Grandmother knows best. This old saying holds true not just in life but in the kitchen too. The current culinary trend underlines it.
Chefs the world over are returning to traditional recipes and techniques, not only for preservation, but to reinvent. Twisting grandma’s recipes into new incarnations is one of the next big trends to watch.
During my visit to Philipines, I interacted with some well known Chefs and most expressed their love for grandma’s recipes. “I was the only one who would watch my grandma in the kitchen. Now when I cook my Filipino recipes, I feel I am sharing a piece of our heritage,” said chef Myke Tatung of Cebu.
Chef Bruce experienced something similar with his grandmother in the US, “I loved sitting on the kitchen counter watching my grandma cook.” Chef Stephanie Zubiri who hails from Bukidnon also echoes similar emotions, “Both my grandmothers are great cooks and Sunday dinners at home are legendary.”
Today, each has their own restaurants making their grandmothers proud.
Back at Gurgaon in India, dining at Cafe Delhi Heights is like enjoying a big feast within the comfort of your house. Besides the burgers and pastas, Singaporean laksa and Mumbaiya vada pav, what takes you by surprise are the traditional dishes like kichdi and Rajasthani laal maas served with bajra roti and masala. “I have made sure that I offer some home made dishes to give a holistic experience to my guests. The atmosphere is casual and one can sit for hours, browsing on the net or chatting over coffee as one would do in their homes,” said its owner Gunjan Batra.
Zambar is yet another eatery in Gurgaon where the head chef Arun Kumar has strived to offer traditional home style food from the coastal states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. He has worked hard to understand the various traditional preparations of the numerous communities that inhabit these regions and their unspoken cuisine.
Arun said, “The culinary world on the whole is getting back to its roots, focussing on local seasonal produce. At Zambar, my main focus is to give our guests original, traditional recipes which have been derived after months of research and numerous hours spent in the traditional kitchens of the households of these four culturally and culinary rich states.”
In an endeavor to offer traditional and the finest food from these regions, Arun has gone a step ahead; he has tied up with the local housewives to procure the spices. The restaurant has also sourced traditional cookware from each of these states to ensure that the dishes on the menu have genuine taste of the household it represents.
Likewise, at Rajdhani restaurants of the Mirah Group, one gets authentic Rajasthani and Gujarati cuisine served in traditional thali style. Chefs here are like age old Maharajs (respectable term for cooks) from the specific regions to which the different dishes belong.
“Yesteryears food popularly called the granny food is making a comeback as ‘soul food’ and ‘comfort food’,” points out Suprabhath Roy, executive chef at Eros Managed by Hilton, New Delhi. “And why not,” he continued, “We all know such food as being close to our heart and a little bit of tweaking is all that is required to make it restaurant savvy.”
As a tribute to her grandma’s unmatched recipes from south of Thailand, chef Veena Arora, chef de cuisine at The Imperial New Delhi is going to present “9 Memories Of My Childhood” at the Spice Route very soon. Veena said, “My menu has nine flavourful recipes from my grandma’s palette which I used to relish in my childhood. The nostalgic culinary offerings on my special menu includes Yum Tauhu Woonsen which is spicy, sweet and tangy bean curd with crispy vermicelli, morning glory and bean sprout salad. This is a unique recipe which only my grand ma created and passed on to generations.”
It is heartening to see how chefs are going back to grandma's recipes with new techniques and regional produce that is more affordable and non fussy. We salute “granny’s comfort food”, most of them opine.