Talking “Food” with Food Connoisseur Atul Sikand

by November 23, 2018 0 comments

Atul Sikand

Atul Sikand, a food connoisseur, talks to Chahak Mittal about how his brainchild is a celebration of our city capital’s vibrant culture and fusion.

It hasn’t been long that the Washington Post tagged Asian food as the fastest growing cuisine in the world. With a wide array of dishes, the cuisine raises a culinary storm and curiosity among food connoisseurs. To cater to this inquisitiveness around the cuisine, Asian Hawkers’ Market brings its sixth edition to the city with about a hundred dishes from nine different countries of Asia.

Eating out is not just about eating chowmein, momo, tandoori chicken or having pav-bhaaji and choley bhature at any family friendly restaurant. There’s more to food today when the world is at our doors, says Atul Sikand, one of the founding members of the market. And when people do opt for international cuisine, unlike a decade ago when options were limited to noodles, burgers and pizzas, flavours from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Burma and other nations are ruling our hearts and minds.

He believes that since Indians have loved noodles for decades and they now welcome their variants. “Indians love Chinese food. It is our favourite cuisine and the most-loved one if we talk about food from the Asian palate,” he says.

So how was such a market first conceptualised?

Atul says that it originated from a random conversation with one of his partners, chef Tanveer Kwatra. “We tried to conceptualise a space that wasn’t like a Diwali mela or a regular food festival. We wanted something more dedicated to a very oriental and authentic pan-Asian cuisine. We wanted to make sure that each restaurant could serve food at reasonable prices that wouldn’t break your pockets,” he says.

The open arena of the DLF Select City Walk will soon be filled with kiosks catering a variety of Asian dishes. But the festival is not limited to that. Live entertainment, performances, music will accompany the delightful savouries on your plates.

Atul tells us that over “60 per cent of the restaurants serving are new.” From Kiara Soul Kitchen, Pra Pra Prankster, Pa Pa Ya, You Mee, Swad, Kampai, The Bento Cafe, Pikkle, The Trial Box, Bonhomia, there are a variety of pan-Asian-based outlets that have been making their own spin on the food.

Other than that, he names some old favourites like “Plum from Mumbai and a famous coffee outlet from Goa.”

“If there is an Italian spaghetti pasta, there is also a Thai raw papaya salad or Tom yum, which is also served in the shape of noodles, much different in taste and much healthier for diet.” Similarly, there are Nepali momo, Japanese sushi rolls and dim sums to savour.

He says that “today everyone is familiar with new food trends” thanks to the internet and bringing them under one roof was “important.” There would be Malaysian laksa, Hainanese chicken rice, Chinese spring rolls, Indonesian chicken curry, Japanese sushi, Vietnamese satay, Thai tom yum, Cambodian fried tofu chilly garlic and other delicacies at the market.

He believes that with the entry of new food trends the restaurant culture in the city has found new life. There is no more a single space like Connaught Place or Khan Market, a lot more hubs, smaller and bigger in size, have burgeoned depending on the audience nearby. Not just this, “people are very well-read today, and the acceptance of a global platter has been amazing. Delhi is spoilt for choices and they have a very discerning food taste.”

While talking about the challenges in the making the festival a hit, he says that basic infrastructural concerns like hassle-free parking, hygiene and the right prices are “priorities”. In this Asian food street, every plate promises a culinary surprise, or so believes Atul.

(The fest will go on till November 25 at DLF Select Citywalk, Saket.)

Writer: Chahak Mittal

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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