From rediscovering aboriginal foods to diving deep for ocean kelp and solo dining as a form of self-care, new culinary movements seeped in mindful practices and eco-consciousness are at the vanguard of a culinary revolution.
A Sea of Potential
Nourishing, climate-friendly and easy to grow, kelp is a superfood for your body and an eco-superstar. India’s rich reserves of its hyperlocal variants have prompted progressive chefs to hunt down this novel ingredient to be thrown into modern cauldrons. “Indigenous species such as Gracilaria and Acanthophora from the coast of Kerala and Tamil Nadu are being added to soups, porridges and certain southern vegetable preparations. Sargassam swartzii and Chaetomorpha antennina seaweed found in abundance on the South Kerala coast, are also made into pickles and fried condiments to be served as a side dish.
Offering a chockfull of nourishment, especially for people with diabetes, gut and heart issues, seaweed also regenerates the areas where it grows, hence helping the climate cause. It’s the leading subject of discussions about regenerative agriculture, according to proprietary data from WGSN’s Food & Drink Influencer Map. “Traditionally, it is used in sushi, salads and miso soup, but now innovative recipes such as kelp popcorn, chips, noodles, ‘crab cakes’, and burgers and pizzas made from Indian varieties are making an appearance on restaurant tables,” says Mumbai-based food consultant Gaurav Rathi.
Regionals are ruling the roost on avant-garde high-tea menus, and fast emerging as alternatives to the ubiquitous English breakfast tea. There’s Kashmiri noon chai, a traditional brew made with a specific kind of green tea leaves, some salt, milk and baking soda. Known to combat heartburn and bloating, it is also an antidote to stress and anxiety. Another traditional tea is Garhwali namkeen chai made in long bamboo cylinders and churned to create a fabulous froth.
“Made of yak milk and salt (certain variations also incorporate mutton fat and dried peach), it’s a winter food pop-up favourite among homegrown brands in urban cities. It regulates blood pressure and prevents tooth decay, besides keeping the body warm,” says Delhi-based tea sommelier Rakshita Swamy, adding “An indigenous tea named Sha shiahkrot from Meghalaya, prepared from the root of a wild plant found in the forests, is seeing its day in the sun.”
Internationally speaking, yaupon, a native North American plant, is gaining popularity and people are loving the herbal tea made with its leaves. The drink tastes grassy and earthy, and lacks tannins, a compound that gives tea its tingly, drying flavour. “Yaupon is loved for its anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to its saponin content, which acts as a natural cleanser. It is possibly cancer-preventing as well,” says Swamy.
Table for One
Solo dining is gaining cachet, especially among business travellers and singletons who have ushered in the trend, leading to a social media outpouring of #SoloDate and #DiningAlone. Fuelled by a heightened awareness for self-care, reinventing the ‘table for one’ has made solo dining not only more satisfying but also more democratised. What’s more? Restaurants are committed to making eating alone less awkward. Bar seating, teppanyaki-style dining, solo booths and cafes will continue to be popular during the evening, while a formal sit-down is preferred in the afternoon. Among the recently opened solo-dining places are Tao-Fu at JW Marriott Hotel Pune, Si Nonna’s in Mumbai, Bombay Club, and Deja Brew, New Delhi.
Sweet and spicy pairing of chilli-dusted mangoes, pepper hot chocolate, jalapeno margarita, peri peri pineapple pizza, and spiced jelly
Given the rise in alcohol-free dining culture, bars across the country are revisiting their menus to increase their range of no- and low-alcohol beverages. Set to continue to grow in 2023, being sober is the new tipsy.
Locally sourced and traditionally prepared food is becoming the rage, as restaurants and chefs invest in compositing, foraging and biofuel production while going paper-free and digitising their operations. They’re also leveraging smart tech to manage inventory.