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Traditional or Not?
Joseph Cesar ADHM Year Three Student 2010
Commissioned by MR. Richard Mathiot F&B 2 Lecturer
Masala, Chapati, Chilli, Vegetable curry, are words that rhyme with Indians in the indigenous mind. Curry and spices are generally affiliated with this race on the global perspective. Dining in the Indian restaurants would therefore means having to digest very spicy or hot ingredients. But it is a rich cuisine classified among the top.
As any foreign culture or cuisine, one way (if not travelling to their origin) of experiencing it is to have its restaurant available. Likewise the Indian restaurants in Seychelles are one way of digesting the Indian food recipes. But the fact proves that there are literally too small the number of outlets as this report is being written.
The perspective that the author portrays on the Indian cuisine lies in the followings that one connoisseur commented; “even today I have believe that the Idli/Sambar and Dosa which is the staple food of south India is one of the most intellectual and also tasty cuisine that man could devise. Parboiled rice (helps preserve vitamins unlike polished rice) and dal (lentils) are taken in the right combinations and then fermented and steamed to deliver a profoundly nutritious, balanced and tasty meal. This cuisine is ultra light on the earth‟s resources and on the digestive system and hence a true health and wellness meal for both the environment and the individual” Kavita (2010).
Table of Contents
Indian Cuisine Traditional Indian Cooking/Cuisine Analysis of the Indian Cuisine Indian Cuisine in Seychelles Indian Restaurants in Seychelles Berjaya BVB‟s Tandoori Restaurant Le Relax The Mahek restaurant Conclusions References Appendices
02 02 03 04 05 05 06 08 09 10
It has been discovered during the research that Indian cuisine hides many secrets. It must be noted that journeying through all the literatures on this exclusive philosophy of cooking exotic ingredients, has unveiled fascinating information about the Indians and their foods. This is a cooking culture worth studying as it unveils the medical aspects of food ingredients and many more interesting facts about the benefits of food for the body and soul. It is a different way of looking at food.
Research has been conducted mainly from professionals from the industry or hotels and restaurants, providing Indian foods because they are the ones who hold the practical knowledge of the food and its service. Most of them possess wide knowledge in the field and they all tend to share the same love and passion for the Indian cuisine. For one restaurant, the chefs were unavailable and/or had communication barriers as they could not spoke in English, thus the interview had to be carried out through the director of operation. But through proper research, analysis and acquired knowledge, the report had been crafted as to the maximum facts amassed.
The report has been given to the third year hospitality management students as a brainstorming project on the culinary arts and sciences of various cuisines and their origins. The students are to present their work in an analytical perspective and fashion. The scope of the report is to enable students to understand how foods have evolve and how they should be appreciated as to their influences, affluences, trends and methods of cooking and how and where they are served.
The report has been organised in a logical and coherent order so as to aspire a fluent reading and understanding. It is written in sections that follows each other progressively.
Often referred to as „vegetarian cuisine‟, the Indian cuisine revolves around Life Sciences‟ as its foundation, with elements as physical and mental needs, healthy eating and spiritualism. Therefore their cooking ingredients give value to eating for mind, body and soul. This cuisine is influenced by various Indian conquests such as the Aryans, Mongolians, Persians, Chinese, Portuguese, Greeks, British and others.
Kavita (2010) informed that during the Aryan period, the Great Hindu Empires concentrated on the fine aspects of food and to understand its essence and how it contributed to the development of mind, body and spirit. After this period the cuisine was influenced by the following conquests of other cultures. The Mongolians, he added, brought to India their hot pot cooking; the Persian rulers were the most notable for influencing Indian culinary. After establishing the Moghul rule in India, they introduced their penchant for elegant dining and rich food with dry fruit and nuts. Kavita (2010) further notifies that the Chinese brought their influence through trading, cultural and educational exchanges with Indians, introducing stir fries along with adding sweet taste to food. Their influence is most found in Gujarat and Bengal from the Western and Eastern regions. The Indian Vindaloo dish is from the Portuguese, in addition to tomato, chilli and potato. The British made the ketchup and tea popular in India.
Traditional Indian Cuisine
India has one of the finest and richest culinary histories. Their cuisines are not complex or too confusing to cook. The varieties of dishes reflects the diversity of the country which is divided into regions, north, east, south and west.
Two distinctions in many Indian cuisines is the absence of pork and beef due to religious factors as cows are sacred to the Hindus and pork is prohibited in the Muslim diet. Tandoori cooking (see Appendix 1) has popularised over the oven-clay oven method which has produced Tandoori Chicken or naan bread.
