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Aisa Food Exhibition|India’s food trends include micro cuisines and wellness menus

2024.04.10

Ring in 2024 with de-alcoholised wine, because this is the year for wellness menus, food adventures and the discovery of a wealth of Indian micro-cuisines. There will be responsible kitchens, less food waste and adventurous dinners.

 

We tend to be a bit battle scarred as the year ends. This year, perhaps more than usual. In a world that is in the grip of war and a climate crisis, when we gather together for meals, we are likely to seek comfort in friends, family and nostalgia. And we are also in the mood for a change of pace. All of which will influence how we eat in 2024.  

 

Here are Aisa Food Exhibition’s predictions for the coming year.

 

Responsible dinners

 

We will expect more out of our favourite restaurants, from decreasing food waste to treating staff better.

 

Over the past year many of the country’s restaurants and bars have been working towards reducing their carbon footprint, cutting back on food waste and collaborating with local farmers to create seasonal menus that hero indigenous ingredients. In an attempt to move towards being zero-waste, professional kitchens are also taking tips from traditional homecooks by using every part of the vegetable, in addition to composting and repurposing leftovers.

 

Expect these efforts to intensify, even as chefs find ways to stand out from the pack by foraging, collaborating with local communities and highlighting indigenous spices. This focus on provenance will result in more detailed menus, which celebrate the origin of their main ingredients.

 

Professional kitchens, which are notoriously stressful spaces, are also likely to put more effort into staff welfare as hiring and retaining chefs and waiters gets increasingly challenging with more opportunities opening up across the country and abroad. Hopefully 2024 will bring them better pay, more respect, shorter hours and a healthier work-life balance.

 

Bento cakes and little luxuries

 

Take the small wins. People have always found comfort in the spongy arms of a chocolate cake, but in the coming year, we will see a rise in decadent desserts as people seek quick, easy treats to indulge themselves.

 

The year will see a rise in dessert bars, patisseries and ice cream parlours. Quality will get better than ever before thanks to the better availability of gourmet ingredients, both Indian and imported.

 

The emergence of ambitious craft coffee and cacao companies across India will also mean that we will get more nuanced, thoughtfully sourced desserts, with the pleasing complexity that comes from terroir and skillful processing.

 

We will also see more creative fusion as Indian sweets get a contemporary makeover in order to appeal to a jaded younger audience.

 

Bento cakes aka lunchbox cakes will get more popular, as more customers ask for individual, beautifully plated desserts to savour, and share on Instagram.

 

Comfort comes in a mug as well – so we will also be drinking more matcha, boba tea and gourmet hot chocolate.

 

Menus that remind you of home

 

Nostalgia is on the menu next year. Over the past year a slew of Indian restaurants, including Tres Ind in Dubai, Gaa in Bangkok and Semma in New York have won acclaim, and Michelin stars, for their progressive Indian food, rooted in traditional regional cooking from the chef and their team’s parents’ homes.

 

Inspired by their success, more chefs will explore regional food in the coming year, exulting in relatively unexplored indigenous ingredients to add a touch of exotica. We will see a rise in menus built around Indian micro-cuisines, aschefs look inwards instead of abroad for inspiration.

 

Already, At Naar in Ladakh, Chef Prateek Sadhu is serving yak milk cheese, foraged berry jams, local mushrooms, berries and wild greens. Alister Lethorn, of Als Kitchen in Goa has been doing successful popups around the country introducing diners to the fiery pleasures of Naga food, punctuated with ghost chillies, smoked meats and axone.

 

This growing interest in local and indigenous flavours will result in diners learning more about India’s many communities, even as they enjoy more diverse meals and redefine what ‘Indian food’ represents.

 

We have not forgotten about the Swiggy warriors, clutching remotes and takeaway containers on their couches as they decompress with Netflix. Cloud kitchens will get more specialised to stand out from the competition, which will be increasingly aggressive.

 

We are likely to see a surge in single bowl meals, as people comfort eat, as well as better, more imaginatively designed healthy meal services.

 

Also expect a rash of start ups promoting home cooks, and more gourmet instant noodles on the shelves as people continue to look for shortcuts to dinner.

 

But also, more adventurous dining

 

Discover the pleasures of dining alone this year. With the rise of business and leisure solo travellers, more people are eating out by themselves. This has prompted restaurants and bars to create more bar seating, communal tables and niche spaces for solo diners, enabling them to choose just how social they want to be.

 

People will also be travelling for food, exploring city street vendors and highly rated restaurants in search of memorable meals, and let’s admit it, social media clout. Which means our Instagram feeds are going to get a lot more colourful as friends and acquaintances work on outdoing each other in search of food adventures to turn into reels.

 

Unfortunately, this also means that cafes and patisseries will try and outdo each other with Tik Tok desserts, which often involve more pomp than flavour. From butter board to pull up cakes, haven’t we suffered enough?

 

Don’t worry about the FOMO, this is the year when a talented street vendor down your road could draw as much attention as a Michelin chef. Anticipating this rise in food adventurers, there will also be a surge of food walks and tours built around meals across the world, including smaller cities and towns.

 

Chasing wellness

 

Being a teetotaller has never been this trendy. As more people give up, or cut back on alcohol, an entire industry is enthusiastically rising to cater to them with de-alcoholised wine and botanical drinks to replace gin. The syrupy, luridly coloured mocktails of the past are being replaced with well balanced crafted drinks made from fresh juices and herbs. There will also be a rise of interest in flavoured water, soda, kombucha and coconut water over sugary drinks.

 

Millets will get more mainstream, along with ancient grains like emmer and buckwheat. With the rise of interest in heirloom rice and indigenous plants, thanks to restaurants like Anumitra Ghosh’s Edible Archives in Goa, more variety will be seen in restaurants as well as dining tables at home. We will also see more ‘wellness menus’ with gluten free, vegan options.

 

More people will turn vegetarian this year, or start eating less meat, as it gets easier to find replacements. The mock meats of the past, made with a long list of ingredients, will be slowly replaced by simpler, cleaner versions made with vegetables. Chef Rahul Rana of Dubai’s celebrated vegetarian restaurant Avatara, which won a Michelin star in 2023, proved that luxury menus can be built out of humble ingredients by putting the spotlight on everyday vegetables like bittergourd, bottle gourd and turnips.

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