Meditating on the Scrumptious Mediterranean Cuisine
Food & Beverage Business Review|June - July 2021
Mediterranean cuisine, which does not belong to any particular culture but refers to culinary styles of people living in regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, is popular in India due to the huge variety it offers. Mediterranean food has developed not as national cuisine of any country but as a variety of regional cuisines based on diversified regional influences. Since olive oil is the most commonly used ingredient in Mediterranean cuisines, it is considered to be healthy. There is no traditional way of serving the Mediterranean food. This cuisine is a popular genre for dining out in India. Ashok Malkani examines various aspects of this cuisine and the reasons for its popularity in the country.
Ashok Malkani

Mediterranean food is popular throughout the globe. It may be mentioned that diets across the entire Mediterranean region vary greatly but what most people think of as Mediterranean food comes mainly from Greece and Italy. In this region, the diets that have developed over the centuries has been mainly due to what was readily available. Fish and lamb, which was plentiful in the region, formed the staple ingredients of the diet.

Kamlesh Salve, Executive Chef, The Mirador Mumbai, avers, “Mediterranean cuisine encompasses the Mediterranean basin, which covers several vastly different geographical areas including Spain, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Europe, Asia, Africa and many others. The Mediterranean Sea boasts a different diet, religion, and culture.”

Ashish Kumar Tiwari, Executive Chef, Crowne Plaza New Delhi Rohini, states, “Mediterranean food has its roots in areas around the Mediterranean Sea, like Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco.

Popularity in India

Mediterranean cuisine is believed to be extremely popular in India as it has a lot in common with Indian cuisine. It is perfectly suitable for the Indian climate as well as the palate. Light and healthy, the ingredients for this cuisine can be easily found in India. And what is more, it satisfies the principle that Indians love most: taste!

Kamlesh declares,” The Mediterranean cuisine is a very popular genre for dining out in India. The majority of the clientele for this food is well travelled and understands the depth of the cuisine. This cuisine, which has a large repertoire of dishes to offer also, has a health element attached to it because most of the food is grilled and oil is used in minimal quantity. Another factor is the variety of vegetarian options available, which makes Mediterranean cuisine a welcome dining out option for Indians.

“Sourcing the ingredients for any specialty cuisine is not a challenge anymore, due to the present meticulous transport facilities. We have multiple options and choices available for the best ingredients required to keep the Mediterranean cuisine as authentic as possible. All kinds of cheese, olive oils, pasta, vinegars, meats, and seafood are readily available. If there is a ban on import of certain products into India, menu-making does become a bit difficult.

“The repertoire of dishes and flavours is huge and widely accepted by both locals and expats alike. The key is the consistency of food and the quality of the ingredients used. This cuisine, I may add, is preferred by the age group between 25-45 years of age.”

Sathiyaraj states, “The cuisine is mostly popular in tier-one cities and their urban areas. This cuisine is popular amongst the 18 to 35 age groups and also with those who have travelled extensively and appreciate the different cuisines.”

Indian and Mediterranean Food

Although the two cuisines – Indian and Mediterranean – are from different parts of the world they have a lot in common. While the ingredients may differ a bit, the main theme of both cuisines is to use fresh ingredients along with flavourful spices and herbs.

Kamlesh is of the view that both have similarities, as far as cooking is concerned. He says “There are many similarities in the preparation and ingredients used when it comes to the preparation of these two delicious and healthy food traditions, but each cuisine has its own distinct taste, thanks to the native flavours of the regions surrounding the Mediterranean and India.”

He adds, “Both Indian food and Mediterranean food revolve around the usage of ripe fruits and vegetables, rich and flavourful dips and sauces, and soft, oven-baked bread. The distinct and succulent flavours of their dishes reflect the tradition of their individual cuisines.

“One can incorporate the influence and inspiration from Indian food and Mediterranean food alike. Although the dishes are reflective of their origins, you’ll notice many similarities in menu offerings.

For example…..Naan from India, and pita from the Mediterranean region both types are made to be flat for dipping in curries, sauces, and dips, yet have their own distinct texture and flavours.

“Consider our Indian veg pakora, which consists of Indian-spiced chickpea flour, potatoes, and other veggies, fried together and paired with a yogurt and mint chutney. Similarly, dolmades, a veg-based Greek favorite, is a Mediterranean dish. It consists of rice, dill, and lemon, wrapped in grape leaves and finished off with a tangy Greek yogurt sauce.

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