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Features

Looking forward – 2018: When it comes to food, it’s time to go local, says Riyaaz Amlani

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In 2018, I see a growing interest in south-Indian cuisine and exotic ones, such as Northeastern and even Burmese. International ingredients will get replaced with local, including artisanal Indian products. For example, the obsession is now with quinoa, when moringa, an indigenous dish, tends to do even better. For risottos, instead of the Italian short-grain arborio, the Goan rice (with the red flecks) does just fine. Artisanal cheese is being considered a better option than imported brands. Good quality Indian coffees that were under-rated for long, will make a comeback. People are keen on local, handcrafted brews. Few are venturing into artisanal, in-house gins and vodkas.

Indians are cooking less at home and either ordering in or stepping out more often. Four years ago, Indians ate out only four times a month. Now it’s eight times. However, in Singapore, it is 55 times a month so there’s a lot of air room for growth in India. Especially since GST has been reduced to five per cent.

India is one of the most complicated places to create a menu – half the population is vegetarian, some don’t eat potatoes and garlic, others don’t eat pork… Then people have become more nutritionally aware, discovering whether they are lactose intolerant or have a gluten allergy. Restaurants are learning to accommodate these various dietary preferences. For instance, Smokehouse Deli has a defined menu for people on Keto or Paleo, and for those who are gluten intolerant or vegan. More such menus will thrive.

People are tired of gimmicky stuff such as molecular gastronomy or nitrogen ice-creams. All that will die down. Focus will come back on the quality of the product and affordability. The restaurant business is a very competitive field, and as a customer is spoilt for choice, they will look for value and this proposition will win in the long term.

Everyone is a ‘food-blogger’ now with a medium to publish their opinion. So restaurateurs have to take into cognizance that everything they do is subject to intense public scrutiny. They will listen to the customers a lot more.

Originality and individual expression in this business is still lacking. If one concept succeeds, others follow the suit and churn the same thing over. Even in the metros, there’s very little room for experimenting. Restaurants are afraid to take risks, to let chefs bring their philosophy – guiding principles – to the table, and that needs to change.

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