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Why Indian food can't be at par with Italian fare

Chef Ritu Dalmia

Chef Ritu Dalmia says desi cuisine is complex and has flavours that do not appeal to everyone

By Puja Gupta

September, 9, 2019 (IANSlife) Indian food may finally be getting its due global recognition, but it will never be able to stand parallel to Italian cuisine on international stage owing to its complexity, says celebrity chef Ritu Dalmia. 

“The popularity of Indian food is on the rise, but I do not think it will ever attain the position that Italian food holds, as Indian cuisine is very complex and has particular flavours, which does not appeal to everyone,” Dalmia, co-founder of Italian restaurant chain Diva, told IANSlife.

Dalmia, who has re-launched Diva Spiced, a blend of modern Asian dishes along with some regional Indian flavours, said her journey in the food industry was something she never thought of.

Interior of Diva Spiced
Interior of Diva Spiced

 

"I always loved cooking for pleasure, and after having a series of very bad meals  I commented about it to some friends, who turned around and said if you think you can do better then why don’t you start a restaurant. Passionate and enterprising that I was, I took their words to heart and within three months opened my first restaurant.

“I was forced to do my first catering by a client, who insisted that he wanted Diva food for his 40th birthday. That was the day I just said to myself, 'hey this was fun, and I think I could do this',” she told IANS.

The chef says though her brand does many events, it is very “thoughtful and selective about the kind of events it wants to do”.

“Italy and I, have a connection from my past life. I had to do something to challenge myself. And next thing I knew was that Cittamani was in the pipeline. And here we are today, without my having the slightest idea how we got here,” she said.

But in the meanwhile, work by Dalmia and her ilk has helped change traditional perceptions about food and the people who prepare it.  She recalled how she was offered the job of a “domestic cook” when she opened her first restaurant. “Back then, a chef, in people’s mind, was equal to a domestic help. But today they are treated like celebrities, respected and admired. So I guess we have come a long way.”

Interior of Diva Spiced
Interior of Diva Spiced

 

She said her Diva catering has always been very conscious about not wasting food, long before the Delhi government decided to draft a law to keep a check on food wastage at social functions in the national capital.

“We work with NGOs like Feeding India, volunteers of which come at the end of every event to pick up all the leftovers. Then again we are not a regular catering company with hundreds dishes on our menu. Our motto has always been, “less is more,” she said.

Dalmia said cooking calms her down. “It is the only thing that soothes and relaxes me,” she said. The chef is now getting ready to launch her next venture in Noida. She also has plans to majorly expand in Italy.

 

Recipe by Chef Ritu Dalmia
Chilly Caramel Fish with Peanut Nimjam & Seasonal Greens

CHILLI CARAMEL FISH
CHILLI CARAMEL FISH

Ingredients:

Fish – 150 gms
Dark Soy Sauce – 10 ml
Thai Red Chilli – 5 gms
Peanut – 30 gms
Pok Choy – 50 gms
Mustard Leaves – 30 gms
Orange Juice – 80 ml
Butter – 20 gms
Lemon – as per taste
Salt - as per taste
Sugar - as per taste

Method:

  • For the Peanut Namjim Sauce, place oil in a medium sized saucepan and set over medium heat. Add ginger, chilli and garlic and fry, stirring until fragrant,for about 2-3 minutes. Add palm sugar and honey and allow to cook until a syrup forms, in about 3-4 minutes. Add orange juice, crushed peanut, Thai red chilli and fish sauce and allow to simmer until sticky and caramelised, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Set aside, keeping warm, until serving.
  • For the seasonal greens, place olive oil in a Chinese wok. Add garlic, pok choy and mustard leaves and wok toss for on 1 minute. Add seasonings as per the taste.
  • For the Grilled Rive Sole fish, place a large griddle pan onto a medium high heat.
  • Place olive oil in a large non-stick frypan and set over medium-high heat. Place fish fillets into the hot pan, add soy sauce and fry for 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Transfer fish fillets to the griddle pan, and fry until slightly charred, about 1-2 minutes. Turn the fish over and fry until just cooked through, about 1 more minute. Brush the fish all over with the Peanut Namjim sauce, then remove from pan.
  • To serve, place a spoonful of the Peanut Namjim Sauce into the centre of serving plate. Place a fish fillet on the sauce and add seasonal greens. Garnish with fresh Orange segments.

 

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Puja Gupta can be contacted at puja.g@ians.in