Diwali: Why this festive season is all about staying true to the classic Indian dishes

Festivals are about staying true to the roots, and the same holds true for culinary delights too

by Purva Grover

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Published: Thu 20 Oct 2022, 8:05 PM

I love my Butter Chicken, and I would rather have it with oodles of butter and cream and not burrata cheese; and thanks, but no Pav Bhaji fondue for me! This festive season, can we eat only the original dishes, please? It was with this food thought that we got to speak to chefs across Dubai to plan the perfect Diwali meal. “These celebrations and occasions are an opportunity to come together with family and friends and connect over food and dishes that connect us to our heritage,” said Vivek Singh, executive chef and founder, The Cinnamon Collection, London and Dubai.

So, fusion is the buzzword, and classics are getting a twist. Aren’t we going too far when it comes to messing up with the original?

“We went through a phase with these gimmicks a few years ago and now we are returning to more authentic, original cooking. Even the popular casual restaurants are now focusing on originality, which is what draws in the guests to the chefs cooking,” said Tavish Bhasin, founder and head chef, Curry Castle, a dark kitchen, with food available for takeaway and delivery. Tavish quoted the example of Trèsind Studio, which has made it to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list this year (theworlds50best.com), and Carnival by Trèsind, a place which is thriving on rediscovering and showcasing authentic regional Indian cooking, albeit through a fine dining format. He added, “I feel the gimmicks come with a short lifespan and aren’t sustainable over the long term. Added Vivek, “There surely is a time and place for experimentation and innovation, but I believe it’s not at occasions and traditional festivals. These celebrations are best enjoyed when we stay true to our roots and the spirit of these occasions. So yes, no messing with originals for me for this and every Diwali! So, in short, full-on flavour and no messing with originals.”

The spotlight is on India’s heritage and how

“India’s food heritage dates back to 8,000 years consisting of a variety of regional and traditional cuisines. In India, sitting together and eating at least one meal a day is considered an integral part of the daily routine, which has inevitably been passed on to me. When we sit around the table, we share food, laughter and love,” said Trisha Singh Henault, Creative Culinary Director, Tandoor Tina, 25hours Hotel One Central, Dubai. “India is so diverse and every few hundred kilometres the cuisine changes along with the terroir and the produce. Most of this cooking takes place in homes and smaller local restaurants and is lighter and healthier. And a lot of it is delicious and undiscovered,” shared Tavish. On Curry Castle’s menu, they blend a few heirloom recipes, “My mum’s Shahi Paneer for example, with dishes from the western coast and southern India.” You can also savour a Kerala Christmas Classic Duck, which has been reimagined with braised duck leg and crispy shoestring potatoes, instead of the boiled potatoes but keeping the essence intact. There’s also a Raw Mango Goan family heirloom recipe that pays homage to one of the pioneers of Indian cooking, Floyd Cardoz (an Indian-born American chef), to name a few. At Tandoor Tina, it’s no different, there is unity in diversity, wherein the food is shared and love is brewed. Trisha threw light on the desserts, after all what’s Diwali without desserts! “I took inspiration from traditional Indian sweets and put my knowledge of modern techniques and twists to it. One of my favourites is the diamond barfi-shaped Peanut Butter Kalakand Pie; an elevated ‘barfi’, an inspiration from the famous Kaju Katli.”

Culinary expertise, quality ingredients, et al have to be in the spotlight, irrespective

“We use fresh, quality produce and let the ingredients do the talking. Our selection is dedicated to the Tandoor and Grill, where in we slow-cook food over fire leading to the caramelisation of the sugars in ingredients in their natural form to bring out the best flavours,” said Trisha. A few favourites here are Charred Butternut Squash with Smoked Aioli, Chargrilled Asparagus, and Tender Gunpowder Lamb Chops. Tavish advises, “On another note, as long as the cooking is delicious, and style and gimmicks don’t outweigh flavours then the chef and the team are to be applauded.”


Purva Grover

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