Round-up: The new wave of international cuisines
Indians have a talent for embracing the foreign and making it their own. Especially when it comes to food. Gobi Manchurian and pasta in pink sauce have millions of fans in cities from Chandigarh to Chennai, and Bharwan Jaipuri Mirch Beetroot Sushi made it to actor Shahid Kapoor’s wedding last year. So what is the purist to do but look to newer shores? A round-up of the newest cuisines, now playing at a restaurant near you.
Peru’s cuisine is representative of its long multicultural history, and is a curious combination of influences from the indigenous Inca population as well as from the waves of European, Asian and African migrants over centuries. “Peruvian food is in the global spotlight at the moment, and it shows no signs of slowing down,” says chef Atul Kochhar, who opened the Peruvian lounge bar Lima in Mumbai six months ago. The cuisine relies heavily on corn, potatoes, meat, and the grain of the moment—quinoa. One of the most distinctive flavours of Peruvian cuisine comes from its use of different types of chilli pepper, from the medium spicy ají amarillo to the hot ají rocoto. The seafood ceviche is a classic Peruvian dish: cubes of fish cured in leche de tigre (literally “tiger’s milk”, a citrus-based marinade) and liberally spiced with chilli peppers.
At Lima, Mumbai; Palms, Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa.
This year’s biggest global trend in fast casual dining has been the Hawaiian classic poke (pronounced poh-kay). After sushi and ceviche, poke seems like a natural progression in raw fish dishes that have caught the world’s fancy. While it’s still early days for it to be called trendy in India, poke has made an appearance on a couple of restaurant menus, notably at Bastian, a seafood restaurant in Mumbai with an eclectic international menu. “Poke bowls are trending across the world,” says Bastian’s chef Kelvin Cheung. “The dish works so well because it’s refreshing, light and interesting.” Poke is essentially a raw seafood salad served as an appetizer, usually made with tuna or octopus, and dressed with soy sauce, sesame oil, green onions, limu (a type of algae) and seasonings.
At Bastian, Mumbai; Toast & Tonic, Bengaluru.
While American cuisine is usually equated with greasy, processed foods (think burgers and hot dogs), its regional variety goes far beyond junk. The Deep South state of Louisiana has a multicultural heritage, with heavy Cajun and Creole influences. “Cajun and Creole cuisine has this rustic, hearty feel to it, which isn’t very different from some of our Indian curries,” says chef Manu Chandra, chef-partner at Toast & Tonic, a resto bar in Bengaluru. Gumbo is the quintessentially southern Louisiana dish, a robust stew of meat or seafood, with onions, bell peppers and celery, thickened with okra or sassafras (leaves of a deciduous tree), and served with rice. At Toast & Tonic, Chandra serves a vegetable gumbo with okra and local root vegetables, and meat-eaters can opt for a topping of sausage and shrimp.
At Toast & Tonic, Bengaluru; The Boston Butt, Mumbai.
Chef Sabyasachi Gorai, owner of Lavaash By Saby in New Delhi, was born and brought up in Asansol, West Bengal’s second biggest city and home, once, to a sizeable Armenian population. “Armenian cooking has influenced Bengali cuisine to some extent, and I wanted to give people a taste of the food that I grew up eating,” says Gorai. There are some similarities between Armenian and Indian cuisines, he says. “The main cooking method in Armenia is by using the tonir, or the tandoor as we know it. They also use a lot of whole spices in their gravies, like we do,” he points out. One of the staples in Armenian cuisine is the manti—dumplings filled with a spicy meat mixture, usually lamb or beef. Manti is popular across Central and West Asia, and Eastern Europe.
At Lavaash By Saby, New Delhi.