Regardless of region, spices are key ingredients in Indian cooking. The Indians are also mindful of the healing properties of spices in their cooking. These are derived from plant‟s roots, buds, seeds, fruits and dried bark which produce the exotic aroma. It is released when the spices are heated up. The spices are grouped into five categories which are sweet,
pungent, tangy, hot and amalgamating. The way these are used and the amounts used in cooking are governed by these characteristics.
As informed by the Mahek Chef, Rahul Bhasin, spices from the traditional cuisine are coriander and fennel seeds for amalgamating; the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and vanilla for sweet; the cloves, star anise and cardamom for pungent; the ginger, tamarind, sumach and kokam for tangy; the pepper, chilli, mustard and horseradish for hot. And others sucha s thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano, bay leaves, mint and rosemary are considered as savoury.
Analysis of the Regional Indian Cuisines
Northern Indian cooking is influence by the weather which can range from extreme heat to freezing cold. The dishes are traditionally rich and heavy with cream and ghee (clarified butter), using breads and meats, and tend to be less spicy. Yoghurt is widely used instead of coconut milk which is widely used in the south. They also tend to be drier as soupy sauces do not mix well as dipping for breads. Naan (indian‟s puffed flatbread) and chapatti breads come from the south.
In the south were the weather is mostly hot, rice is widely grown and this makes the diet of south Indians rice-based that goes well with soupy curries. Spices are used heavily and the southern cuisines tend to be spicier than the north. The roti-prata (wheat pancake filled with curried meat or fish) or dosai are typical southern breads.
Indians desserts are basically different forms of rice puddings, milk puddings, vegetables and fruits dipped in sweet syrup. Indian sweet or fudges are usually decorated or garnished with raisins, almonds, pistachios. This is mostly made by boiling down milk to remove the moisture and then adding butter, flavour and sugar.
From the North comes the Moghul manly from north western bringing their influence of cream, spices, butter, tomatoes and onions.
From the south comes the Dravidians. They are the original Indians pushed down by the Aryans. The south has hot climate thus the food are very spicy and sour. They use coconut milk from the many palm trees on the topical coastal areas. They eat fish mostly from Kerela in the south western. The people there are mainly vegetarians. They influences through the
Idlis (south Indian rice) which is steamed, the samba and the Wada which is fried. Samba is lentils with vegetables, eggplants, carrots, beans and tamarinds for the sour taste. Samba is also known as “life syrup”. The coconut chutney, the dossa (pizza-like with potatoes, onions and spices) are also included. They are served as accompaniments.
From the west comes the Jain religion or beliefs which forbids to eat anything that is grown from underground because they believe that because human being are from dust and to dust they will return, so they honour the earth element. These people love sweet tastes. They influences through vegetarianism, they use very little spices and of course the Jagari (sweet molasses.
From the east comes the flavours instead of spicy, they rely on flavours like mustard. They consumes a lot of fish like the Hilsa fish from Bangladesh, the Aluposto (potatoes with mustard seed), and the Rashgoula which is an Indian sweet made of milk (milk sweet).
Indian cuisine in Seychelles
The local retail industry is monopolised by the Indians and/or Indian originated nationals. There are also a lot of Indian nationals who regularly and continuously are coming to live in the Seychelles on long term basis if not naturalised. The Seychelles also do attract a significant number of Indians coming to work as expatriates. This figure itself shows that Indian food do exists in the country and most relevant to restaurants, there is a great demand for Indian food in Seychelles. They have been immigrated the islands from the very early beginning of the first settlements. Their cuisines of course and obviously followed them. The Indian culinary has immensely influenced the local traditional Creole cuisine. In fact the Seychelles gastronomy reflects a lot of curries, spices, vegetables, coconut milk and a lot more that homogenised the Indians.
Indian Restaurants in Seychelles
Although many Indians lives and works here which means a potential demand for Indian food, there are only just a few food outlets for Indian dishes. There is actually only one fully fledged Indian restaurant which is part of one beach hotel; the Coral Strand Hotel located in
the Beau Vallon district with a very good tourist concentrated market. Other outlets are small periodical live cooking attractions in a few hotels, Indian snack bars, and weekly Indian theme buffets in hotels.
Not so long ago, there were more Indian food outlets in the islands. But because of the macro business environmental negative factors most of them have had to close their doors. Factors such as the recent global economic crisis and the local inflation of the rupee have forced the customers away. Those that are still breathing are either affiliated to a chain of business entities or to corporate groups. They are themselves trying to maintain their demand by playing with their prices and offers. The fact stays that the focal demand comes from the limited number of tourists.
Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Hotel and the Tandoori Cuisine Outlet
The Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Hotel has an Indian restaurant outlet within one of its Chinese restaurant. But it is to be noted that the main feature is the Japanese live cooking attraction which really oversells all others. The Indian foods rarely sell except for a few curious hotel guests wanting to taste the exotic spices and chillies of the Indians, said the operation director of the establishment R. Squires. The restaurant decor itself is far from being an attraction. It is within the centre of the large gloomy and dark dining place divided into small dining areas that apparently each caters for a particular theme cuisine. This can be identified through its decorations. The hotel is located on a beach and therefore attracts many sun seeker tourists. This type of market segment does not necessarily like to experience Indian foods. They tend to enjoy the Creole cooking instead. “But from time to time we cater for a few of the tourists especially those in groups. We also get a lot of local Indian origins and a few expatriates, and now with all the Indian construction companies coming into the country, the sales at the Tandoori have increased by a few percentages for catering for usual Indian executives from these firms” commented the Director of Operations at the establishment Mr. R. Squires. The menu there is concentrated or oriented around the Tandoori stove. Most of the dishes are cooked using the Tandoori methods of cooking. One can assume that it‟s a Tandoori theme restaurant.
Though it is not a fully-fledged restaurant, the hotel has adopted the name of the Indian stove for this outlet to reflect the theme of cuisine it provides which could be a marketing strategy. But in this instance, the tandoori cooking is a traditional Indian method of cooking. Before the Tandoori, many Indians used „mud oven‟. The Tandoor is a domed-shaped clay or brick oven that is heated by a wood fire at the bottom. Marinated meat is cooked on skewers inside the tandoor, and nan breads are baked by pressing the dough on to its sides. There are also many other Indian dishes if not all, that can be cooked using the tandoori. At the Tandori
Cuisine in the Berjaya BVB Hotel, almost all the dishes are prepared by this brick stove. They are keeping the traditional methods of cooking. The ingredients are all available on the local market which is thanks to the many Indian merchants living here. Except for a few special branded ingredients like better quality masala and other rare spices the Indians uses. It is to be noted that these people uses a different masala type for meat, fish and vegetables typically.
The menu can be viewed in the Appendices. It is full of chicken dishes, vegetables, butter, roti, naan, and a lot of different spices. The curries have a whole section for themselves, for the various types of Indian curries. The word tandoori keeps repeating itself which identifies that most of the dishes are cooked on it. The menu is a combination of northern Indian cuisine.
Le Relax Hotel
Another Indian food outlet that is becoming a major Indian food lovers‟ frequent place, is the Pool Side Restaurant situated at the Le Relax Hotel in the Anse Royale district on the south eastern coast of Mahe. It overlooks the panoramic display of eastern Indian Ocean with its turquoise bluish and turquoise greenish scenery. This outlet is an open air restaurant on the pool side accompanied by a live cooking bar with three different sized Indian stoves. The Appendices have pictures of it. The decor is an ordinary dining settings and the theme is simple, casual nothing that reflects Indian cultures.
The Chef Komal Bhadur Khatri is from Nepal which is in the North of India. And he is said to be an expert in the traditional Northern Indian food. He mentioned that they are cooking a few dishes from other regions but that mostly from the north. Chicken Tikka is recorded to be the most sell dish. The Chef Komal, as per the OP, has a very good reputation in the Indian simple cooking techniques. He is also talented in display or show cooking. The chef has made this small restaurant turned into an anticipated attraction with his live cooking and the simplicity of his dishes. At one point during the interview, Chef Komal said that he cooks Indian foods as per different regions within all four regions, north, south, east and west. The wordings are confusing but he surely knew what he was trying to say and it confusingly means something deep. The Indians have a superior mind than most others. And their foods reflect that. He continued to inform that people tend to think that Indian cuisine is a hot cuisine, “but it‟s not” he said, “It is a misconception”. “Indian food is like a journey to the land of spices. The Chef has to understand the spices so as to coordinate the aromas and flavours into a mystical taste, and the taste should rejuvenate the mind” the Chef argued. When asked if the foods from his kitchen are traditional Indian food, the Chef responded that all Indians tend to keep their traditions in everything they do and to anywhere they travel. He
said that if the traditions die in the Indian gastronomy, the cuisine will die with it. He further emphasised that Indian food is based on tradition and religions. Food is prepared, cooked and eaten not only for the physical need but for the spiritual sustainability.
The market segment they target is everybody, as per their operation manager Mr. Roland Thomas. It proves that they are not doing any advertising and not indulging in any marketing strategy. “We only cook Indian food to satisfy our own guests in the hotel, and the only marketing that we depend on is the word of mouth marketing. But let me assure you that we are doing as good as the Mahek if not better” said the operation manager when asked. “Words of mouth only bring us outside tourists, Indians nationals and Seychellois alike. They all come because of the special tastes of our cuisine” Mr. Thomas said. The ingredients needed which are mostly spices are easy to find on the local market. Only a few items considered special are imported such Kitchen King Masala for quality reason, watermelon Seeds for white sauces, and others.
