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How Grandma’s Recipes Took Over Fine Dining Restaurants


Whether it is the potted plants at the entrance or the books on the shelf bearing an old typewriter, every nook and cranny of Grandmama’s Cafe will take you back in time when grannys’ cooked food for us with much love.

Similarly, The Bombay Canteen in Lower Parel, Mumbai has incorporated the philosophy of celebrating regional Indian food in every part of its menu. Chef Thomas Zacharias travelled for over two months around the country visiting about 18 uniquely different places before The Bombay Canteen opened in early 2015. It was then that he discovered the real culinary wealth that abounded in different parts of the country, and was inspired more than ever to incorporate and showcase some of those forgotten recipes, which otherwise never find their way onto restaurant menus.


Another restaurateur, Chaitanya Adgaonkar of the newly opened restaurant in Pune, Dalchini, tries to tap into the rich treasure trove of recipes from Indian homes and offers it to the public.

Thus, at a time when people are experimenting with molecular gastronomy – spheres, caviar, transparent raviolis et al, these bunch of restaurants are rediscovering the ‘lost recipes’ and presenting it in a modern avatar. The result – there is a gradual shift from complex foods to foods from your backyard or regional foods.

The Inspiration

Famer ki kheema baati

While for Adgaonkar, it was a conscious decision to start an Indian restaurant that had flavours from across the country, it was the urge to incorporate the culinary diversity of India that led Zacharias to curate recipes that are forgotten.

It saddened me to see what is served in most Indian food restaurants. So we decided to do an Indian restaurant that served more of home cooked food that was simple, honest and made with love.-Chaitanya Adgaonkar

For Chef Arun Sundararaj, Executive Chef, Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, it is more about the regional food fests are held at the property that ensure patrons indulge in ancient culinary recipes. Thus, he had hosted the ‘Lost Recipes’ culinary extravaganza at Varq, ‘the signature Indian dining destination, which was an attempt to bring back recipes from the royal kitchens of Kashmiri Dogras, the kings of Travancore, the Hyderabadi Nizams and Mewars of Rajasthan, which was hugely popular amongst guests. He confides that the inspiration for these regional food fest comes from the guests themselves.

The taste of our Grandmothers food is what inspired us to open this café, and hence we decided to name it after her. We fondly remember eating at our grandmother’s house. Thus, we have incorporated quite a few classic Indian dishes in our menu that remind us of the unchanging taste of home food.-Abhayraj Kohli, owner of Grandmamas Cafe  

Selection of Dishes

Moras bhaji

Every couple of months, Zacharias tries to travel to other parts of India which he hasn’t explored to expand the restaurant’s repertoire of regional food. Inspired by the Bhutte Ka Kees – a creamy corn based street food – while on one of his recent trips to Indore, Zacharias took inspiration from the dish, and twisted it to adapt to his summer menu at the Bombay Canteen. The corn is cooked down with the same original spices, but then made into corn fritters, and served with a red chili coconut chutney and a moras bhaji and charred corn salad.

Similarly Adgaonkar travels every two months to different parts of the country, in a bid to understand the food and the culture that abound in different parts of India. He says, “At the same time, it is also very important to visit the interior parts of the states where food is even more unexplored.”

For chef Anjali Pathak, who runs a cooking studio in Khar, most of the recipes she works with have been handed down to her by her paternal grandmother and her mother. She tries to keep the flavours traditional and pure, just as they would have wanted it to be.

Regional Dishes


Most of the dishes that are prepared in these kitchens are either regional dishes, most that proliferate in the interiors of India, or recipes that have been handed down by their grandmothers. For example, the ‘Bibiji’s Achari Khichdi’ at Grandmama’s Cafe, comes directly from their grandmama’s kitchen. Says Kohli, “What makes it special is the whole spice aromatics and a dash of desi ghee!”

But its not only the dishes, even the ingredients are unique, sourced from the interiors of the country. Adgaonkar tells us about the Jungli Laal Maas, a speciality at Dalchini, that is made only with Mathania Chilli. Mathania is a town in the Jodhpur district and the Laal Maas is incomplete without the brilliant red colour and flavour lent to it by the Mathania Chilli.


He talks about another speciality, Rampur Taar Korma that originates from Rampur, which was a princely state in what is now Uttar Pradesh. It’s interesting to note the legend behind the Rampur Tara Korma. Adgaonkar says, “ A small part from each day’s leftover Korma was added to the the next day’s korma. The reused portion is called a Taar. The taar literally means a string connecting the korma from yesterday to today. There are dhabas in the north of India where the Taars have been unbroken for more than a century. At Dalchini, our taar is about 3 months old and unbroken!”

Chef Vivek Kumar, executive chef, Oxford Golf Resort talks about Thakurbari, a dish that he had prepared during the Bengali food promotion, that hails from the family of Rabindranath Tagore. The dish is exquisite in its own way due the use of different spices, and is quite different from the regular Kosha Mangsho.

The Verdict

The huge popularity of the regional food amongst the diaspora only goes on to prove that regional foods are here to stay. Not only do they give a little twist to regional dishes but also stir a lot of memories.

Source:  The Quint

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