• 23rd May 2016 - By Indian Accent Restaurant

    A clutch of restaurants in the Big Apple is aiming to recast what New Yorkers know about Indian cuisines

    Indian food in New York is most often consumed when a diner finds himself in specific circumstances. Post bar-crawl kathi rolls at 4am. Cheap takeout curry on a weeknight when impulse-control synapses are not firing and a post-prandial coma seems an attractive outcome. Basically: a guilty indulgence. The restrained, judiciously spiced and well-balanced food Indians eat at home is alien to restaurant-goers in New York. For decades, diners have been served oesophagus-incinerating curries and heavy-handed biryanis and identify this “Punjabi-Mughlai concoction from the Hindu Hindi belt” as Indian cuisine.

    Credit for that moniker goes to Krishnendu Ray, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at New York University and author of The Ethnic Restaurateur(Bloomsbury, 2016). Of the 350 Indian restaurants in New York City, 95% are cheap curry houses run by Bangladeshis, Pakistanis or Indians without culinary credentials, he estimates.

    Ray has found that diners are not prepared to pay top dollar for “ethnic” cuisines such as Indian and Chinese, for these don’t have the prestige of French or Italian cooking.

    “When there is a price ceiling, you cannot hire chefs trained in the idioms of haute cuisine,” he says. So Indian restaurants remain in a chicken tikka masala and saag paneer rut.

    In the last couple of years, however, a bunch of young Indian-origin restaurateurs have been digging deep into their backstories to guide and inform their professional ventures. Their establishments range from casual to high-end contemporary, but what connects them is their creative and non-traditional approach to Indian cuisine, a weaving in of their personal narratives, and a highlighting of regional foods. Chef Manish Mehrotra’s recent entry into New York has further revitalized the landscape, with flavours like Gujarati chunda, Kerala moilee and crab Koliwada.

    To Ray, this bend towards regional food will help Indian cooking escape the curry-house trap. “I hope people do it much more aggressively. Get more food from the mountains, the peninsula, the edges of the continent. It opens up the world of various Indian foods and will provide an opening for others to mimic.”

    This is your guide to the newest, hottest players on NYC’sdesi cooking scene. And no, there is not a curry house in sight.


    For modern high-end dining

    When the award-winning New Delhi restaurant opened in New York this February, chef Mehrotra unveiled a menu that celebrated his newly adopted city and replicated some of his greatest hits. His soy keema with quail egg and kaffir lime leaf paos, is a series of homages on a plate: soy—a year-round staple for Indian farmers—is a tribute to his Bihari roots; with pao he wanted to proudly signal that India’s bread-making culture goes beyond naan; while the mince and egg combination mimics keema ghotala, part of his regular diet as a culinary school student in Mumbai.

    Mehrotra’s a master at transforming the unknown and making it seem like you’ve been eating it all your life. It’s a skill that makes both American and Indian diners feel at home, and yet in alien territory. Case in point: a pastramikulcha that appeals to both cultures, still offering each one a new perspective.

    His menu features dishes created with a Kolhapuri masala sourced directly from a family in that region, as well aspaneer with locally grown ramps, a springtime favourite at farmers’ markets in New York.

    Read the complete article in Live Mint

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