Is Western Food Replacing Indian Food? Experts Weigh In 

Is Western Food Replacing Indian Food? Experts Weigh In 

While Indian cuisine boasts exotic dishes from across regions, the country also welcomes and celebrates food from across the world in a huge way

Avani AdvaniUpdated: Friday, August 11, 2023, 07:34 PM IST
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If there's one thing that defines India globally beyond its political and geographical boundaries, it is the assortment and amalgamation of cultures and food that stunningly merge into every Indian plate. Apart from its own regional and classic delicacies, the food palates have changed dramatically in the last decade. Indians no longer stick to their rudimentary food habits, and have evolved impressively. For instance, dishes like pasta, pizza, burger, and tacos do not surprise you since a decade now, for the millennials had started embracing Western delicacies in a big way, thanks to prime marketing strategies.

Cut to the present, momos have become dumplings, despite their differences, Indians do not distinguish. That apart, the menus have changed incredibly supported by an unanticipated shift in Indian food choices. People have not only elapsed their roots, spices, zests, recipes, and culture but also have established a momentous fondness towards cuisines like Mexican, Italian, Lebanon, Turkish, French, and Chinese. So, there is an assortment and what we see today is a potpourri of food.

Indianising the Western food

The chain restaurant market in India reached a market value of nearly 400 billion Indian rupees in the financial year 2020. It was expected that this value would more than double to over 960 billion rupees by 2025. This growth is mammoth because these food chains have cracked the fusion market. For instance, instead of American burgers, Mcdonald’s serves McVeggie and McChicken Schezwan Burgers. Dominos serves Paneer topped Pizzas now, and Banana Spice Pizzas in Southern parts of India, catering to specific regions. In addition, regional brands take their offerings a notch higher with their concealed armaments including the celebratory Indian doughnuts. Moreover, Subway has added Hara-Bhara kabab and Shammi Sub to their menus, KFC makes specialised Biryanis with Indian curries. What makes this all interesting is that these offerings on the menu are only for Indian food chains.

Anarki Sood, a 22-year-old chef who runs a food truck Momo-Mania in Mumbai serves Paneer Momos, Steam Fry Momos, Tandoori Momos, and Cheese Momos. Apparently, she learned to make dumplings in soup, with shrimp, minimal spices, and red cabbage dressings, which didn't do well in India. “The business did not do well and the taste was not accepted by the majority of customers, so three months back I introduced an Indianised version of dumplings,” says the Culinary Art School of NYC graduate.

Tasting the similarities 

No one would have thought our grandmother was enjoying the little Sushi, or a 7-year-old asking for a bucket-full of fries and burgers every occasion. The fusion of gravies, toppings, spices, and cooking styles have beautifully blended, not only into fine diners but also into Indian households. Mukesh Rajwant, a food chain owner, and a Cloud kitchen founder points out that though Indians have developed tastes for Western food, their taste palates have still stuck to the Indianised version of a Western dish. For instance, Mukesh says, pasta made with extra spice is what an Indian customer would prefer than made with an Italian core. One may agree that we see a lot of Indianised versions of Chinese food and Italian tacos with Rajmas. “Indians like international food but they want their taste in that. Whenever I travel to India, I ensure I make Chinese food in a more Indianised way. Indians have embraced Western food wholeheartedly,” says Hong Kong-based Chef Chow Chee Meng, who is in Mumbai for a special culinary exchange at The Westin Mumbai Garden City. 

When it comes to changing food palates, one can't miss but contribute the change to their travel exposure, especially post the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, social media plays a pivotal role in introducing a variety of food dishes that otherwise not many would know. “Every second person is cooking on Instagram or YouTube so you have so much exposure to content and variety of food. If not at the restaurant, one would try it at home. Many chefs provide regional substitutes for ingredients. So, people are exposed to Western food in many ways,” says celebrity chef Vicky Ratnani.

Ease of preparation

A Survey titled 'The Evolving Indian Palate' conducted by a market research firm also states that with the evolving Indian palate one sees the consumption of western food increasing in Indian households with at least one meal in a week.

Some also point out that the advantage of Western food is also the ease of preparation, which makes it a convenient choice for working people. “If I have bread in my fridge and avocado or a few vegetables, I don't have to look for anything. There's no time needed to prepare a simple Avocado Toast. Even for vegetables, I can just boil them and prepare a stew. There's too little of a hassle to prepare food unlike Indian food which needs a lot of preparation,” says Kunal Jhawar, an engineer by profession.

A mechanical engineer by profession and a single father in Pune, Abhilash Sinha is a hardcore non-vegetarian. “But it's only a few occasions that I will cook it the Indian way. It takes a lot of time. And with work and a child, I can only prepare things which are easy and less time-consuming. In a way, Pasta, salad, and pre-cooked or frozen meat are the easiest and quickest options for any meal,” says Abhilash.

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