What do terms like this mean to you: molecular gastronomy, premium indulgence products micro breweries and experimental cuisine? Nothing much, is a fair guess. And yet these are some of the food trends that you and I need to watch out for during the rest of this year!
India has a mindboggling variety of cuisines and culinary traditions considering our regional diversity and the fact that various faiths have their own gastronomic practices as well. In spite of our largely traditional eating habits, we Indians have come to embrace several international cuisines as well (and no we are not talking about the Sino-Ludhianvi fare that passes for ‘Chinese’ food in India). Global food trends increasingly decide what the refined Indian palate prefers – what we see on Indian plates! Here are the top food trends to watch out for in 2017:
- Culinary tourism: With the emergency of adventure tourism, eco tourism and so on, culinary tourism was just waiting to happen. It is about visiting a place to have an authentic culinary experience. It’s about visiting a place and eating the way the locals do, using locally sourced ingredients. Culinary tourism is about more than just being adventurous and stepping out of your comfort zone, it can also be about memorable drinking experiences, taking some cooking classes and even visiting some food production venues.
- Molecular gastronomy: High end eateries are attracting the big spenders with dishes that concentrate on the physical and chemical transformations that cooking causes in food. Molecular gastronomy recognizes the social, artistic and technical aspects of cooking and makes use of new technical innovations to create unusual new dishes.
- Veggie desserts: Not only does India have strong traditions in vegetarian cuisine, there is increasingly a global trend towards ethical and vegan lifestyles that has reignited interest in vegetarian fare, meat substitutes and vegan dishes and desserts. We’re talking not only 100% vegetarian desserts that have no eggs or gelatin, but also desserts that include vegetables: think chocolate cake with burnt onions, white chocolate cupcakes with green olives and so on.
- Celebration of traditional foods: Think Malwani restaurant in Chandigarh and Gujarati Thali restaurant in Chennai. People are becoming more receptive to new flavors and cooking styles; cuisine that is extremely different from what is cooked at home and yet extremely Indian as well. So when people head out to eat, they are willing to open their hearts and minds to hitherto unfamiliar cuisines.
- Going organic: This market trend has only gained more momentum in recent times: cooking with ingredients that have been grown without the use of genetic modification, chemical pesticides and fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics. You can open your online grocery shopping app to see organic versions of your required groceries easily available, albeit at a slightly higher price point, which many people don’t mind paying extra for. After all, organic is healthier and people don’t mind shelling out for good health.
- Celebrating festivals a bit differently: Increasingly, the traditional mithais and the boxes of nuts and dry fruits are being replaced by other options. Gourmet cookies, exotic cakes, handmade chocolates and other unusual sweets have become more popular choices recently. Suddenly everyone is raving about items such as Turkish Delight and Baklava, which many of us had not even heard about till recently!
- Premium indulgences: There is an increased demand for fine wines and exotic liqueurs, rare caviar and other similar indulgences now. Price is no object. In fact the more expensive the better – especially if there is an important client, a boss or a significant other to impress. Premium indulgences not only indicate that you have the money to spend, they also indicate a certain urbane sophistication and a lifestyle with a worldview that the upwardly mobile are at pains to display. This is a rising trend especially among young Indians with disposable incomes and small families who work hard and want to party even harder.
- The emergence of microbreweries: Beer is the new wine, say experts. Earlier wine tourism was the thing with the pretty people doing wine tastings in the grape growing and producing facilities of manufacturers such as Sula, Grover, La Reserve and so on. Now it is beer that has caught the fancy of the swish set. Recently there was a rash of microbreweries opening up in Hyderabad. Not to say anything about the huge list of microbreweries in Bengaluru. Now when one wants to head out for a beer, it isn’t just Kingfisher or the occasional draught beer on offer. There are flavored beers, fresh brewed ales, ciders, stouts, lagers and more on offer for the discerning beer drinker.
- Experimental/fusion cuisine: Think culinary pyrotechnics at the Farzi Café, unusual and innovative menu items at the Masala Library and other exotic options rather than the traditional Indian restaurants that served you the expected fare. Experts feel that we will see a lot more emphasis on innovation and fusion cuisine in times to come, as the Indian consumer is more exposed to global trends and desirous of never-seen-before experiences in food. Though it may not be to everyone’s liking, someone out there is drinking that cocktail with broccoli and the garlic-flavored ice cream!
- New home culinary trends: The way Indians cook at home is also changing and is set to change more. Food delivery services will become more common and widely available. Caterers and home-based services cook and deliver meals to people too busy to cook. Already quite a trend in metros such as Delhi and Mumbai, this trend is likely to catch up in the smaller cities of India as well. As people rely more on prepackaged, convenience foods, manufactures are doing their best to provide healthier options in the packaged food segment. More urban Indians are finding out about the nutritious convenience of stir-fried veggies, fruit salads and broiled meats as quick alternatives to the dal-chawal, subzi-roti fare that can be too time consuming to prepare every day.
While we have restaurants that offer nostalgia driven comfort foods on the one hand, we also have Indian households cooking exotic dishes from different regions of India and abroad on the other. The culinary landscape of India has always been diverse; we predict that it will be even more so in 2017!