We all have memories of the first time we tried pasta – it was probably at some fancy new place and we had two basic choices: red sauce and white sauce. Tomato or cheese. Things have come a long way since then. Italian food is one of the most popular cuisines in India and for good reason – it’s bloody delicious! Today, we can get a variety of Italian dishes at restaurants across the country. There’s just one small problem – almost all the flavours have been altered to suit the Indian palate.
In order to understand more about the Desification of Italian food, we got in touch with celebrity chef Ranveer Brar who was the judge for season four of Masterchef India alongside chefs Sanjeev Kapoor and Vikas Khanna. Chef Ranveer is renowned for his knowledge about world cuisine and helped shine some light on this peculiar phenomenon.
It’s All About That Base
The first step is understanding why Italian food is so popular in India. And for that, it’s always best to start at the very beginning.
“The extensive use of garlic and tomato that is so native to the Indian palate. Also, Italian food is also very home style much like our food,” says Chef Ranveer.
Chef Ranveer Brar showing us what globalisation of food means: An Indian
chef wearing a USA t-shirt and cooking Italian food.
Some Like It Hot
Bland. The cursed adjective that has come to be the bane of anyone who’s ever tried to make food from Western countries. Most new Italian restaurants never want to hear anyone describe their food as such, so from the very beginning they make their food spicier and saucier than the original recipe demands.
“Italian dishes were traditionally more simple and rich with traditional flavours. Today, it has become more spicy and saucy. We like our gravy food and that is why the pastas have been made a lot saucier. The chilli flakes have come on the table for our need of spice”
– Chef Ranveer Brar
The Times, They Are a-Changin’
It’s 2016. Our palates have evolved and with that comes a newfound awareness and willingness for trying out new things. Cue the spate of wood-fired pizza restaurants and menus filled with difficult-to-pronounce Italian dishes.
If you feel up for trying out some authentic Italian food, Chef Ranveer has some suggestions – Melanzane Parmigiana, and Sage & Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola. Both these dishes take flavours you’re familiar with and then turn them on their head to elevate them to spectacular new levels.
When Two Become One
But if you don’t want to go down the road to Italy, there’s a new and exciting development – Indo-Italian fusion food! The likes of butter chicken risotto and pizza naan, while still difficult to find but for a few restaurants, showcase a wonderful synergy between the flavours so typical of the two countries. “I feel it’s a great way to express our Indianness in Italian cuisine. Fusion food has been trending for a while now,” says Chef Ranveer.
So there’s something for everyone – just the way we like it when it comes to food!
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