Making Indian food COOL

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 22 February 2018

At his newly-launched restaurant MasalaBar in Balewadi, we caught up with renowned restaurateur and former MasterChef India judge Zorawar Kalra who gave us an insight into new food trends, and making Indian food global.

As you enter this swanky place located amidst scores of other fancy restaurants at Balewadi High Street, Baner, you’ll be amazed by its decor. MasalaBar, which recently became the new hotspot for Puneites, has some innovative dishes and heady cocktails that will take you by surprise.

Owned by Zorawar Kalra, who is popularly known as ‘The Prince of Indian Cuisine’ and runs a successful venture Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd, MasalaBar Pune is the newest addition. Touted to be a ‘science lab’ of cocktails, the recently launched bar showcases mixological evolution through handcrafted signature beverages and contemporary food.

Zorawar, who was in town for the opening, gives us a peek into his newest baby.

Innovative recipes
Zorawar, whose Farzi Café is a big hit in Pune, says that out of all his concepts, MasalaBar is perhaps the most unique and innovative. “It has some amazing techniques of cocktail making that you’ve never seen before. It has got lab-level equipment that we are using to make these drinks. Not just the cocktails but the food menu is equally exciting — it represents India in a very post-modern way. It has got cool small plates in tapas style which takes you on a gastronomical tour of India through your taste buds. We have got extensive mains menu and desserts. We also have a special chakhna and street food menu served in a totally different avatar, in modern ways,” says Zorawar who is planning to get his other brands to Pune too.

From Kachi Dabeli to Pani Puri, Lahori Murgh with Masala Butter Cream and Laal Pyaaz, Butter Chicken with Green Chilli Mayo Bao, Paneer Tikka with Achar-e-Chutney, Mahabaleshwar Chilli Fry, everything is worth a try. Also, missing out on Soulful Strawberry Sour Chai ‘Whisky’ Pe Charcha and BBC — Brandy, Benedictine and Cinnamon is a sin!

Eating culture in Pune
According to Zorawar, Pune is the true epitome of a millennial city where the dining culture is dictated by millennials and the youth. He adds, “The new concepts that are introduced here are embraced by all age groups. We are blown away by Puneites’ propensity to consume something new and their love for eating out. The gentle mannerisms and the understanding nature of the guests here is a refreshing change for us as hoteliers from other parts of the country.”

Revival of regional food 
Zorawar believes that Indians genetically love Indian food, however, it was never packaged correctly. But now things are changing. “Earlier, for example, a Goan restaurant would serve only Goan food, in a traditional way, but that may not necessarily appeal to youngsters. Indian food served in a high energy scenario with slightly quirky plating and some unique progressive elements added to the food and modern techniques, is what today’s youth love. Regional food is the biggest trend of 2018, which is why more and more restaurants are offering regional food more than any other cuisines,” he says.

He further adds that the sophistication of Indian cuisine is amazing as every region has its own speciality which is unbelievably different from the neighbouring state. “The way to make Indian food cool and global is to first make it popular within our own country. It is upon us how we propagate that, bring it in front of the youth and put it on the global stage,” he insists.

Documenting recipes
Zorawar expresses his disappointment with Indians not documenting things, especially recipes. “‘Dimaag me andaaza’ is the biggest problem in cooking — you have to have measurements. Using ‘andaaza’ is a cultural issue. My father (Jiggs Kalra) was one of the first persons, who, through his book Prashad, documented Indian food and made it extremely standardised and made recipes and mentioned the measurements of the ingredients. So if you followed them well, you would get the perfect product. Documentation in Indian cooking is missing and that is a very big problem. It is the responsibility of professionals like chefs, restaurateurs and food writers to archive the recipes for our future generations,” he adds.

Travelling introduces you to new food
Zorawar, who was seen as one of the judges on MasterChef India, believes that only when one travels, one tries out different cuisines and knows about new things happening in the world of gastronomy. “To learn more about regional food, I go along with my team of chefs to different parts of the country to keep ourselves abreast with new trends and also visit the far-off corners to learn about the authentic flavours — spending time with people, eating at their homes and local restaurants, roaming around with the local travel guide to get an idea of the local cuisine and its nuances. So, travel is essential. Without travel, your palate cannot be exposed to the wonderful flavours that this country and the world has to offer,” he concludes.

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