must-try!
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Today, out of the huge number of restaurants that serve fusion cuisine, some have managed to pair the distinct elements so flawlessly that it has turned out more scrumptious than the original ones. At Zorawar Kalra’s fine dining restaurant in Mumbai’s plush Bombay Kurla Complex, the menu features dishes like Grilled Tofu with Rasam, a fresh pairing of a South-Indian specialty with an Asian ingredient. The Chevre Kebab that is a take on the classic ‘Dahi Ke Kebab’ and Tadka Artichoke Hearts that brings together Indian spices with bell peppers, zucchini and strings of asparagus. Another well-known gastronomical delight in Delhi headed by Chef Manish Mehrotra, features some head-turning fusion dishes like Panko-Crusted Bharwan Mirch with Goat Cheese Mousse and Chilli-Aam Papad Chutney, Chicken Tikka Quesadilla with Swiss Gruyere and Pink Peppercorn Raita and ‘Chowpatty in a Bowl’ which embraces Tempered Ricotta Wada, Pav Bhaji, and Kaffir Lime Butter Pav. The brainchild of Thomas Zacharias and Sameer Seth, another fusion place in Mumbai has been a massive hit with the crowd for dishing out treats like Crispy Andhra Soft Shelled Crab with Green Chilly Pachadi Chutney and Methi-Arugula Salad with ‘Mungphali,’ Sesame and Lime-Honey Dressing. They also serve some knockout desserts like the Gulab Nut, a take on the popular Gulab Jamun, which is made with a dash of Old Monk and served with Pista Cream and Kairi Tart comprising of Green Mango Custard, Meringue and Kairi Jujubes. Chef Vineet Bhatia’s iconic restaurant in South Mumbai serves a variety of élite fusion gourmet dishes like ‘Dilli Chaat’ which consists of Almond-Crusted Tikki, Chickpea Masala, Sweetened Tamarind and Yoghurt Sorbet and Dahi Bhalla Ice Cream, ‘Lamb Pasand’ with Malabari Lamb Boti, Lamb Shikampuri Kebab, Pomegranate Raita and Anar Jelly and mains like Dill Leaf Tawa Bekti with Tambada Rassa, Wangi Bhaat, Onion-Dill Raita and Crisp Black Urad Dal. The Sundried-Tomato and Peas Naan and Macadamia Baingan make for wonderful sides. Lastly, his desserts like Blueberry Kheer with Rose Petal and Vanilla Bean Ice-cream and Butterscotch Rice Payasam with Sesame-Jaggery Ice-cream make for a top-notch finish to meals.
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It is, however, vital to ensure a fusion dish is surprising and a beautiful blend without going over the top. To start with, one must understand each flavor element individually and then try to merge them together. It is also a good option to stick to experimenting with basic flavors and then move to deeper notes. Since fusion foods are new, it is wise to opt for small portions, fewer elements, and clean flavors. In-depth research, tasting, and experimenting are key to crafting fresh, innovative and delicious fusion meals.
“It is, however, vital to ensure a fusion dish is surprising and a beautiful blend without going over the top.”
Although India is relatively new and still stepping into the wide world of fusion cooking, these restaurants and the brilliant minds behind it are proof that this trend shall be in the limelight for quite a few years. One of the most interesting facts about fusion cooking is that there are no limitations, rules or boundaries when it comes to creating a dish. The culinary world is truly an oyster and one can reach as far and wide as they please, as long as it works. Fusion food is a science; you can keep experimenting and never know when you end up discovering something truly magnificent. When it comes to food presentation too, chefs can go as wild or simple as they please and still call it a ‘creation’. Celebrity Chef, Judge and Restaurant Owner, Gary Mehigan once said, “A recipe is only a roadmap to your own individual food journey. Follow your instincts.” Similarly, fusion food is gastronomic, exquisite and can be a show-stopper once you understand your ingredients, flavors and know where to draw the line!