Kofta on the shore

Caterer Middle East - - Cuisine Focus -

In­dian is un­doubt­edly one of the most pop­u­lar cuisines world­wide, from Scot­land to the States peo­ple can’t get enough of it. Mid­dle East chefs tell us about it

Would you say In­dian cui­sine is pop­u­lar in this re­gion?

Ajay Negi,

head chef, Bom­bay Brasserie: Def­i­nitely! With over 2 mil­lion In­di­ans in the city, I be­lieve it is one of the most pop­u­lar cuisines in the re­gion.

Neeraj Rani,

head chef, Bom­bay Bun­ga­low: Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics from var­i­ous agen­cies In­dian cui­sine is the most pop­u­lar cui­sine in the re­gion pre­dom­i­nantly be­cause of two fac­tors: the sheer amount of In­di­ans liv­ing and work­ing in the re­gion and the cul­tural sim­i­lar­i­ties of the cui­sine in the re­gion.

Prashant Chip­kar,

head chef, Masti: In­dian cui­sine is very pop­u­lar in the Mid­dle East be­cause there is a large In­dian pop­u­la­tion who al­ways want a taste of home. Then there is the fact that many in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers are also big fans of In­dian food and want to try it when they travel.

Ad­wait Anant­war,

head chef, Mo­halla: Yes, it is and what makes it pop­u­lar is the long his­tory and a lot of other rea­sons. The large in­flux of In­dian ex­pa­tri­ates into the Mid­dle East dur­ing the 1970s and 1980s has led to the pop­u­lar­ity of In­dian cui­sine. In­dian food has be­come a sta­ple diet of this re­gion. Its ver­sa­til­ity and sim­plic­ity makes it pop­u­lar amongst dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties. It is very well-re­ceived in the Mid­dle East due to the long his­tory of trade and re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two.

Sharafat Hus­sain,

head chef, Swaad: Ab­so­lutely!

With a large pop­u­la­tion from sub­con­ti­nent based in UAE and other GCC coun­tries, it’s un­doubt­edly one of the most pop­u­lar cuisines. In­dian cui­sine as well as tra­di­tional spices have been ad­mired in the re­gion for many gen­er­a­tions. More­over, In­dian cui­sine has also gained pop­u­lar­ity in global hos­pi­tal­ity, cour­tesy of fu­sion ren­di­tions of In­dia’s spe­cial­ity dishes.

How au­then­tic is your prepa­ra­tion of In­dian cui­sine – are recipes tweaked to suit a lo­cal au­di­ence? Negi:

It’s rather sim­ple ac­tu­ally, we keep the flavours au­then­tic and have fun with the plat­ing and pre­sen­ta­tions. We stick to the ba­sics, keep things sim­ple and never shy away from change.


Our prepa­ra­tion is quite au­then­tic how­ever with Dubai be­ing a mix of so many na­tion­al­i­ties who have a var­ied palate there are cer­tain dishes which are tweaked to the lo­cal au­di­ence es­pe­cially in terms of spice lev­els. We plan our menus in a way that we can make sure there are enough op­tions for guests to choose from.


Our ar­ray of In­dian in­spired shar­ing plates takes cues and in­flu­ence from a va­ri­ety of global fla­vors. The cui­sine and con­cept are heav­ily in­spired by In­dia, recre­at­ing au­then­tic fla­vors and dishes served in a con­tem­po­rary and modern man­ner, with flavour, colour and pre­sen­ta­tion all pre­vail­ing in the food which can be seen on any given ta­ble dur­ing a din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.


The meth­ods, the prepa­ra­tions and the fla­vor stays au­then­tic at Mo­halla. We have just toned it down a bit on the spices. We con­cen­trate on us­ing less fat, no ar­ti­fi­cial food colour­ing, and the fresh­est in­gre­di­ents. That doesn’t mean the food we serve is just like any other reg­u­lar In­dian restau­rant. We are lo­cated at D3 and we have a mix of crowd to cater to and the menu and the recipes have been com­piled and de­signed ac­cord­ing to their needs.


For the most part, we tweak our dishes such that the flavours suit our lo­cal pa­trons. We have to keep in­ter­na­tional flavours in mind while cre­at­ing a menu. At Swaad, we al­ways aim to re­tain the soul of the dish and its au­then­tic flavours while adding in­gre­di­ents or sides that hold an ap­peal to our pa­trons. Ev­ery chef has a dis­tinct cook­ing style and ex­per­i­ments with flavours to de­ter­mine what works best for their es­tab­lish­ment, while stay­ing true to the cui­sine.

Is it easy to source your

in­gre­di­ents? Negi:

Dubai is a melt­ing pot of cul­tures and cuisines, this makes it easy for the in­gre­di­ents to be sourced in the lo­cal mar­ket.


