How the Indian wedding spread is changing

Flying buffets to authentic Peruvian and Konkani fare, a look at what’s trending on modern wedding menus

August 02, 2019 02:44 pm | Updated August 03, 2019 12:17 pm IST

In February, chef Nishant Choubey showcased his signature menu at a Marwari wedding in Kochi. Instead of a buffet, it was a sit-down dinner featuring modernist vegetarian small plates. And instead of service staff, the food was served on a conveyor belt. As his team rustled up plate after plate of Camel Milk Tofu with Plum Sauce and Wasabi Mushrooms with Mango and Gongura Leaves, the guests sat around an island table. “It didn’t feel like a wedding. The set-up resembled a pop-up restaurant,” says Choubey, corporate chef for Seinan Group, who has curated meals for the Ambanis, Adanis and other bigwigs.

The quintessential wedding feast has undergone a sea change in the last decade. Buffets crammed with generic multi-cuisine stalls and live pasta stations are being replaced by refined sit-down dinners featuring three- or five-course menus. The concepts of grazing tables and flying buffets are also finding takers. In the former, guests mingle over arrangements of appetisers and cheeses, while in the latter, pre-plated food is offered at their seats. “It reduces wastage, offers a chance to present the food beautifully, and helps guests avoid long queues,” says Sahiba Puri, co-owner of XO Catering by Design, a popular outdoor catering outfit based in Delhi with high-profile clients such as Shahid Kapoor.

Korea to Konkan

For many, less is more. “Instead of multiple cuisines, we stick to a couple but offer more variety. Adding newer elements to the cuisine is also important,” says Sanjay Vazirani, Chairman and MD, Foodlink Services Pvt Ltd, which prepared the wedding feast of Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone.

Today, an Asian menu is more likely to feature modern Malay and Thai flavours (rather than just Chinese and Thai curries). For instance, Mumbai restaurateur Farrokh Khambata’s edamame and water chestnut sa khoo is a contemporary vegetarian take on the royal art of making rice flour dumplings with pork. Also, with Indian globetrotters developing discerning palates, lesser-known international cuisines, like Korean and Peruvian, are gaining attention. On Khambata’s banquet menus, you’ll find chaufa (a Peruvian take of the fried rice) and Peruvian-style skewers.

Of ‘flying’ menus

Hyper-regional cuisine is another trend. The Singh-Padukone wedding menu included Konkani, Sindhi and Gujarati dishes. “To maintain the authenticity of the food items, 4,000 kilos of ingredients were carried from India to Italy,” shares Vazirani.

While staples like dal makhani and biryani are still part of wedding menus, there’s a lot more attention being paid to preparation. “Today, clients can tell if a North Indian chef has cooked a dish from South India. A few months ago, we did a wedding menu for a Punjabi couple who wanted to add a few Konkani dishes. So we roped in home cooks from Konkan to make dishes like Malvani Mutton Curry and Kaju Chi Aamti,” says Harmeet Singh, partner at Mumbai-based The Mini Punjab Group.

White truffles, anyone?

Exotic ingredients from across the world — Gruyère from Switzerland, white asparagus from Germany — are also making their way into Indian weddings. “Clients care about the quality and provenance of what’s on their plate,” says Khambata, whose team has procured the rare white truffle. During his research trips across Europe, the restaurateur had gone on a foraging trip in Piedmont with a local truffle hunter and his dog, so “when a client requested white truffles recently, our local suppliers in Italy sourced it from the him”.

Closer home, just as organic, farm-to-table meals with seasonal produce are becoming popular in restaurants, they’re also finding their way on to wedding menus. These include foxtail millets, kulith (horse gram), camel milk from Rajasthan, and leafy greens from farming initiatives. Goodie bags with items such as organic honey and artisanal teas are also replacing mithais .

Hello, detox bars

“There’s a lot of innovation in bar tending, too — from Gin & Tonic and DIY mimosa bars to a detox bar to take care of the next day’s hangovers,” says Kunal Rai, VP of Tamarind Global Weddings. And, of course, the wedding cake is changing, too. “Instead of elaborate cakes with gold detailing, couples are choosing options in pastel colours. They are also more open to experimenting with flavours like passion fruit, lavender and Earl Grey,” says Rachel Goenka, CEO of The Chocolate Spoon Company. “Naked cakes with butter cream instead of fondant, and real flowers, are likely to become more popular by next year.”

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