Food continues to witness some interesting trends. Chefs tell us all about it. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)
From going hyperlocal while sourcing ingredients to bringing back traditional recipes, the food scene this year witnessed several interesting trends. A round-up of 2019's food trends would surely entice you to look back at some ways in which food has undergone a makeover. It has, in fact, not only fuelled our creativity when it comes to approaching food but has also led us to look at food and its sourcing in a more conscious way. Agrees Ashutosh Nerlekar, executive chef, The Park Chennai, "For example, offering local seafood and meats as opposed to costly meats being flown in from across the world, is a prime example of taking stock of the carbon footprint which is a conscious decision during the sourcing of ingredients."
He goes on to mention that "chefs are also taking pride in the fact that local ingredients are being used in their menus" and the same is being highlighted and "spoken about to the end customer". "Moringa leaves are a prime example," he says, referring to how the nutritious drumstick leaves have increasingly become a part of going sustainable right from soups to course meals.
The trend this past year has also considerably shifted to looking at food as more than "indulgence", shares chef Anurudh Khanna, multi-property executive chef, The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi and The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa. "I think for a very long time it was all about eating delicious food. Food was an indulgence and people of all ages would devour it as if there was no tomorrow. Now the case is opposite. In order to see tomorrow, they are cutting down today. Which is why a lot of food chains have started dedicating an entire section on the menu to whole foods - foods that are minimally processed and are as close to their natural form as much as possible," he said.
Even kids-special menu, which consisted of items like "deep-fried chicken nuggets, chocolate brownie with ice cream, tricolour pasta, to name a few", now is increasingly being replaced by "healthy substitutes", points out Khanna. "Lately, I have seen that more and more restaurants are crafting kids' menus that focus on inclusion of whole grains like quinoa, whole wheat bread, fresh fruits etc rather than simple carbs like white bread and sugary treats which offer little or no nutritional value," he asserts.
Millennial parents are raising a generation of "little foodies" who can be seen reaching for California rolls alongside their parents at a sushi bar or prefer a berry yoghurt smoothie over chocolate milkshake with ice cream. Restaurants are upgrading old-school kids’ menus by either including healthy, plant-based proteins and ancient grains or by taking the adult experience on a smaller scale by adapting dishes so that they are a better fit for children," shares Khanna, describing how the menu for kids at Westin, Gurgaon and New Delhi have been designed by a group of doctors, dentists and dietitians "to help kids eat smart".
The other food trends based on the healthy market trend is vegan food, keto diet and gluten-free items, mentions chef Anshu Raj, founder, Caterspoint. "The vegan diet and protein diet has helped gym freaks and also people who wants to lose weight. It has reduced the chances of diseases and helped retained a good living," he says.
How about 2020?
At home, oat idlis and multigrain adai (lentil pancakes) are now considered breakfast options to pack in maximum nutrients indicating that a shift from consuming refined flour to organically sourced A2 variety of millets, milk and whole grains is being made, points out Nerlekar, and is sure to continue in the coming year.
Celebrity chef Harpal Singh Sokhi mentions that more local flavours will see the light of the day. "I have always said that India is the Amazon forest of food; unexplored in its complete form. I see more local flavours exploding and more chefs working to share their local works from across the country. Web and television food shows are helping to explore various food from across the country," he says. He further adds that in the restaurant scene, he looks forward to seeing trends like slow cooking on charcoal, wood and earthenware pots besides chefs exploring more of "unheard Indian food" so that we all benefit from various cuisines India is yet to offer. "I also see what was popular in homes now moving out to restaurants and various kitchens," he adds.
According to chef Eureka Araujo, assistant pastry chef at the Academy of Pastry Arts Group, one expects to see a move towards more "foodie focussed activism in 2020" as the impact on food (particularly animal-based proteins) on climate, biodiversity and human health comes to the fore. "There are people called mindful eaters who want to know much more about where their food comes from and who want to engage with rather than be passive participants of the food system. Although price will continue to drive purchasing decisions, the numbers of citizens who make decisions based on health and sustainability will continue to grow," he says.
Concurs chef Khanna, "In 2020, I see a lot of global influences seep into the kid’s menu— from Mediterranean cuisine to West African dishes."
