Not just North Indian
Will ‘ pan Indian’ be the next big thing for Indian restaurants? As Neel Indian Kitchen + Bar joins the club of diners keen to showcase India’s regional food diversity under one roof, traces the roots of this promising trend Back from Canada, Avril Ann Br
Owas conceptualised to “celebrate India through its space, food and even drinks, which we serve as chota, bada and Patiala, the kind of thing we grew up with. But we also wanted to make it relevant and contextual to people today. So while some dishes are authentic recreations of traditional recipes, others are our versions inspired by state cusinies.’’ In its one- and- half years, The Bombay Canteen has served cuisines from 16 states.
Still heady with the recent opening g of Neel InIndian Kitchen + Bar, Chef Jayadeep ‘ JD’’ Mukherjee says, “People have always been receptiveive to community eateries. The demand was there, but restaurants didn’t take it up as they’ve been playing safe.’’ But Karmakar, Jain and Seth unanimously disagree that such concepts would be e received with such enthusiasm 10 years rs ago. “Today, people are far more curious us about the food because of exposure— e— through food shows, travelling and social cial media’’, Seth says.
In fact, having litti chokha on a trip ip to Bihar is what inspired Nishenk Jain in to start a vegetarian diner that would serve cuisines from 29 states. Jain adds, “People are tired of eating the same old things ngs rerepackaged as new. They know the neglected glected north- eastern states have a lot to offerr in the culinary space and the novelty of Italian, Mexican, Lebanese has worn off since one can look up recipes online and make them at home’’.
While it is a joy to see a Bengali mochar chop next to an Uttaranchali buransh on the same menu, those like Karmarkar rightly ask, ‘’ What’s the need for all Indian cuisines on one menu? I prefer going to places that do one cuisine well’’. The solution? Using authentic ingredients and changing menus frequently— while at Neel Indian Kitchen + Bar it will mean a to- beintroduced ‘ Day’s special menu’, 29 States serves cuisine- specific menus for four weeks, in addition to the regular menu. And at The Bombay Canteen, it’s simply about changing the menu every season. “Litti chokha should be cooked under earth and mixed with cow dung, but 29 States is near a hospital, so I can’t do it,” Jain candidly shares. “For such reasons, I manage to stay 60- 65 per cent true to the roots.’’ That said, these restaurateurs, who believe the pan- Indian wave is here to stay, are just as keen as Kalyan Karmakar to see restaurants specialising in a single region’s cuisine.
The debate of specialised- versus- multi- cuisine spaces can go on, but it’s almost a historic time for Indian food. We are finally acknowledging and celebrating our food diversity, and broadening the definition of Indian food to be inclusive. In this regard, pan- Indian cuisine reminds us that we are individually beautiful and are yet part of a whole. And the influence of one regional cuisine over another is proof that there’s an organic unity in our diversity. nly two days are left for the end of my Canada holiday and I haven’t yet tasted BeaverTails. It’s my second trip to the home of the Rocky Mountains and Niagara Falls— after 16 years! Who knows when I’ll be back, so I can’t risk not trying it. How I regret having procrastinated, more so because I didn’t get to try it at the original BeaverTails stand at Byward Market in Ottawa, where even Barack Obama stopped during his first official visit to Canada! But as luck had it, as we walk along Clifton Hill after our hectic day- trip to the Niagara, there stands my chance to snack on the Canadian pastry.
Simply put, a BeaverTail is a fried dough pastry garnished with toppings of your choice. Made with whole wheat, the dough is hand- stretched to resemble the tail of a beaver — Canada’s national animal. As per the BeaverTails website, “The pastries are then float- cooked on high quality canola oil and served piping hot, topped with butter and a choice of delectable flavors”, including cinnamon and sugar, maple, apple cinnamon, chocolate banana, peanut butter, choco vanilla, chocolate hazelnut, killaloe sunrise ( cinnamon, sugar and lemon) and triple trip ( chocolate, peanut butter and Reese’s Pieces). I’m torn between trying cinnamon and sugar, apple cinnamon, chocolate hazlenut, and maple, but go for the maple flavoured spread ( could we get more Canadian?)
A short while later, my order — wrapped in the red BeaverTail paper package — is in my hands. Warm and crispy with maple syrup oozing, it’s love at first bite; the perfect comfort dessert after an exhausting day! Gulp it down as quickly as you can, because it tastes best when it’s piping hot and more importantly, that way you won’t have to share it with anyone!
Maharashtrian Dalimbichi Usal at 29 States Bengali Bhappa Aloo at 29 States Goan B** f Olives by The Bombay Canteen Bihari Litti Choka at 29 States From Rampur, Kareli Ka Tamatar Korma by Neel Indian Kitchen + Bar Sukka Squid from Kerala by Neel Indian...