When it comes to classic recipes and street food favourites, there’s limited room for innovation without offending the original flavour and appearance of the dish. However, when gifted chefs re-create local food experiences with a fancy twist it’s not just about the much-loved dish but an overall dramatization of the platter. If food is an art, chefs are the artists that re-interpret the age-old favourites with their signature touch. From presenting Vada pav and cutting chai as a high tea experience with cupcakes and bruschetta to transforming Galouti kebabs into mousse-like consistency for flaky parathas and molecular deconstruction of the much-loved chaat – global street food continues to undergo a “luxe makeover” to woo upscale guests at fancy dine outs.      

Local love: 

At the ITC Grand Central located in the heart of South Mumbai, some of the biggest names from the business world, as well as Bollywood stars, make a pitstop to relish local flavours like Pav Bhaji, Vada Pav, Misal Pav, Bombay Sandwich etc. However, the art of presentation plays a vital role when guests visit a luxury hotel, mentions Chef Ruffy Shaikh, Senior Sous at ITC Grand Central. He says, “It’s an art to create visually appealing food presentations. A delicacy is better enjoyed when the proportioning, styling, and choosing apt garnishes are done mindfully. We use colour combinations of ingredients, molecular gastronomy garnishes, edible flowers, smoke guns, rings moulds, etc to add a new touch to the old age recipes without compromising on the original taste. With changing times, the need for innovation has been the key to tweaking the already existing dishes with millets. This fusion has led to the preparation of local dishes such as Millet pav Bhaji, Millet Dabeli pav, and much more; which are tasty, nutritious, and loved by health-conscious guests.”

Global appeal: 

These days, chefs are experimenting with forgotten regional dishes to get them recognition at national and global levels in their signature style. At pan-India Raasta and Yeti outlets, the local dishes from the Himalayas are presented in a gourmet version to appeal to the contemporary crowds. According to Hanish Popli, GM at Raasta and Yeti Dehradun, dishes like Datshi from Bhutan, Kothe from Tibet and Sekuwa from Nepal are some of the best-sellers at the restaurant after the chefs reinvented them with more presentable and sustainable ingredients. He informs, “A good restaurant kitchen always emphasizes presentation which includes everything from the crockery to every element that is to be put on that piece, every element of the dishes whether it is the main item or the accompaniment or garnish, all of them should come together and form a marriage to stand apart as a dish. Between two different flavors which can go together to form a new one, different cuisines can be mixed from around the world and that makes much sense when the method of cooking is similar. The use of an ingredient included in the dish also plays an important role; for example, if we serve our classic bhelpuri/jhalmuri in a Vietnamese Rice paper sheet and garnish it with foam of the coriander, tamarind emulsion, and fresh green tamarind – it looks classic but at the same time all flavors are known to the everyone so it turns it into a new experience.”

 Outer beauty:

Flavour is the most important thing for chefs, yet guests eat with their eyes first, and that’s the thumb rule for modern chefs. These days’ people are fond of a mix of rustic and modern presentation. Just looks and extremely small portions are not found appetizing anymore unless it’s a 13-course tasting menu, remarks Chef Vanshika Bhatia, owner of Omo Café in Gurgaon. A strong believer in recreating classic dishes with locally sourced ingredients, she adds, “We love innovating with cooking techniques that we have learned over the years. For me, I like to take an ingredient and treat it in many ways to get different textures and layers in the dishes. In our latest Kashmir-inspired menu, we make the sauce of Nadru Yakhni as it’s made traditionally but with some extra mint. The lotus stem is cooked in two ways, one is crushed and made into a cake and it’s also braised and sliced for added texture. We serve all this with a local variety of red rice cooked with nuts. Elevating a dish but staying true to its flavors. I believe a lot of chefs also prefer good traditional crockery these days in brassware, silverware, or stoneware for a luxurious effect.”

Molecular transformations: 

Local street food dishes, particularly in the context of Indian street food, have undergone creative transformations in various culinary settings. For instance, Chole Bhature, a beloved street food, has been reimagined in diverse styles. These adaptations include Chole Bhature Tacos, a fusion twist served in a restaurant, and an inventive “Inside-Out Chole Bhature”, where the cholas are enclosed within the bhaturas and deep-fried, cites Chef Vaibhav Bhargava, partner chef at Cho- Vietnamese Kitchen & Bar. He says, “These modern interpretations aim to provide a more convenient and visually appealing dining experience while preserving the core flavors and techniques of the original dish. Another example is Shahi Tukda, which has been presented in an innovative manner using molecular gastronomy techniques. In this variation, Shahi Tukda is served with a rubbery substance dipped in liquid nitrogen, resulting in a fascinating change in texture. Additionally, Lucknow’s Galouti Kebabs have also undergone contemporary reinterpretations. It demonstrates how traditional dishes can be given a fresh and innovative twist.”