A fusion of flavours
Traditional Indian wedding cuisine has undergone a sensational transformation, both in preparation and presentation. FWT taps the tracks of this evolution
Indian weddings are all about cultural intricacies. The native ingredients, age-old recipes and special traditional delights, which have been part of our families for ages, all come together bringing their own flavour to the wedding celebration! We talk to experts and chefs who specialise in wedding food on how to give a contemporary spin to your favourite traditional cuisine.
“Wedding guests unite over food, and learn about each other through these little traditions over dinner and cocktails. The presence of traditional tastes hence becomes integral to every wedding,” says Chef Deepak Bhatia, Complex Executive Chef, The Westin, New Delhi. The type of food served at a wedding largely depends on the regions of the to-be wedded couple. Chef Deepak says, “A north Indian wedding would be incomplete without dal makhani, shahi paneer and a variety of Indian sweets for dessert. Similarly, south Indians start their weddings with payasam followed by traditional dishes like avial, kesari bhaat and rasam served on banana leaves. Bengalis enjoy gorging on macher paturi, macher jhol, macher kaalia and begun bhaaja and potol posto, while a typical Goan wedding cuisine includes xacuti and pork sorpotel with sanas, Goan fish curry and bebinca.”
VARIATION AIDS EVOLUTION
While all these traditional delicacies remain our favourite, there is no harm in relishing them with a twist in presentation. Puneet Saigal, General Manager, Park Plaza, Zirakpur, opines, “Every cuisine needs to change to evolve and grow. While the concept of fusion cuisine is gaining momentum; for the sake of experimentation, variations are carved out. This is essential for the evolution of a cuisine.”
“Modernisation creates varied tastes, textures and colours; the better ones survive and add to the diversity of the cuisine. As a matter of fact, due to the ease of preparation, service and more scope for presentation and pairing, people are now opting to glam up their food and present it in a contemporary avatar,” adds Chef Zelma Pereira Xavier, Sous Chef, jüSTa Panjim, Goa.
“Modern Indian cooking is a concept and each chef has a different take on it. Some chefs take Indian cuisine and recreate it by using western techniques along with a delicious mix of non-Indian ingredients. Some bring traditional Indian cuisine to simplified levels to fit and suit the western taste,” says Puneet. Another way to twist the taste of a traditional delicacy is the use of foreign ingredients. “A lot of people have mixed vegetable as a sabzi at their wedding. Chefs are often seen preparing the dish in olive oil using exotic vegetables like bell peppers of all colours, broccoli and Italian spices, which not only enhances its taste but also makes the dish look visually appealing. Similarly, kheer can be prepared in the traditional way but with a hint of cinnamon powder,” adds Nidhi Wadhwa, owner, Zura-Bar Bistro Bakery, Gurgaon. Herbs can transform the aroma and taste of the dishes drastically. For example, we can use basil instead of methi in the methi malai paneer to have basil malai paneer. Chef Deepak suggests incorporating modern techniques in traditional cooking by substituting ingredients with olive oil and ghee. “Since Indian food has traditionally been cooked in ghee, the aroma, which it releases is inherent in almost all our dishes. Replacing it with olive oil significantly changes the aroma and gives a modern alternative to a traditional dish”
The concept of fusion cuisine is gaining momentum to imbibe the best of a particular cuisine and mix it with the intricacies of another. “Mixing of ingredients of one cuisine into traditional dishes of another, gives you a new dish with best characteristics of both cuisines. It is mostly achieved by keeping the base ingredient same and just changing the flavour of the dishes. For example, you can change the sauce used to marinate butter chicken and use something like tartar sauce to create an all-new different dish,” says Akash Kalra, Director, United Group. Especially, since there is no recipe to follow while combining cuisines, chefs are getting bolder experimenting. “Fusion cooking has an important role to play in modernising any type of food. This is primarily because it is considered the marrying of two distinct ingredients or cuisines in a manner that would yield an exceptional third dish, which is likely to have properties unlike the two individual cuisines used to prepare it,” opines Chef Deepak. Moreover, due to inter-regional marriages, there is always a neutral western route that the wedding food takes to treat the common tastes of the bride and the groom’s families. Foreign influences, which have become common in wedding food these days include the use of flavoured western vegetables, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts for desserts and importing premium chocolate to flavour Indian desserts.
PREPPING AND PRESENTING
Pioneer of modern Indian cuisine, Chef Manish Mehrotra from Indian Accent, New Delhi, says, “Ultimately, modernising traditional food is also about bringing dishes that have been a part of our cuisine since time immemorial and presenting them in a creative manner for the world to take note.”
Thanks to innovation and evolution, you can see a lot of unique and interesting preparations at the wedding food counter these days.
Starters: Amritsari machli can be served with pita bread, thus creating a harmonious blend. Chicken tikka and sweet onion sauce can be served in canapés. Since it is not always feasible to carry a tandoor to serve on order, tandoori marinated chicken can be cooked on a barbeque grill or made into a tandoori salad.
Main Course: The khichdi parmigiano elevates the staple khichdi to a sophisticated delight when paired with parmesan cheese and exotic truffle oil. Even kadhai paneer can be prepared with thyme leaving an aroma that is different from the traditional version. Another tasty invention is the oregano naan and gol gappas stuffed with smoked salmon and capers. Grilled chicken can be served with tamarind and mustard flavoured sauce or salmon fish tikkas can be served with pickled mayo. Something like a dal makhani can be topped over a pizza base, to have dal makhani pizza!
Desserts: Chocolate and gulab jamun cakes make for exciting dessert option. Another interesting preparation is mango jamun, where mango mousse is paired with gulab jamun
Lead Photo: INDIAN ACCENT, DELHI