Indian weddings and mithai are a match made in heaven, but change is creeping in. While traditional sweetmeats still rule the roost, changing tastes are influencing the mithai industry.
Most in the business have seen mithais undergo changes. Chef Sudhir Arora – Executive Chef, Travel Food Services, Delhi, states, “During weddings, more elaborate desserts are favoured. Demand for sugar-free, egg-free and variety makes the caterer look for options, remaking the same old laddoo by addition of exotic ingredients.”
Vilbin Varghese, Pastry Chef, Fairmont Jaipur shares, “Keeping abreast of the evolving Indian palate, chefs are introducing modernised versions of such traditional Indian desserts. While age-old recipes and rich flavours are always enjoyable, embracing them in a new manner while keeping their essence intact is a step toward this globally trending concept.”
As per Chef Dinesh Mhatre, Executive Chef, Hilton Mumbai International Airport, “Indian food remains a stunning example of how flavours, when integrated correctly, work to create delicious magic. Perhaps this is the reason why fusion desserts are winning around the world.”
Anchal Sharma, co-founder of Meetha Shagun, a premium luxury gifting brand into customised mithais, feels traditional mithai is known for its distinct aroma, though time and experimentation have given rise to international flavours. “These factors have influenced the traditional sweets market,” she says.
Chef Sanjeev Ranjan, Executive Chef, Kathmandu Marriott Hotel, draws attention to one of his favourites – sweet curd or mishti doi. “What was initially prepared as a simple sweetened yoghurt using jaggery or sugar is now transformed to a delicacy with fruit and even paan flavours.”
Founder-director Sid Mathur’s Khoya, which creates distinct Indian sweets with fresh and natural ingredients, feels in the early 2000s people began choosing chocolates and international sweets. “Mithai had become a commoditised product with questionable hygiene and basic packaging. Now people are opting for traditional mithai with brand value. The ingredients, packaging and price point is something people take note of.”
Chef Varun Inamdar, a two-time National Award winner and Guinness World Record Holder, feels we aren’t well aware of our large wealth of mithai. “Unfortunately, we generically know only the top 10-15 of them. Only when one starts travelling does one learn the varieties and local names of so many delicacies. These confections don’t undergo a major change, because these are regional favourites; what changes is the barfi and peda which are coloured and shaped to attract the festive shoppers. For the homes and self consumption, it is usually the classics.”
Chef Varun rues, “Our generation is unfortunately not as creative as our ancestors were. I haven’t seen an Indian confection being created in the last few decades. We have only rehashed what we’ve already known.”
Chef Anand Rawat, Head Chef, Noor Mahal, Karnal believes Indian weddings are incomplete without mithai but the desire for something different is growing. “Even mithais meant for gifting are experiencing an interesting trend.”
Attempting to balance tradition and modernity, Anchal thinks there is a perfect fusion between Indian and western flavours leading to quality artisanal mithais. “New varieties like Chocolate Modak, Cashew Fig Rose Laddoo, traditional Indian Modak filled with cashew and gulkand etc have aesthetic charm and elegance which augments the grandeur of the occasion.”
Chef Anand is in favour of innovations done with unconventional ingredients. “Fruits are a favourite to add flavour and colour to traditional recipes. Even flowers are used to add flavour and aesthetics. Most prefer minor changes but those open to bold choices opt for radical hybrid desserts.”
One agrees with Chef Anand when he states that growing trend of serving guests fittingly and a disposable income means industry growth. That means support for traditional and fusion deserts. “Even local halwais started playing around with chocolate and mithai. Today customers need a face, chef or brand they can trust. Brands have equally become conscious and cater to changing dynamics. Packaging and exotic ingredients play a key role in attracting consumers.”
The market has a demand for inventive sweets, Vilbin reveals. “According to the National Restaurant Association of India, the Indian food services industry has seen a steady growth in the past few years and is expected to grow at over 11 per cent in the next five years.”
Chef Sudhir has seen Arabian sweets like Baklava and its variants become big. “The great Indian wedding comes alive with the serving of large portions of chocolate fudge pastry, silver platters with mounds of pedas and syrupy rosogullas.” “We all outgrow our traditions, some situationally, some occasionally, some permanently,” states Chef Varun. “Wedding are the times to showcase your best foot forward. I remember a guest at a planning session asked me to do something different with a Tiramisu. This is when newer flavours like Raspberry Tiramisu and Passionfruit Tiramisu were created. I took it to the next level by calling it a ‘Tiramisu Bar’ like a live station.”
As Chef Dinesh summarises, “The days of gulab jamuns and kulfi are over. Guests are now looking for creative choices and chefs too are looking forward to display their culinary brilliance. The ideology is to fuse different flavours in such a way that they taste unique without compromising on their authenticity to appeal to the global audience at large scale weddings.”
Quite a few western sweets are becoming popular at weddings. Cakes are now presented with artistic themes, modern art splatters, sugar art, watercolour florals, bold brushstrokes of colour, dark chocolate swirls, and every topping. People are also opting for Fruit Puddings, Cookies, Cheese Cakes, Chocolate Mousse Bars, Cold Teppanyaki Icecreams, Hot Souffle Station, Arabic Sweets, Turkish Ice cream Mastic and Turkish Ice cream Man. There are also fusion favourites like Rabri Mousse, Kulfi Panna Cotta Falooda, Kesar Badam Cupcakes, Rasgulla Custard Pudding.
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