You remember that scene from the movie Ra.One where Shahrukh Khan mixes yogurt with Chinese noodles? Or the one in movie Chef where Saif Ali Khan makes his ‘Roshan Kalra Invention’ Rotzza? Yeah, we all laughed at SRK then and Chef was a major flop at the box office. But didn’t you cringe at that too? If yes, then please aboard the fusion-dissent train, where today we will be talking about what exactly is wrong with fusion food! Not ‘pan-Asian’ or ‘chef-inspired’ dishes, but results of mindless mix-and-match recipes. Yes, you are welcome!
India is a land of diversity, a beautiful giant concoction of cultures that bring their own vast palate of flavors. From the mild creamy Butter Chicken in the Northern Indian states to the spicy Saoji in the west to the fiery Chettinad Curry in South – we have it all. Ours is a society where recipes change from door to door, proportions change from chef to chef. We even boldly tweak our grandmother’s recipes from time to time adjusting to our taste buds- which is certainly acceptable, if not encouraged.
Over the years, as our restaurants have flooded with western menus, we too have tweaked our dishes to inculcate their flavors. We mixed our good Vadapav with Szechuan sauce and spread Tandoori Chicken over pizza bread with cheese. We even fused Gulab Jamun with cheesecakes. And as a result- we got something that nobody ever asked for. We got weirdly tangy Szechuan Vadapav, Naanzzas, Chamosas, Tandoori Chicken Sushi and even Jeera Masala Coke.
But don’t get us wrong, we are not the protestors of western cuisine or unorthodoxly opposed to experimentation. We will happily devour Indian food with variations. Like the Sambar which was originally spicy, could be milder if made in a Gujrati kitchen. Or Kolhapuri Mix Veg curry could probably have hints of coconut if made in Iyyenger aunty’s kitchen. But what we will not have is some Alfredo sauce penne pasta infused with butter chicken. It just sounds wrong, and don’t even get us started on its smell- it is confusing! We don’t want cheese, jalapenos or even noodles in our samosas, neither do we want Baingan ka Bharta on our Bruschetta! Kindly leave our Samosas and their Bruschetta alone. After a certain point, fusion dishes seem not appetizing but an unfortunate blend of exotic-ingredients-thrown-together.
As connoisseurs of authentic traditional food, we deem these dishes blasphemous. And here’s the reason why- our food practices and its flavors reflect on our cultural upbringing. Whereas fusion food questions exactly that. We heavily associate food with memories, happy times and home. But when we eat Chicken Tikka Masala infused with baked beans, it doesn’t evoke any feelings. The nostalgia of when we first had it is lost! Or when we had Birizza (a cross between biryani and pizza), it didn’t remind us of the one we had on Eid when you were little. It is just some confusion again. Food is not supposed to do that- it is meant to make you feel happy.
Not just the Indian palate, fusion food is an embarrassment to western cuisines as well. Every dish from a foreign land has a tale to tell- about their culture, habitat, lifestyle, and principles. For instance, the Chinese believe in harmony and balance in nature- Feng Shui and Yin Yang being the most common examples. This is also reflected in their food habits quite well- in a bowl of boiled noodles. This bowl is teamed with some mild chicken broth and a very spicy sauce made from Szechuan chillies, ginger and garlic. This pairing restores the balance of flavours, thus adhering to their principles. But when Indians omitted the broth and added various sauces to stir-fried vegetables and tossed in noodles, no self-respecting Chinese would call it a ‘fusion’, however crafty it may seem.
We strongly believe that traditional recipes should be a part of family legacies at every household for future generations to come by. We also believe that no child should grow up without tasting Dadi ki Tadke wali Dal or Nani ki chicken Biryani. We must protect our dishes from getting tainted and pass it on to our children as a small potion of love! Untill then, we shall keep our Kasuri Methi safe and let ‘inspired’ chefs keep their oregano. After all, Rotzza only tasted good to his son because Saif Ali Khan himself serves that.