Micro cuisines take root in India’s mainstream food scene
Chefs across India are celebrating lesser-known dishes from our diverse micro cuisines, helping them get national recognition
India’s burgeoning food scene is replete with culinary innovations. But as of late, dishes that are part of micro cuisines from specific sub-regions, communities and even family kitchens across the country are being reclaimed by chefs and gourmands. This dining philosophy, which focuses on lesser-known geographies and foods is reflective of local ingredients, cooking techniques and cultural influences. According to the 2023 Godrej Food Trends report exploration of micro-cuisine is one of the significant trends for the year, where 64% of the report panel predicted that diners would want to try cuisines different from their own. This is backed by many restaurants bringing menus that pay homage to dishes popular in sub-regions.
While these categories have been around since the beginning of food culture, they remained on the periphery until the pandemic. “Food became a medium for looking inward, discovering and supporting indigenous and local offerings as people became more curious about their own homelands and cuisines,” says Chef Tarun Sibal. “This movement is growing linearly, at a sustainable pace, with chefs bringing indigenous ingredients and recipes to mainstream menus to highlight their personal experience with micro-cuisines,” he adds. At Sibal’s culinary bar, Titlie in Goa, the pork belly spice rub comes from Salem in Tamil Nadu. He has also added hyperlocal bread like Thalipeeth, a savoury flatbread made from besan, jowar and whole wheat flour originating in Kohlapur, to his menu. Chef Sanjyot Keer explains the role of regionality in the representation of mico-cuisines. “In Maharashtra, there are Konkan Malvan, Satara and Kandesh regions, all of which have distinct culinary styles. Even a slight serving of Kundrum chaat encircled with sweet potato served on a banana leaf from Kasmar village in Jharkhand change in the recipe due to the lack of availability of coconut as you move away from the coast can change the course of the food prepared.”
GOURMET TADKA TO GAON KA KHANA
The Loya restaurant at the Taj Palace, New Delhi also serves several dishes that aim to tell the story of their native regions. “Kangra Khodiya Gosht, a Pahadi mutton curry with hand-ground, charred walnut ink was inspired by the Kangra region of Himachal Pradesh,” says Chef Rajesh Wadhwa. At Chef Nishant Choubey’s Sattvik, Delhi, you can discover a local-inspired mulberry chaat and Kundrum chaat with shakarkandi (sweet potato) from the Kasmar village of Chotanagpur in Jharkhand. On his food festival tours, he also serves a classic Desi Murga with Bilauti (tomato), which is from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand. The Indian Accent, Delhi also showcases Old Delhi’s famed Daulat Ki Chaat and Anarsa-a pastry-like snack made from jaggery, rice, poppy seeds and ghee from Gaya in Bihar.
VOCAL FOR LOCAL
Micro-cuisines also play into the farm-to-plate equation, which helps local communities bring forth their stories. “As chefs started shedding light on the brilliance and diversity of these cuisines, more people are appreciating them. With the help of social media, home chefs and long-standing culinary institutions in villages and underrated districts can profit from economic growth in the hospitality sector as this food movement becomes a pillar of Indian culture,” says chef Vanshika Bhatoa, owner, OMO Cafe, Gurugram. “The future of micro-cuisines in India seems bright as modern chefs and home chefs are exploring this area. Pop-ups are being held regularly, and restaurants and hotels are bringing micro-cuisines to their menus, representing lesser-known tribes, communities, and cultures through food,” Chef Chetan Raj at The Claridges, New Delhi where they are introducing a similar concept by collaborating with chef from Ladakh to dive into the region’s local cuisine.