Buckle up as 2017 is going to be a wild and delicious ride with lots of comfort food, vegetables and shakes straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here are the good trends you should look forward to in the weeks ahead.
Comfort food’s comeback
2017 will be all about comfort food. No frill items like Mac & cheese, khichdi and rajma chawal are becoming a staple for gourmet restaurants everywhere. Akuri on toast at Grand Mama’s café, Bun maska with masala chai at Social, Maggi Vegetable Sandwich at Chaayos, Thaali Peeth (a sort of a multigrain pancake or flatbread) at Aaswad and Kadhi pakoda of Punjab Grill are fast gaining popularity. Abhayraj Singh Kohli, Partner, Grandmama’s Café, anticipates these types of simple, traditional items will be given a sophisticated makeover by way of big-ticket ingredients or inventive presentation. “People want to go back to their roots,” explains Kohli.
The vegetarian food trend will continue to grow in 2017. In the past, restaurants tended to focus mainly on the meat. Vegetables were viewed as merely an accompaniment, or worse, as a garnish. But that’s changing fast. With a number of people turning vegetarian (for at least a few days in a week) restaurants are now using plants as key ingredient in dishes. “I have 12 vegetarian starters on my menu and 11 non-vegetarian ones. The number of vegetarians has definitely been increasing at my restaurant,” says chef Manish Mehrotra, the maestro behind Indian Accent, New Delhi.
Farm to table
The farm-to-table concept will gain momentum in 2017 believes Keenan Tham, Director, Pebble Street Hospitality (Trilogy, The Good Wife, KOKO). “Consumers will be increasingly looking for restaurants that serve food that comes directly from local farms. The focus will be on providing native foods that is fresh-picked, often delivered within hours of being plucked out,” he elaborates. A newer trend among restaurants is food grown within its own garden. Chefs are growing small herbs in a window box or even on the terrace. Romil Ratra, Director of Bellona Hospitality and Chef Paul Kinny have started experimenting with urban farming at Phoenix Market city in Kurla, the mall that houses the restaurant they run, Craft Deli and Bistro. Apart from growing pots of purple amaranth, green pea shoots and the white-stalked mustard inside the eatery, the duo also uses the al fresco area of the restaurant for a vertical herb garden of basil, fennel and mint. “The taste is so much better when we're serving fresh off the garden,” says Ratra.
Quirky and trendy
The iPhone-wielding diner has put additional burden on chefs to create dishes that not just taste great but also look breathtaking on the Internet. So in a bid to serve food in the most unique and tweetable way possible, restaurants are skipping the humble plates and cups and opting for a new canvas. “Test tubes, syringes, buckets, glass jars and wooden bats have replaced the humble plate and stolen the limelight,” says chef Jerson Fernandes, Head Chef at Jeon, Hotel Sea Princess. Expect to see more unusual presentations and platings in 2017.
Forget milkshakes, try freakshakes
These monstrous shakes overloaded with colourful gems, marshmallows, waffle sticks, ice cream scoops, pieces of fruit and Oreo are already turning up on city menus. But they will be everywhere next year. Brace yourself because you can’t drink it. You eat it. Watch out for vegan and gluten free versions.
There’s a fruit in my soup!
Forget the smoothie, in 2017 try a fruit soup instead. “Pineapple and carrot soups are some of the most popular items on a menu. Served hot or cold and made mostly of pureed fruits and chunks of fruit, it makes for a great starter,” says Chef Fernandes. Look for them popping up on menus throughout the country.
Seaweed is the next Kale
Kale has been extremely popular for years, but now many call seaweed the new go-to super food. It’s probably the effects of seaweed that keep Japanese women slim and the Okinawans living past 100. Not only is seaweed environmentally friendly and plentiful, it is also packed with fiber, antioxidants, iodine and good fats, making it the new darling of the health world.
Seaweed can be used in sushi, miso soup, salads, vegetable stews and stir-fries. “Powdered seaweed such as spirulina is a great source of natural protein and can make a good morning pre or post-workout smoothie. Start with a teaspoon added to your preferred smoothie and adjust the amount as you get used to it,” suggests Patwardhan.
The return of the home chef
The trend of home chefs hosting dinners and meals (reservation/invite only) at their residence is fast picking up pace. This has changed the culinary landscape in more ways than one: foodies can now explore lesser-known cuisines and try out good quality, home cooked dishes that were not easily available before. But brace yourself for a month’s waiting at credible home-joints. Gitika Saikia who gave up her corporate career in 2014 to host tribal Assamese food pop ups or dining experiences at her house uses unusual ingredients such as fiddlehead ferns, jute leaves, red ant eggs, silkworm pupae or pigeon meat. Sherry Malhotra’s lesser known Pahadi delicacies like Dahi ki Chaap (lamb chops braised in buttermilk with fennel seed), Dahi aur Methi ki Macchi, Bhey (lotus stem braised in a curd gravy), Channa Madra (chickpeas cooked in curd, powdered spices and lotus seeds) and Khus Khus aur Makhane ki Kheer are raking at a storm.
Glocal to Hyperlocal
In a bid to re-discover their heritage people are shifting to regional food in restaurants and during social events. “I see a resurgence of lesser known cuisines like Saoji food from Nagpur, Karwari food from Karnataka and Garhwali food. These cuisines are already becoming popular but with the right push like pop-ups they can reach the next level,” believes Gaurrav Gidwani, F&B Director, Corum Hospitality (the company that owns The Bar Stock Exchange, Mr Baozi and Masala Zone).
Images courtesy: Shutterstock
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