The Great Indian Culinary Tapestry
From the spicy curries of the North to the tangy sambars of the South, the diversity of India’s culinary landscape is staggering. However, the past decade has witnessed an unprecedented transformation in the nation’s food preferences. With the advent of globalization and India’s continued exposure to international cultures, dishes like pasta, pizza, tacos, and burgers have effortlessly found their way into the Indian kitchen.
Today, we find Indianized versions of these dishes. A survey titled ‘The Evolving Indian Palate’ notes an increase in western food consumption, with at least one Western meal being consumed in Indian households weekly.
Merging the West with the East
The global chain restaurant market in India surged to a value of 400 billion Indian rupees by 2020 and is anticipated to catapult to 960 billion rupees by 2025. This massive expansion owes much to the fusion approach adopted by these chains. In a bid to cater to the Indian palate, we find McDonald’s introducing McVeggie and McChicken Schezwan Burgers, Domino’s offering Paneer Pizzas, and KFC blending Indian curries into their biryanis. These adaptations are exclusive to their Indian outlets, marking a significant evolution in catering to regional tastes.
Anarki Sood, a Mumbai-based chef, echoes the sentiment. Her food truck, Momo-Mania, initially introduced traditional dumplings but quickly pivoted to Indianized versions after sensing the market’s inclination towards a more indigenous taste.
The Power of Adaptation
Many food enthusiasts believe that while Indians have shown a proclivity for Western cuisines, they still crave an Indian touch. Mukesh Rajwant, a renowned food chain owner, says that an Indian would likely prefer a spicier version of pasta over the traditional Italian one. Chef Chow Chee Meng from Hong Kong, during his visit to Mumbai, emphasized the same, indicating that while Indians love international dishes, they want them with a dash of Indian flavor.
This transformation isn’t limited to restaurants. Celebrity chef Vicky Ratnani notes the role of social media in introducing myriad food dishes, with every other person showcasing their culinary skills on platforms like Instagram and YouTube.
Convenience is King
While flavor amalgamation is one aspect, the rising popularity of Western dishes also lies in their simplicity and quick preparation times. For many, especially working professionals, dishes like Avocado Toast or a quick salad become the go-to due to the minimal preparation they require. As Kunal Jhawar, an engineer, and Abhilash Sinha, a mechanical engineer and single father from Pune, emphasize, the need for hassle-free and time-saving meals has pushed many towards Western foods.
India’s gastronomic realm is undeniably shifting. While it might appear that Western foods are replacing Indian dishes, it’s more accurate to say that they are merging, creating a beautiful blend of flavors that resonates with the country’s modern population. The heart of Indian cuisine still beats strong, but it’s a heart that’s open to global influences, always ready to create something novel and delicious.