Indian catering industry returning to century-old cooking techniques and traditional ingredients
The article by: Mr. Sanjay Vazirani, CEO - Foodlink F&B Holdings India Pvt. Ltd. The advent of new kinds of health issues and the recent pandemic have directed our attention back to the long-lost legacy of
The article by: Mr. Sanjay Vazirani, CEO – Foodlink F&B Holdings India Pvt. Ltd.
The advent of new kinds of health issues and the recent pandemic have directed our attention back to the long-lost legacy of traditional Indian cuisine. With this, people also started realizing the need to reinvent our diets and consume food that is good for the body and the soul. The current concept of Indian gastronomy is often misrepresented in the modern context through fusion food. Traditional Indian food is largely based on Ayurveda. It is simple, balanced and nutrient-dense. These gems have been forgotten through time especially due to heavy western influence.
In these modern times, there is a dire need to sensitize people to the benefits of traditional Indian cuisine, its techniques and principles which are lost in the crowded marketplace and consumerism.
Significance of Ingredients in Indian Cuisine:
The ingredients used in preparing traditional Indian cuisine are sourced organically, farm-fresh and filled with necessary vitamins, minerals and healthy fats that help boost immunity naturally. The core spices used in Indian kitchens are also known for their versatility, as they provide unique flavours to different dishes only by changing the cooking technique and style.
Multifaceted Indian Culture and Traditional Cooking Techniques:
The multi-cultural dimension of India provides a vast canvas of traditional recipes and culinary expertise. Every region of India has its own inherent cuisine and distinctive flavours originating from a century-old unique cooking technique. Some of the most traditional and popular Indian cooking techniques include Dum Pukht – Slow Cooking, Tadka or Baghar – Tempering, Bhaap – Steaming, Bhunao – Sautéing, Dhuanaar – Smoking, Talna – Deep-Frying and Tandoori – Roasting/Baking.
- Dum Pukht – Slow cooking Technique: Dum means to ‘breathe in’, it is a slow cooking method conducted by closing a round, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid and slow cooking the food over a low flame. In this technique, the food cooks in its own steam and the slow-roasting enables each of the spices and herbs to release their flavour into the dish. In traditional Indian cooking, a clay pot (or handi) is sealed with wheat flour dough to make sure steam is trapped inside the vessel, preserving the aroma and maturing the flavours.
- Tadka or Baghar – Tempering Technique: The process of tempering involves the blooming of spices in hot ghee to enhance the flavour of dishes. Every region of India includes different items of tadka, but the most common are whole mustard, cumin seeds, asafoetida, chilli, and garlic.
- Bhaap – Steaming Technique: It is a technique in which the food is steam-cooked over a low flame with a closed lid. It is considered one of the healthiest ways of cooking food while keeping its rich nutrients intact.
- Bhunao – Sautéing Technique: This cooking technique requires constant stirring over medium to high heat, but the goal is to create a thick, spiced paste, which can be thinned into a gravy. It starts with heating ghee in a frying pan and then adding meat or vegetables, along with spices.
- Dhuanaar – Smoking: In this North Indian technique, a small bowl with a piece of lit charcoal is placed inside of a larger vessel on top of the cooking food. A small amount of ghee is poured over the coal and then the whole space is covered with a lid to trap the smoke inside and infuse the food with a smoky flavour.
- Talina Or Talna – Deep-Frying: Whilst frying is a technique used in every culinary practice, Talna is a frying method that is often used in Indian cuisine to prevent food from burning and to ensure the cooked food is as flavoursome as possible.
- Tandoori – Roasting/Baking: A tandoor is a North Indian clay oven that is used to cook naan or marinated meat using hot charcoal fire. The food cooked in a tandoor oven is roasted and smokey.
Impact of Indian Traditional Cooking Methods on International Cuisine:
The versatility and simplicity of Indian traditional cooking techniques can be seen making its mark in most international cuisines. The interaction of various Indian diaspora communities with the native cultures has resulted in the creation of many fusion cuisines, which offer a flavorful and balanced blend of Indian and other international cuisines such as Indo-Chinese cuisine, Indian Thai cuisine, Malaysian Indian cuisine, and so on. With evolving times, today, the Indian catering industry is also set to embrace the new Indian fusion trend.
Fusion cuisines or food mash-ups combine contrasting culinary traditions or techniques into a single dish, and this is one of the fastest-growing food trends around the world. It allows for experimentation and freedom in exploring a contrast of flavours and textures. One of the biggest advantages of Fusion cuisine is that it provides scope for innovations and creativeness. Thus, it becomes an ideal platform for chefs to showcase their culinary expertise combined with unique ideas. This has further given a rise to modern cooking techniques that have started gaining popularity amongst the customers such as sand cooking using an Earthenware pot, reinvention of forbidden dishes with twists and more.
Traditional Indian Cooking Utensils that are back in Trend:
Considering the wide variety of Indian cuisine and its uniqueness, the utensils play a significant role in enhancing the flavour of the food with different cooking methods.
- Stones (Mortar and Pestle): These are generally used in grinding the ingredients. Stones do not get heated up, unlike blenders and mixers that use stainless steel, and end up getting heated, which is not only unhealthy but also results in a loss in taste.
- Clay: The use of a clay pot in cooking is one of the most ancient kitchen pieces of equipment. In this, a slow and constant heat gets transferred to the whole cookware making it easy to heat uniformly. Clay pots add nutrients to the food like Calcium, Phosphorous, Iron, Magnesium and Sulfur. They are alkaline in nature, which neutralizes the acid element involved in the food that we consume.
- Cast Iron: It is a very good conductor of heat because of which it serves a great purpose in transferring heat very efficiently and uniformly during the cooking process.
Demand Drivers for Traditional Cuisine in the Indian Catering Industry:
Amidst the evolving customer preferences, the Indian catering industry is also experiencing demand from the customers to provide Local, no wastage menus which is driving the need for traditional dishes. While another strong reason for the demand for traditional food is its scanty use in our daily lives in its original form, which brings in the greatness of authentic recipes for events.
The cultures of contemporary Indian cuisine, including the politics, food processes, production, and consumption, are simultaneously changing and exhilarating. Innovation and increased attention to Indian cuisine further promise to be an exciting area for creativity and critical research in the future.