Gourmet Makeovers: An Indian ode to Mexican Taco?

By Madhulika Dash 

When it comes to healthy eating, Glocalising- or as many would define it as making a global favourite with local ingredients, seems to be by far the best food trend to adopt. After all, glocalising in food not only helps one (re) discover indigenous food but also opens the palate (and the mind) to enjoy a newer version of an older favourite. Such is the benefit of this flexible cooking and dining technique that 'Slow Food Movement' considers it the best tool to promote traditional practices and ingredients. 

But how does one Glocalise a dish? If one has to go into the not-so-distant practices of localizing global favourites, then chonk (tempering) and a spicy sauce seems to be the only way by which things work. After all, isn’t Indian Chinese a perfect example of the thought process? Fascinatingly not. Glocalising, says Chef Vikas Seth (Culinary Director, Lounge Hospitality) “was never about such superficial additions, but a careful selection of ingredients that can create a similar palate and taste play as the original.”  

Of course, continues the Mexican specialist, “No glocalising happens without the chef lending an interesting twist to the dish.” In case of Samosa, which is a more evolved form of Sambuka, it was the filling; while in case of the Haleem, it was the spice and the fried onion added. 

Clearly, glocalising isn’t just limited to a few tweaks here and there; it is a whole new construction of the dish, from the scratch. A fine example of this is the samosa, which was built on the pita-style sambuka and haleem - the must-have Ramadan delicacy was a glocalisation of the then popular harees. Or Chef Seth’s Ragi Tacos and Guacamole, which though made with locally available ingredients has the same characteristics of the original. 

So how does one get into glocalising a global favourite without losing the texture and taste? Chef Vikas Seth, who recreated the famous Mexican Tacos using local southern ingredients at a recent Chef’s Retreat, gives tips on how to localize global favourites, along with the added bonus of creating a new one – just like he did. 

The trick, says Chef Seth, “to localize any global dish is to understand how the dish has been structured. Interestingly in case of Mexican food, it works on the similar principle as Indian dishes, so interchanging ingredients is not much of a challenge and you can choose ingredients that have similar textures and play pattern.” 

For instance, masa, he adds. “Made of maize flour, it has similar characteristics to ragi or foxtail millet. What works for them is both are gluten free as well. This ingredient ‘makeup’ also helped me choose arvi (colocasia) in place of avocado, because post boiling, they have the same rich creaminess that can be enhanced with minimum seasoning and a dash of lemon.”  

In a way, adds Chef Seth, “It was like finding closer cousin in that very family or the next kin closest to it. Like soya bean is to black bean, which is a Mexican staple.”  

Once the key ingredients are sorted; comes the taste play that makes glocalising such an interesting trend for chefs around, since the beginning of the civilization. The reason behind this fascination, says the Mexican specialist, “is that here you work in ingredients and techniques that give the dish a close semblance to the original.” 

In Chef Seth’s case, it was achieved in two ways: One: by adding the sour cream made of soaked cashew nut and two: the addition of garden fresh yellow pumpkin flavoured with tamarind. “It is a dish that was prepared by my mother, who would make it to showcase the joy of having fresh vegetables. And in this case, it complimented the soya bean, which was slow cooked to a velvety thickness, and for that added crunch.”  

Of course, ends Chef Seth, “The key to a great glocalised dish is the balance of taste and texture. So if you have three things smooth or two things smooth ensure the next layer would have the crunch. And that construction of the dish which differentiates a great tasting dish from other.” 

Picture Credit: Neha Thakur