Khanna also feels that younger people "will continue to drive experiments with new food ingredients and those that improve gut and mental health". Demand for plant-based foods will continue to grow rapidly. Several food companies have committed to clean labelling in recent months – the use of simple, recognisable and wholesome ingredients free from a multitude of flavourings, preservatives, sugars and GMO-based products," mentions Araujo.
Some other trends that people can watch out for in 2020:
*Food aficionados are going to be looking for stories woven into their food concepts and cuisines. Restaurants with stories would be busier than those who don't tell stories through their food! Nerlekar and Sokhi both agree. "Local fare especially street food in new avatar is getting very popular and chefs from across the country are innovating using street food concepts and incorporating them in their menus," says Sokhi.
*Back to basic food is going to continue to be up there. Childhood nostalgic food is going to be back again.
*The food that our parents and grandparents ate would be in demand as there is an increase of knowledge that people have these days of the importance of the food they ate, their nutritional benefits, suggests Nerlekar.
*According to Nerlekar, simple heirloom recipes would be incorporated in contemporary presentations of dishes - be it a gun powder mash with roast chicken or tomato saar - which is a tomato broth like dish from Maharashtra poured over a grilled semolina crusted fish that add a unique touch.
Here are some special recipes from the chefs that continue to be a favourite.
Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs by chef Anurudh Khanna-Multi Property Executive Chef-The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi & The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa
Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs
1 pound - 1 inch cut boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup - Olive oil
1/3 cup - Soy sauce
Honey 1/4 cup
1tsp - Minced garlic
Salt and pepper as per taste
1 no - Red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
1 no - Yellow bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
1 no - Zucchini cut into two slices of 1 inch
1 no - Red onion cut into 1 inch pieces
1tbsp - Parsley
*Place the olive oil, soy sauce, honey, garlic and salt and pepper in a large bowl.
*Whisk to combine.
*Add the chicken, bell peppers, zucchini and red onion to the bowl. Toss to coat in the marinade.
*Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours.
*Soak wooden skewers in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.
*Thread the chicken and vegetables onto the skewers.
*Cook for five-seven minutes on each side or until chicken is cooked through.
*Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Roti Churi by celebrity chef Harpal Singh Sokhi, Tata Sky Cooking
1 1/2 cup - Millet
1/2 cup - Grated jaggery
1/4 cup - Chocolate spread
4tbsp + 2tbsp - Ghee
18-20 no - Coloured chocolate tablets
Chocolate vermicelli for garnishing
*Make soft dough of millet with warm water.
*Make roti by pressing it on palms and bake it on a heated tawa.
*Another method to make millet roti is by adding few drops of ghee in a plastic sheet. Take small dough and roll it into a roti.
*Apply ghee on roti on tawa.
*Remove roti in a bowl. Crush them and add jaggery, chocolate spread, assorted nuts, ghee and mix them well. Crush it properly.
*Take a small bowl; add coloured chocolate tablets in it and add roti mixture on top of it and flip it on a plate.
*Garnish with chocolate vermicelli.
Chef Eureka Araujo suggests tips to make a sustainable change
*Try shopping at your local farmers market or talk to your grocer about what products are grown locally. Also, cook at home more often. You will have more control of what you eat.
*Cooking at home has a significant impact on your health. By using fresh ingredients, you will eat fewer calories, reduce your sodium intake and generally eat a healthier diet.
*Grow something. You can grow herbs, peppers, lettuces and a variety of other vegetables in pots at home. If you have the space, start a small garden in your yard where you can grow fruits and vegetables you commonly use at home.
*Eat seasonally. When produce is purchased in season, it costs less. It will also taste better and will be better in quality and nutritional value.
*Choose restaurants that use local farms for their produce and meats.
*Alter your grocery list. Purchase items in bulk, buy fewer processed items and focus on making more plant-based meals.
*Ditch the disposable water bottles. Not only will using a water filter at home save you money in the long run, it will also cut down on the fossil fuels used to package and ship bottled water. Plus, by drinking more water, you will be drawn to drinking fewer unhealthy, sweetened beverages like soda.
*Start small and build on the changes gradually. You don't have to change everything all at once. Start shopping at a local farmers' market once per month and increase your frequency over time.
*Making these changes gradually will help you feel and look better. You will also have the added benefit of knowing you have improved more than your health – you have also helped improve our planet.