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Why Delhi's food scene is changing: Historian-turned chef explains

Jalali, who often conducts food festivals with his mother and wife, says the best way to preserve any recipe or cuisine is to teach others

Tuesday November 26, 2019 12:19 PM, Puja Gupta, IANS

Osama Jalali Food Pattern

New Delhi: The food patterns in a particular place change every couple of years, says Osama Jalali. The Delhi food scene has also seen a lot of changes in the past decade driven by the advent of global cuisine and people's inclination towards experimenting with flavors.

"People today have started traveling internationally and across the country, and are not afraid to try different cuisines. Delhi's food scene is changing in a way that there are a lot of international cuisines that are now playing a major part of the food circuit here. This has driven a prominent change in the last decade. Also, people are now more open to trying new cuisines and are not restrained to their old-school traditional flavors," the writer, researcher, historian-turned chef tells IANSlife.

With so much focus on the food industry, this has drawn interest towards the good, old-school Delhi food and it is popular among the locals as well as tourists.

"A lot of food walks, tours are now curated which has improved the food scene and help popularise old school culture and old shops of the walled city. When you go to old Delhi, you will see out of all, there are almost 80 percent tourists eating at Karim's," he says.

"Ten-15 years ago no one used to travel to Old Delhi to have 'Aslam ka chicken tikka' but today it's a rage. People love to travel to old Delhi and try the food there."

However, the changing demographics of the city has also caused some modification of the traditional flavors and cooking processes.

"Earlier, there was no butter used in 'tikkas' and 'sheekh kebabs' in Old Delhi, but now when you go to Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, you will see pouring butter on top. At all the 'nihari' shops, there was no use of tomatoes in any of the recipes, but now you will see a lot of tomatoes being used. So with people coming in from different states and regions, it influences the cuisine as well," he notes.

Additionally, with changing lifestyles of people also affect food and the process of cooking, he says. "Everything is being made to order or it's a quick recipe thing, because of which many cuisines are also getting lost. They are not ready to put in the effort. And this is why many cuisines are getting lost or diluted."

Jalali, who often conducts food festivals with his mother and wife, says the best way to preserve any recipe or cuisine is to teach others. "Earlier our people used to hide recipes and not pass on to the next generation. But today if we do this, our cuisine will be lost. To teach and pass on the recipes as much as you can," he points out.

"It is good to see that almost all the hotels today are organizing regional food festivals and pop-ups where they call home chefs to cook traditional food. They have realized that the future is getting back to the roots," he concludes.

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