Naya ghar basane ka tassawur to bohat baad ka hai, pehle yeh to tai ho ke is ghar ko bachayein kaise? With these lines, Osama Jalali, food critic and restaurateur, embarked on a mission to shield intrinsically Indian recipes from getting diluted at the hands of improvisation and global food trends. At The Masala Trail by Osama Jalali, he celebrates Indianness in all its glory, and offers hand-picked recipes that he has gathered after much months of thinking and years of travelling.
All he’s trying to do is reiterate the importance of India’s culinary riches. “Before moving on to other cuisines, it’s important that we guard ours, as nothing comes close to our regional diversity,” says Jalali.
An old Bajaj scooter that’s been hung from the ceiling, reminds him of the time he use to go to the golgappa wala with his father on a Bajaj Chetak.
Similarly, the 3D auto art on one of the main walls incorporates Kolkata silk saris with embroidery, depicting the culture and art of the region. Walls have also been block painted, representing Jaipur’s traditions. “We hired an artist to paint four main monuments of the country—Gateway of India, India Gate, Char Minar and Taj Mahal. We call it the wall of India,” says the restaurant’s culinary head.
The Masala Trail is a vegetarian restaurant, much to the surprise to those who know him well. But soon he realised the wonders of vegetarian recipes. On the menu he’s included Gujarati Panki, Amritsari Chole and Kulcha Bedmi Aalu from Chandni Chowk, Dabeli from Gujarat, Dal Baati Churma from Rajasthan, Matra Kulch from Chandni Chowk again, and more. “I’ve hired maharajs to keep the original way of preparations intact,” he says.
Street food, he feels is anyday fresher and simpler than restaurant food. “A Mango shake vendor will keep the shake only during season time. In winters, he will switch to an omelette or tea stall. Everything made has to be consumed the same day, and it’s all about specialising in one dish,” he says.
But the thing he finds rather disturbing these days is the trend of tweaking recipes. “Sometime back, I had visited a restaurant with my daughter. The chutney accompanying the dish came in the form of foam, and my daughter asked, ‘but abba, where is the chutney,’. Her question made me think that if Indian restaurants start re-branding themselves as progressive Indian cuisine, 10 years down the line, my daughter will only recall chutney as foam,” he says.
Coming up next for him are food trucks in NCR. A hardcore non-veg Mughlai restaurant is also on the cards. “Instead of harping about international brands coming to the country, I want to make my brand a global brand representing regional Indian cuisine,” he says.