Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the latest ‘experifood’. We step outside the culinary box to explore this exciting new food trend
They’ve been called several things; hybrid foods, food portmanteaus, hipster foods and more inventively, mutant munchies; whatever the collective noun, the season’s trend in food, is to mix it up, innovate and abandon the box altogether. While dishes like the Ice Cream Cake, the Chicken Tikka Pizza and the Chocolate-flavoured Mysore Pak dared to mix around some flavours and ingredients, these new dishes are all about hooking up two completely different dishes in one. While some of these are carefully thought out innovations, others are simply accidental discoveries that struck a chord.
We all love the savoury sweetness of the donut, and the light and silky texture of the croissant is tempting too. This is probably what was playing on New York-based chef Dominique Ansel’s mind when he invented the trademarked ‘Cronut’ by shaping croissant dough into a doughnut, deep frying it and adding a filling, topping or both. The dish had New Yorkers, including celebrities, lining up for a bite, sometimes for hours.
In fact the dish became so popular that it spawned a black market, where people were buying and reselling the pastry for a much higher price. Not unsurprisingly, TIME magazine named the ‘Cronut’ one of the best innovations of 2013, up there with robot rescuers and an artificial pancreas. Even less surprising is the fact that the ‘Cronut’ has many imitations, the ‘dough-sant’ or simply the croissant-doughnut.
Adriano Zumba of Masterchef Australia fame has his own version which he called the ‘Zonut’. Bakeries in Mumbai and Delhi have started making their own imitations. Hyderabad’s own Deli 9 had added their version of Cronuts to their specials menu for a few days but “Hyderabad didn’t take to it like New York did” says chef Shankar.
If the marriage between the donut and the croissant is one of sophistication, the Ramen burger is all about quick fixes and is no-holds-barred innovation.
A creation of chef Keizo Shimamoto, the Ramen burger is essentially a patty sandwiched between two ramen ‘noodle buns’. A noodle bun is basically a patty made from noodles, held together with eggs, and pan fried.
Unlike the croissant-doughnut which requires a certain level of expertise, the ramen burger can be cooked up by any home chef.
It’s not just the boutique bakeries that are taking to this trend; so are large food chains like Taco Bell (waffle taco), Pizza Hut (Birizza) and Cinnabon (pizzabon) .
Hyderabad is not far behind in ‘experifoods’, Pastry Chef Arun Yadava of Trident Hotel says they do their own experiments, often fusing two cuisines to make one indulgent dish. “We have the Gulab Jamun Cheesecake where we place small gulab jamuns on a crusted dish, cover with cheesecake batter and bake,” he says.
They also have a Rasmalai Terrine, which involves layering the popular Indian sweet with milk chocolate mousse. The city’s very own boulangerie, Bouchon too is rolling out its own share of mutant desserts. Their menu includes a Qubani Ka Meetha- inspired dessert, a tart filled with soft basil infused apricot. The newly opened Donut House in Somajiguda has in their menu a donut burger, which replaces the bun with donuts.
Indian food, in general, with its variety of flavours, dishes and techniques offers many opportunities for innovation.
The pani puri, for instance, has found itself in many such experiments from cocktails to meat-based finger food. But what is it that makes these creations so desirable? Some would say that the success of the Cronut lies simply in good branding. Perhaps, the familiarity of the two dishes coupled with the novelty of the combination lends itself to good marketing. Food blogger Sharmila Nayak says that what started out with a great dish (the cronut) has now become a trend. “Now people have just started combining weird things,” she says. “The ramen burger sounds nice but the execution is quite tricky and it really isn’t that yummy,” she says, recalling a failed attempt to make it on Masterchef Australia. Food fads come and go; whether these new foods will achieve legendary status on their own or pave the way for more innovative cooking; only time and taste will tell.
From subtle to downright bizarre
The Birizza, offered by Pizza Hut Sri Lanka, is biryani in a pizza crust envelope
Taco Bell’s ‘Waffle Taco’ replaces a taco shell with a waffle
Sushi Tacos, served up at New York’s Taka Taka is sushi rolled up in a tortilla.
The Turducken, which is a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed it a Turkey
Another Mexican-Japanese hybrid is the Sushirrito or, as the name suggests, is a sushi rolled up like a burrito