There’s another trend that has slowly become only more popular and that’s the merging of East & West. What can be called Modern Indian Fusion Cuisine is best described as the best of both worlds. Western flair meets Indian flavours and you know the result will only be shock and awe! Plated beautifully, not only is fusion cuisine eye-catching but also a novelty — from Pav Bhaji Fondue to Rasmalai Tres Leches, there’s a guarantee that you would never have tasted anything like this before.
However, when can one draw the line between out-of-this-world and otherworldly? Often, though fusion restaurants have their hearts in the right places, the combinations tend to be a little far-fetched — so much so, that the original essence of a cuisine vanishes without a trace.
Indian cuisine, as a whole, and regional Indian delicacies, in particular, have a rich history and each step from the market to the table can be thought of as a cultural journey. For instance, think of the famed Hyderabadi biryani as an institution and a tourist must-do in its own right. The intricacies of Hyderabadi cuisine can be understood through its history — a princely legacy, it is an amalgamation of Mughlai, Turkish & Arabic cooking styles seamlessly merged with the native Telugu & Marathwada cuisines – talk about a truly international dish! Legend has it that the Nizams served 26 different varieties of biryani to their guests. On the other hand, we have the same biryani but when you make your way up to royal Lucknow, the process and the taste is so very different. The secret, undoubtedly, lies in the preparation — Hyderabadi biryani is also known as ‘raw’ or kutchi biryani wherein the meat and the vegetables are not cooked separately before being mixed and marinated together in a handi whereas Lucknowi biryani is ‘cooked’ or pukki before being layered in a casserole.
This is not to say that the art of crafting food has been diluted over time. Fusion cuisine comes with its own set of skills, the most renowned of them being molecular gastronomy. Science and art come together to bring out the unique personality of each ingredient, thereby making not only a playful exercise but also one that takes creativity and knowledge to a whole new level. Techniques and tools such as liquid nitrogen, immersion blenders and syringes are deployed to astound the guest — nay, the audience — because is this not a fantastic spectacle in itself?! Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra promises to take us on an epicurean excursion across India wherein authentic ingredients are used to present the very essence of a dish. From Progressive Indian cuisine such as tandoori guchchi served with mint chutney foam to sublime kebabs paying homage to its international legacy to home-inspired curries, they do it all.
Perhaps the best part of fusion cuisine is the limitless possibilities to experiment. Not shackled down by the dos and don’ts of traditional cooking, modern kitchens have the power to reinvent recipes, play with flavour, taste and colour and be fearless in their approach – you will never hear, “Oh, my grandmother’s recipe is so much better”. From Thai curry-infused paneer tikka to dal khichdi arancini to achari salmon nigiri, we are truly getting to sample the world on our plate. Food, through modern cuisine, is elevated to theatre, and we the guests, are merely actors. We have our entrances and the stage is set – Act 1: Entrée, Act 2: Main Course and Act 3: Dessert.
All said and done, the food, at the heart of it, has to be of excellent quality – nothing else can ever replace the feeling of one’s senses coming alive with that very first bite – not the presentation, not the ambience and certainly not the jazz. It’s a tough line to tread, between traditional kitchens that have already honed their craft and modernist cuisines that push the boundaries of what is to be and compel us to look above and beyond. But it seems that we are in good hands – not only do we have one foot in the past, grounding us and always there to provide a home, but also one foot towards the stars, making us reach out for more.