Mamsa pulao, a traditional Gowda-style dish of mutton-rice with herbs and traditional spices.
Kori Ajadina, a Mangalorean chicken sukka.
Pelata Gatti, traditional jackfruit idlis.
Regional cuisines, part of the culinary heritage kept alive in domestic kitchens by grandmothers and mothers, are now finding their way into high-end dining.
The pandemic, which confined people to homes, kindled interest in authentic regional food, from Avadhi and Chettinad to tribal dishes. And now, fine-dining restaurants are calling in chefs who excel in regional cuisines to serve their upmarket clientele.
Magazine Street Kitchen, at Byculla in Mumbai, is one such experimental fine-dining place. Started by Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf, who also own Colaba’s The Table, Magazine Street Kitchen hosts chefs from around the country to showcase their food to invite-only guests who want to sample new flavours.
According to Divya Prabhakar, co-founder of Bengaluru Oota Company, a restaurant that specialises in Gowda and Mangalorean dishes, “In India we have fabulous local cuisines which are not showcased or exposed to a commercial world.”
Devidayal of Magazine Street Kitchen said the pandemic provided the perfect opportunity for regional cuisines to come out as people were more interested in what was happening in their backyard.
The scope and variety that regional cuisine provides is immense compared to the known delicacies like butter chicken, which most restaurant goers have already tasted at one place or the other, said Marina Balakrishnan, a home chef and founder of Ottupura, a takeaway and delivery service in Mumbai.
Besides the newfound enthusiasm and desire to sample regional cuisine, another factor behind the trend is an upwardly mobile class of patrons who have no time for old-style cooking.
Vishal Shetty, co-founder of Bengaluru Oota Company, recalled the compliment she got for a simple Mangalorean fare of fish curry served with boiled rice and mango chutney. “One of the guests, beaming with satisfaction, said, ‘This really brings back memories of my grandmom.'”