Through their menus in the Appendices, one can notified that this restaurant specialises in the northern region cuisine which offers the famous Chicken Tikka, the Lamb Roguh Josh, the Butter Chicken, and the Sweet Lassi.
At the Le Relax Indian food outlet, they offers the Masala Tea which is a flavoured tea composed of cinnamon leaves, dry ginger, cinnamon sticks, green cardamom, Indian tea powder, milk and tea leaves. It is a very famous tea which is evidently rich with various spices and herbs.
They use their three tandoori stoves mainly for cooking chicken tikka, for breads, naan, chapatti, skewers and the general barbeques.
The Mahek Restaurant
The Mahek restaurant opened its doors in September 2001. When they opened there were two outlets. One was located in the Victoria centre inside the Theemooljhee Supermarket which was a smaller branch offering both seated and take outs services. Due to economic disadvantages the one in town had to close its doors to literally no customers.
As it offers basically northern Indian cuisine and also prides itself for being traditional. The menus are competitively priced. They market or advertise through posters, in magazines and in the bulletins often for usual theme nights, promotion nights and/or ceremonial nights. The ingredients are bought on the local markets. The Chef Rahul Bhasin considered his menu dishes as healthy. “The cumin seed is a very essential spice in the Indian gastronomy and it is very good for breast feeding mothers because it provides a lot of breast milk. And I even experience it on my wife who was not producing enough milk” he said. He further mentioned that the Indian cuisine is a spicy one and that there are a lot of secrets and good things about it which regards to health, the mind and the spiritual aspect.
The kitchen brigade is all Indians for effectiveness, quality, efficiency, etc is the concept of the Chef. It provides A la carte service, sizzlers and face towels. The restaurant is air conditioned and located literally on the Beau Vallon Beach. It is the only fully fledged Indian restaurant in Seychelles.
They attract all kinds of customers and even Seychellois are frequent guests.
The tradition is sustained by their use of Indian brick stoves, proper ingredients, original method of preparations and cooking, traditional dishes and Indian cooks. The utensils and cutleries, silvers and others are all of Indian origins. Their menus can be viewed in the Appendices.
Einstein has been quoted saying; “the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is the servant. We tend to honour the servant and forget the gift”. All he was trying to say was not to forget the mind by honouring only the body. The mind is the like the CPU for the body, thus it must be well cared for and maintained in a healthy and sustainable manner. Likewise, the Indian cuisine respects and promotes this idea. It provides foods that have healthy elements to nourish both the mind and body. The body does not have to eat more than it needs which is enough to serve the mind. Food science and food production are all that. But sometimes we tend to forget what to eat and how much the body needs, so we rape ourselves with excessive amounts of foods not having the essential elements needed.
While the Indian cuisine respects the above theory, it is welcoming and essential to have Indian restaurants in the foreign lands of origins. This can promote healthy food ideals and principles.
Indian restaurants in Seychelles had been doing so well during the recent past. People nowadays are more health conscious and tend to resort to healthy eating which can be provided by the Indian restaurants. But because of recent downturns in the global economic, political and social stability, it has influence the pattern of people‟s habits and spending comfort, thus decreasing the number of customers that can continue to dine in restaurants.
The few Indian foods outlets that survived and continue to prosper are keeping up with their fundamental principles of cooking which are traditional and religious influenced. Therefore it must be concluded that yes, the Indian Restaurant in the Seychelles are traditional.
-Kavita Indian cuisine – Origins and Culinary History, A Special Mention on Indian cuisine [Online] Available from: http://store.indianfoodsco.com/InfoPage.cfm? [Accessed 13th april 2010] -Indian Culinary influences by Indian Conquests [Online] Available http://www.store.indianfoodsco.com/InfoPage.cfm? [Accessed 13th April 2010] from:
-Mr. Rahul Bhasin, B.H.M.;B. COM (P), Master Chef. Indian Cuisine, Mahek Kitchen, Coral Strand Hotel, Beau Vallon, Mahe, Seychelles. [Interviewed on the 15th April 2010] - Mr. Rene Squires, Director of Operations, Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort & Casino, Seychelles [Interviewed on the 17th April, 2010] -Mr. Roland Thomas, Operation Manager, Le Relax Hotel, Fairy Land, Anse Royale [Interviewed on the 19th April 2010] -Chef Komal Bhadur Khatri, Executive Chef, Le Relax Hotel, Fairy Land, Anse Royale [Interviewed on the 19th April 2010]
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