The gastronomical journey of 2015
By Madhulika Dash
True, this year had little of the stand out features of the past times (molecular gastronomy in 2013 and 2014, and red velvet cake in 2012), but there is no denying that in a lot of ways 2015 was the summary of where Indian food space is headed to. A few like these
A YEAR OF FOOD START UPS… but not all for food delivery
TinyOwl, Food Panda, Yumist and Spoonjoy. Last year had us believe that food start ups could only be platforms of order, not this year.
Among the 22 new Food Start Ups debuted this year the services ranged from marketing and automation platform to grocery shopping, and even platforms that got foodies, chefs, housewives and networkers together.
Not to mention that one single element that ensured you get food to cook or ready to eat in a box curated by the likes of Chef Ajay Chopra and Chef Ranveer Brar. THE YEAR TO COOK FRESH… but from a box
Facebook-ing what you cooked – from scratch – has been the strongest trend for the last five years. And this year, chefs have ensured that you do it more often. Closer on the heels of the classic you can do’ or 'how to do' YouTube free lessons and masterclasses, comes the Food Box.
Now do not mistake it for the 'put in rush prep box' but a carefully thought, tested and measured box that claims to help you cook the way the masters do, right down to the 'salt to taste'. What's the guarantee? Most are done by the likes of Chef Ajay Chopra and Chef Ranveer Brar. How effective it is? That trend 2016. THE YEAR OF HANDPICKED GROCERY… but outsourced
Okay, we confess it isn't new. The Local Baniya is a success story. But we aren't talking just about platforms that could get your washing powder and toothpaste, but more food produce like potatoes, masalas, coffees and teas from places that sell the best.
Platforms like Place Of Origin and Big Basket, which even pick good potatoes for you, and other organic platforms that deliver claimed organic products' on order. How good they turn out to be? 2016 will be a testing year!THE YEAR OF SMALLER PORTIONS… but with more wonder
2014 ended with the change of the way food was had. From seemingly large portions, diners were trained to see individual portions and then servings that were meant to personify "less is more and flavoursome".
On the helm of such a trend were restaurants like Masala Library, Farzi Cafe, Indian Accent, The Table Indigo, Olive, Smoke House Deli, Bombay Canteen and such.
But in 2015, every restaurant began plating small portions that packed more punch for your buck, and diners accepting it - much the way we did the biryani served in brass handis. THE YEAR OF THE CHOPSTICKS… but with more Sushi
Truth: The only food other than Indian we love is Chinese (including the Punjabi style Chinese). Aspiration: The food we would like to wax eloquence is Japanese, by which we mean all kinds of sushi, sashmi and everything else.
The Fact: The food we can really enjoy is Khao Suey, Khimchi, crisp potatoes, Tom Yum Soup and Sushi with that hint of Wasabi. In other words, Pan Asian!
Now that should explain why 2014 belonged to Chef Vikramjit Roy's Tian and Gung and Guppy By Ai. But of the sheer number of restaurant flaunting their Pan Asian and Japanese menu in 2015 is any indication than it was the year of the Samurai with good company from the Silk Route.
Some of the front players of the game were Koi in Goa, Pa Pa Ya, Ruka and Yukka in Mumbai or Megu, Akira Back and En in Delhi among others. THE YEAR OF THE "F" WORD… but with more M
Pasta in Dal Makhani is clearly not the best examples of Fusion Food, and we agree. Little wonder the F word is bad (and banned) in most kitchens.
But if one has to look at the sheer foreplay of food this year - Chef Sabysachi Gorai's Devil's Egg that takes inspiration from Nargisi Kebab and represents that iconic dish with desi tadka or Riyaaz Amlani's Social's Peanutbutter Frappe that weds food with a drink - then clearly this has been the year of presenting fantastic food, built from inspiration. THE YEAR OF DRAMA… some good, some not so
Of all the art that the culinary world uses to entice their diners, Molecular Gastronomy has been by far the most successful. Whether we do it right or wrong is an argument best left for the Chef Round table, there is no denying that popping that tandai sphere and enjoying the burst of flavours or watching a smoke emanating drink arrive on the table just to realize it's not cold but a balmy, spiced winter cocktail makes for the most exciting dining out!
And now with nitrogen becoming a home-game, just watching hot chocolate melt a ball to unveil the little gems inside isn't enough. From deceiving desserts to finishing a dish on your table to the 3D art at Pa Pa Ya, clearly 2015 had theatrics reach at a level of re-creating a chaat on your table with a twist. THE YEAR OF LOCAL… but in cuisine
No, no we are not talking about using local ingredients to create new dishes or flowers to make salads. That was so 2014.
2015 belonged to the age of finding new cuisines and street food. From the Pint Room hosting Assamese fare, Sofitel celebrating the Maratha Warrior Cuisine to Rosang Cafe adding newer dishes from the forgotten land of North East to Kashmiri food and of course the Bihari and Deccan cuisine festival across India, this year saw diners move from their all-time favourite Dal Makhani to lesser known food of India.
And if Lavaash By Saby - an Armenian community based restaurant - and Atul Kochhar's NRI is anything to go by then 2016 will be a year of Local food - and by that we mean street food! THE YEAR OF COCKTAIL… but with more craft
If 2014 belonged to the Kadi Patta Martini, then 2015 was for foodie, fruity cocktails. Like the Pomgranate White Sangria or the burned pineapple vodka shots, the spiced infused rum and smoked herb malts.
And if that couldn't get us tipsy and OTT, mid 2015 saw the advent of craft cocktails made with bitters like Campari, and others flavoured with rhubarb, chamomile, and celery; fresh juices and large ice made of crunchy greens and sweet-sour fruits that were smoked, charred or burnt.
An excellent example is the burnt butter tea cocktail and the Pistachio infused Royal Salute by Yangdup Lama. THE YEAR OF PLATES… but not all white
Thanks to Social, eating in aluminum plates is not an offence today, but a cool way of Socialising. But it's not a recent trend, and we agree. Custom made crockeries are as old as the food culture in India, so what's new?
The acceptability. 2015 saw the advent of different sized and different styled plates that not only have retired the quintessential whites, but have made monochrome hued plates and slates acceptable. Like Pluck in Pullman New Delhi Aerocity serves food in plates that may, to the untrained eye, resembled a case you find in Spas. Of course the blame lies squarely on places like Masala Library By Jiggs Kalra, Indian Accent and Farzi Café that made mini pressure cooker or a artistically done sandook essentials of fine dining… and how!THE YEAR OF INDIAN FOOD… but with local flavours
2015 has been a year out and out for Indian food, and interestingly not spearheaded some much by restaurants but food enthusiast and FB groups.
From the little know Benaras Cuisine to the facets of North Frontier cuisine the revisit of the Kashmiri Wazwan to the Tamil Nadu Pandit cuisine, a fare around the famous Litti Chokha, the Parsi Bhonu, and food festivals celebrating the legacy of Wajid Ali Shah, Shivaji and the Nizams of Hyderabad, the year belonged to unearthing interesting recipes off the street and from homes to get the real flavours of India.
And with home chefs turning into effective bespoke caterers!