Mindful and healthy eating, demand for diet-friendly, nutritionally fortified snacks like millets, plant-based offerings have been headlining the food scene for a while. Food lovers, especially after the pandemic, curbed their binging habits and replaced it with healthy food choices. As we bid adieu to 2023, here’s a rewind of the food trends that made foodies drool.
Year of the Millets
Millet Flour Paratha | Pic: Milletude
Declared ‘International Year of the Millets’, and promoted by the Government of India, their varieties did get a boost in the food market and seem to be here to stay. “Recipes for millets like noodles, pancakes, cookies, bajra upma, jowar/ragi laddoos, millet flour parathas and entire millet-based meals were lapped up by health-conscious foodies,” says Kanika Nanda, Founder of Millettude, a millet-based takeaway kitchen.
Heavily sweetened, thickened with cream and artificially-coloured sweets were skipped by conscious eaters for portion controlled, nutritious ingredients like organic food colours, millets, natural sweeteners like honey, dates or raisins, and nutty dry fruits. Dessert lovers are gravitating towards low sugar, artisanal cakes and ice creams, or diet mithais like Amaranth Ladoos.
Nutritious Nutty Pomelo Salad | Pic: Kookie Cake Crumble
Apart from millets and plant-based food choices, sustainable and other healthy ingredients took centre-stage in 2023. Swheta Aggarwal, Founder, Kookie Cake Crumble, uses millets in desserts, pomelo (chakotra-a citrus fruit) in salads and a whole lot of healthy ingredients. She reveals her sell-out salad is, “Nutty Pomelo Salad on a bed of kale and summer crisp lettuce – served with our honey mustard dressing. She also engages a liberal use of berries – a rich source of Vitamin C, antioxidants and fibre. “For cakes and other bakes, regular flour is substituted with gluten-free flour made from millets, quinoa, rice or almonds,” avers Swheta.
Lesser known cuisines have received a huge welcome. For instance, Himachali cuisine, food from Nagaland, Assam and Kerala were showcased in food festivals. Food lovers explored these unknown cuisines across the country and replicated the dishes at home. On the international front, Asian cuisines – Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean -– stole the spotlight.
Kimchi | Pic: Freepik
Since age immemorial, Indian culinary heritage has adopted fermented foods like Idli, Chutney, curd, Dhokla, and more. Recognising their health benefits, chefs gave a thumbs up to fermented foods as restaurants included them in the menus. Fermented veg salads like Sauerkraut (fermented raw cabbage), Kombucha (mushroom tea), Kimchi (Korean pickle). Japanese Miso Soup prepared with miso – a paste of fermented soya bean, grains and koji (a type of fungus) gained traction for its probiotic ability to improve gut health.
Back to basics
Retro is a trendsetter in cooking techniques, décor and taste. Slow cooking, comfort foods like curd rice, khichdi, rajma chawal in a rustic setting has seen a high this year. Travellers prefer homestays with home-cooked food.
Cocktails witnessed the use of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, turmeric, saffron, pepper, even aamchur. Apart from being added to enhance the tang and whiff of the drinks their health benefits and immunity boosting features were also considered given their anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, and digestive properties. According to renowned mixologist Eric Lobo, “Spices turn on the nerves on the palate and the olfactory nerves. Masala Chai Martini, Guava Chilli Margarita, Cinnamon Rum Punch, or Ginger Mojito, create a salty and hot flavour which stimulate the taste-buds.”
No bad stuff
This has been the year where consuming whole foods, with minimum processing, and minus preservatives or artificial additives reached importance, known as the No BS (Bad Stuff) nutrition trend. It refutes diets that assure quick weight loss, or fad ones like Keto and others that curb certain food groups or nutrients. Dr Bharti Magoo, owner of Golden Touch Clinic, suggests, “When it is important for the body to get a balance of all the nutrients including micro-nutrients, to deny the body of carbs or fats or proteins by following a particular fad diet can lead to deficiency and ill health, leading to early ageing.”
Going healthy, vegan and more
Healthful Jackfruit Biryani | Pic: Good Food Concept
Healthful Substitutes Chef Virendra Rawat, founder Good Food Concept, points out, “As the existing trend for Veganism gained more traction, we came up with newer varieties of soya meat dishes and jackfruit with its exceptional shredded-meat like texture for sliders, kebabs and biryani. Use of healthy ingredients like fat-free yoghurt, multigrain pastas, makhana, beetroot or oats in kheer and kebabs, and gluten free dishes trended. It will continue to do so in the coming year.” He informs that healthy oils like ghee, walnut and almond oils besides olive oil, have replaced the regular ones on kitchen shelves and people went sugar-free with natural sweeteners like stevia. Talking about dining out, Rahul Bhansali, Co-founder at Bombay Carter, says, “Specialty restaurants are doing well irrespective of the cuisines they serve. Where ingredients are concerned, avocado and burrata were among the top picks for diners in 2023.”