chowmein. Gulkand cheese­cake. Grilled Fish on Dal. East meets West, on a plate.

India Today - - SOC IETY - by Asit Jolly and Devika Chaturvedi

The In­dian palate recog­nises no boundaries, gas­tro­nomic or po­lit­i­cal. Ur­ban In­dia is glee­fully in­fus­ing Ital­ian pas­tas, Mex­i­can en­chi­ladas, cheese­cakes and piz­zas with the fa­mil­iar­ity of a desi tadka. Lo­cal fare is get­ting that ex­tra, al­beit some­times dis­cor­dant, zing of a western or ori­en­tal tweak. Gourmet au­thor Es­ther David, 67, first no­ticed the shift at wed­dings in the 1990s when multi- cui­sine buf­fets be­came a means to show­case wealth. “I was sur­prised to see karela ( bit­ter gourd) with a stuff­ing of tutti- fruity. It was the per­fect ex­am­ple of fu­sion food,” the foodie re­calls. Around the same time, Baljit Singh, a young il­le­gal im­mi­grant who was de­ported from Ger­many, set up the Indo- Ger­man Dhaba along the Chandi­garh-Lud­hi­ana Road at Neelon and served a range of pas­tas to cu­ri­ous Pun­jabi trav­ellers. He shut shop a decade later but the odd mo­torist still stops by to ask for Singh’s zesty spaghetti.

Priya, 37, and Ab­hay Ja­gat, 38, who run five cafes and fine din­ing restau­rants in Chandi­garh, be­lieve fu­sion is in­evitable in a rapidly shrink­ing world. Their Café No­mad is a meet­ing point for Ital­ian ( pas­tas and piz­zas), In­dian ( cot­tage cheese and south­ern spices) and ori­en­tal ( veg­eta­bles, soya and fish sauce). “The Ori­en­tal- Mediter­ranean combo jives with desi palates,” says Ab­hay. There is an ex­plo­sion of fu­sion foods on the streets of In­dia. Evenings in Su­rat, Ahmed­abad, Amritsar, Lud­hi­ana, Chandi­garh, Jaipur, Hy­der­abad, be­sides the met­ros, present an un­be­liev­able culi­nary ar­ray crafted over long years.

Itchy- feet Gu­jaratis have been toss­ing the de­fin­i­tive, pure veg­e­tar­ian Jain pizza, Jain tacos and en­chi­ladas in Ahmed­abad’s Law Gar­den and Am­bawadi for more than three decades. Chowmein- stuffed samosas are a huge hit from Lud­hi­ana to Ahmed­abad. Da­belis ( desi potato patty burg­ers) are univer­sal sta­ple for stu­dents ev­ery­where.

Thrilled with the new mood, top chefs are turn­ing up never be­fore de­lights like the dis­tinc­tive Gulkand Cheese­cake and Khubani ka Crème brûlée. Kolkata’s Pradip Rozario serves lo­cal fish va­ri­eties— padda in an In­done­sian sauce, deboned tan­gra in Thai curry and tiny mourola deep- fried and dipped into a Schezwan sauce. Chef Manu Mo­hin­dra, 39, of Un­der One Roof, a Delhi firm that sets up restau­rants, cafes and food courts for pri­vate clients, says, “The gas­tro­nomic mix that first be­gan in French cui­sine is now the fu­ture here.”

Ja­gat agrees, point­ing out that the desi palate has for long had the ad­van­tage of mul­ti­ple cuisines, lo­cal as well as those brought by the suc­ces­sion of traders and in­vaders. Fus­ing food, he says, be­gan long ago and it is now tak­ing the form of a culi­nary genre of its own in In­dia.

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