It is quiet easy to source qual­ity prod­ucts needed to de­liver a high qual­ity and an au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence to our guests, how­ever some­times we do have lim­i­ta­tions in sourc­ing cer­tain prod­ucts which we im­port di­rectly from In­dia.


The cui­sine and con­cept are heav­ily in­spired by In­dia, recre­at­ing au­then­tic flavours and dishes served in a con­tem­po­rary and modern man­ner which would mean we have a big­ger pantry to choose from, bor­row­ing from other cuisines and cul­tures. Our menu has wasabi, truf­fles, bur­ratta cheese, French oys­ters, Asian baos.


Dubai be­ing the hub of trade and the avi­a­tion in­dus­try and hav­ing a huge In­dian pop­u­la­tion it has al­ways been easy to source in­gre­di­ents but since the in­gre­di­ents are sourced from dif­fer­ent coun­tries the qual­ity is not con­sis­tent.


For­tu­nately, we are part of a coun­try that is con­sid­er­ing tow­ing an ice­berg from Antarc­tica hence sourc­ing in­gre­di­ents in­dige­nous to dif­fer­ent cul­tures in a coun­try like UAE is ex­tremely easy. We try to source as many in­gre­di­ents as pos­si­ble lo­cally, in or­der to pro­mote sus­tain­abil­ity, and we also have in­ter­na­tional sup­pli­ers with of­fices based in the UAE that help us pro­cure spe­cial­ity in­gre­di­ents re­quired by our chefs.

What are your big­gest chal­lenges?


When peo­ple from dif­fer­ent coun­tries hav­ing dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions about In­dian cui­sine come to dine at Bom­bay Brasserie. I take this as a chal­lenge to show­case tra­di­tional In­dian cui­sine and use a lot of tech­niques which are used in In­dian house­holds to sat­isfy each and ev­ery­one’s palate.


The big­gest chal­lenge is to un­der­stand the ever-chang­ing con­sumer be­hav­iour and adapt­ing to their habits and the eco­nomic fac­tors af­fect­ing the re­gion cur­rently.


The big­gest chal­lenge for us is to cre­ate the right bal­ance of In­dia and the world in ev­ery dish. Masti chal­lenges the per­cep­tion of In­dian restau­rants. We had to make the dishes re­late to the rich cul­ture and her­itage of In­dia while at the same time give them their own unique iden­tity.


The big­gest chal­lenge is the con­sis­tent qual­ity of in­gre­di­ents since the sup­pli­ers change their source of the pro­duce as and when re­quired ac­cord­ing to the sea­son.


The only chal­lenge is to en­sure con­sis­tency in the qual­ity of in­gre­di­ents. The govern­ment reg­u­la­tion on im­port­ing per­ish­able items is strin­gent in the UAE; there­fore we can be as­sured of the qual­ity of goods pro­vided by our ven­dors but we still have to mon­i­tor the qual­ity of the goods sup­plied by our ven­dors so that they com­ply with our brand stan­dards. More­over, ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies in food-pro­cure­ment and pro­cess­ing has also made it pos­si­ble to trans­port items far from their source of ori­gin in per­fect con­di­tions.

What is the lat­est trend in In­dian cui­sine?


It would be the “eat healthy and live healthy” trend that Dubai is aim­ing for. The need for healthy food is on the rise as In­di­ans have be­come in­creas­ingly health con­scious un re­cent years. At Bom­bay Brasserie, we en­sure that we serve healthy food to our guests with­out com­pro­mis­ing on the In­dian au­then­tic taste.


In­dian cui­sine over the last few years has be­come more ap­proach­able and the re­gional fo­cus of dishes has in­creased. Now we see more and more re­gional dishes on restau­rant menus: the Jakiya po­tato and the Goan xa­cuti dish are ex­am­ples on how the trend is chang­ing from serv­ing the tra­di­tional ke­babs and cur­ries to re­gional favourites. Street food favourites have also re­turned to the menus from fast-ca­sual to up­mar­ket restau­rants.


In­dian food is get­ting more re­gional. Dishes which would never fea­ture on a menu now take cen­tre stage. Pop­u­lar street food is part of ev­ery menu from fast ca­sual to fine dine restau­rants


Right now the Dubai mar­ket is sat­u­rated with restau­rants try­ing to do modern In­dian food by just us­ing some the­atrics and only a few are suc­cess­ful. Here at Mo­halla we are dig­ging deeper into the streets and sub-re­gions of ev­ery In­dian state and bring­ing out the dishes which Dubai has never seen/tasted be­fore. So I think this is the new trend we are go­ing to set.


In­dian cui­sine of­fered now is ei­ther com­pletely au­then­tic and tra­di­tional or fu­sion as is the trend with many other cuisines. An­other trend that is gen­er­at­ing in­ter­est amongst din­ers is molec­u­lar gas­tron­omy and many well-known In­dian chefs are now tak­ing this route to present a re­newed ver­sion of the revered cui­sine ©


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