Whether it is lifestyle choices or just the pure nouvelle aspect, vegetarian food has caught the fancy of gourmands today Dhokla Oxycide, Vedic Burrito, Crunchy Java Lotus Stem, Kowni Mow. These are not merely exotic names, but exciting vegetarian dishes on offer today across India. With these, who would really miss non-vegetarian food?
Gone are the days when vegetarian food meant a pav bhaaji or masala dosa. Today, with exotic Indian dishes, both classic and fusion, nouvelle Asian vegetarian food, global cuisines in a vegetarian format, gourmets are willingly opting for vegetarian food, which has expanded its repertoire.
Trendy, well-travelled multi-cuisine diners today are happy to savour vegetarian fare, if it is exciting enough. And it is viable for restaurateurs to serve it too. Stand-alone vegetarian restaurants are mushrooming across India, as never before.
Vegetarian Is Varied
The sheer variety and explosion of flavours in vegetarian food is the reason, even hard-core carnivores are willing to consider and relish vegetarian cuisine. Indian regional cuisine is now showcasing its vegetarian home style specialities once again. From a Litti chokha to a Pyaaz ki kachori and a Dalimbichi Usal ani Arbi Amti, standalone vegetarian restaurants like 29 at Kemps Corner, Mumbai, are offering guests an wide array of exciting, lip-smacking, authentic dishes, all vegetarian. And gourmets are devouring these with much happiness.
Vegetarian food undoubtedly has a lot of takers today which explains why even the iconic Gulati in New Delhi, was compelled to take the Vegetarian route. Vegetarian Gulati serves robust Indian dishes like Amritsari churchur paratha and Tandoori mushrooms to wow the vegetarian palate.
And of course, there are others like Panayaa, Firki, Indus Flavours, that are going all out to give Indian cuisine a modern makeover using molecular gastronomy and sous vide techniques. After all along with taste, presentation too matters.
Dal Khichdi Arancini at Panayaa, in upscale Lower Parel, Mumbai, is a perfect example of vegetarian food being reinvented and made hip and stylish. As long as it is not just a staid Paneer pasanda and Vegetable navratan kofta, food connoisseurs today are gung-ho about unusual vegetarian fare and are quite happy to switch over.
With a distinct emphasis on modern presentation and twist in the original recipes, Vedge in Mumbai, has soared popularity charts among foodies. Their popularity is due to the fun and refreshing culinary style that features an interactive mix of old-meets-new flavours embedded in a variety of cuisine options such as North and South Indian, Oriental, Italian, Chinese and Mexican.
Veggies Go Global
If Indian food is being experimented with to woo vegetarians, global cuisines too are not far behind. They too have joined the vegetarian bandwagon. Zesty Pan Asian Cuisine ranging from vegan relish salads, vegetarian curries and stir fries, inspired from the streets of Asia – Thailand, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam, await food lovers at restaurants like 38, Bangkok Street in Mumbai and Luo Han Bengaluru. Mexican tacos and quesadillas, Spanish paella, Italian risottos and raviolis have taken on a vegetarian avatar to satisfy the vegetarians.
Dishes like Roasted tomato tortilla soup have been created by chefs at Vedge, where Mexican traditional soup is made with local tomatoes and an amalgamation of modern Mexican spices. Marinating tomatoes in their own juice with a dash of extra virgin olive oil and some Maldon salt, makes a big difference, according to some chefs.
Basic cooking techniques are being used for vegetarian food. The chefs want to keep it simple. Vegetable seekh kebabs are being made with marinated minced vegetables, skewered and cooked in a clay oven. So, given the creativity and flair of the chefs, customers are easily satisfied with the new vegetarian creations.
Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian delicacy, for instance, traditionally made with prawn wafers has also been replaced with rice wafers, while the scrambled eggs topping, has given way to a tofu scramble. That’s how innovative chefs are now becoming.
Chefs are going all out to combine cuisines, techniques and culinary styles. ‘Sattviko’ in Delhi, uses culinary secrets derived from Yoga and Ayurveda to offer food, which is light and flavoursome. It represents Indian epicureanism through the Sattvik style of wholesome food preparation, without onion and garlic.
Ziba at The Grand Bhagwati, Surat, serves specialty fare from tandoors to great Indian curries, all flavoured with exotic herbs and rare spices in vegetarian format.
Comfort food, with Indian influences and contemporary presentations. This is contributing to the popularity of the vegetarian platter today. Vegetarian dishes have thus gained parity with non-vegetarian food, at least where discerning palates are concerned.
Written by Mini Ribeiro