Indian cuisine in Dubai: A visit to Dubai comes with several images in the mind – like the skyscrapers and a level of elegance and luxury that aspires to leave the rest of the world behind. The numerous tourist attractions rarely leave enough room to focus on anything else while enjoying the brilliantly planned city. Amid this, international tourists often tend to overlook the brilliant food that surrounds the entire visit to Dubai. Home to people from all over the world, Dubai’s food scene is about as diverse as India’s – and that’s saying something. In this diversity of food are several brilliant Indian restaurants like Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor, Kinara by Vikas Khanna and Tresind.
To understand more about the scenario around Indian cuisine in Dubai, Financial Express Online’s Bulbul Dhawan spoke to legendary Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. He spoke about the diverse gastronomy of Dubai, the relation of Indian cuisine with the Emirati city, and tips for Indian chefs hoping to venture into the very vibrant food scene in Dubai. Moreover, he also took the time to bring out the very important issue of food wastage and gave simple tips that restaurants can follow to minimise this waste. Edited excerpts:
Can you explain a little bit about the gastronomical scene in Dubai?
Gastronomical scene of Dubai, like the city, is eclectic and vibrant to say the least. It being an Alpha city is flooded with various cuisines ranging from traditional to modern to unique. Dubai being one of the most developed cities across the globe, it has adapted to a wide variety of cultures that have been witnessed worldwide. Experiential dining has penetrated through the city’s culture all the way to the grassroots, influencing the population and visitors to sample a variety of unique cuisines. Renowned chefs, eateries and food brands from across the globe offer innovative culinary concepts here. It is soon becoming Mecca for haute cuisine. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Michelin Guide picks Dubai as its next destination.
How does Indian cuisine fit into the variety of food offered in Dubai and what is the future of Indian cuisine in terms of popularity in the Emirati city?
Many parts of the Middle East in general and Dubai in particular share over a century-long relationship with the people of India and its cuisine. The close proximity, easy accessibility, trade relations, family bonds and mutual respect has captured the hearts, minds, and souls of the residents of both India as well as Dubai. The cuisine of India gained fame due to its uniqueness, elegance, spice and flavours. The Indian expatriate population helped in its availability and penetration into the Emirati city.
With the modern outlook to the whole dining experience, Indian cuisine too is presented in a contemporary manner, establishing itself as a modern yet royal cuisine on a global level.
Traditional Indian cuisine was introduced to the Emirati City long before any other cuisine gained momentum. Indian cuisine is very popular in Dubai and will continue to remain popular.
Do you think this is an opportune time for Indian chefs to venture out to Dubai, and if so what tips would you give them?
Dubai has always been ahead of its time and food is no different. Since cuisine from all across the globe has gathered immense interest in Dubai, it is definitely the perfect time for Indian Chefs to venture out to Dubai. The people of this city, being as modern as they are, have rid themselves of old beliefs like an individual’s background, geography, age, race, ethnicity, and gender, making them the most evolved bunch of people across the world and that gives new entrants an opportunity to raise the bar with their talent. It is not just the most ideal city to showcase your skills and talents but one can also acquire the best of knowledge, skills, and talent right there. It is not only the Indian cuisine that Indian chefs are proficient at but their skill set is suitable to the best kitchens of the world.
I could speak on a number of tips and tricks to reach success in a city like Dubai but I am going to give you one very important and useful tip- never fear the entry into a new and unknown place, all you need is an attitude to succeed and put in your best. Be a student forever, there is loads to learn in Dubai.
You also have a restaurant in Dubai called Signature. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
‘Art on a plate’- the best way to describe my restaurant Signature, which stands for avant-garde Indian cuisine. Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor, located at The Canvas Hotel Dubai on 23 Kuwait St in the city of Dubai, is a fine-dining restaurant where customers can enjoy the authentic and signature Indian dishes created by me. We also have other brands like The Yellow Chilli and Grain of Salt in Dubai. At our restaurants, food is the focus, may it be unique, traditional, or authentic, there is never any compromise on the quality and freshness of the ingredients or taste of any dish. By a combination of authentic processes and ingredient selection, we aspire to position ‘Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor’ as a synonym of Indian cuisine. I also provide the customers with a chef’s special tasting menu which brings in the experiential dining aspect.
Signature offers authentic Indian dishes, including typical home-style dishes like Matar Paneer. At a time when fusion Indian cuisine is increasingly becoming the norm, why did you choose to keep the dishes close to their authentic form?
Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor does not bind itself in any limits of authentic, traditional, progressive or modern. We believe in bringing the best out of ingredients using best of techniques from different parts of India. ‘Never forget your roots’- this is a statement that we have all been introduced to since we were children. Authentic dishes at Signature are as important as modern or contemporary or progressive dishes.
Typical home-style dishes form a small but integral part of the menu. This provides all the Indian residents, who miss the food from their home land, a chance to gain the ‘Home away from home’ dining experience. Giving customers a reason to create memories or let the nostalgia kick in ensures that they become regulars at my restaurant and I can continue taking them back to the old days with every visit.
What is your view on fusion Indian cuisine?
All chefs have a creative need to experiment and there are multiple ways to do it. Indian cuisine is no different. Any newness has risks involved with it but is necessary for evolution. Mindless fusion is a definite no no.
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
I would like to take this opportunity to bring up the intense conversation of food wastage. Some are privileged to consume food on a daily basis while some may not have the same opportunity. Always think about that before ordering your food at a restaurant. Here are a few tips that restaurants can follow to avoid excessive wastage of food:
- Avoid over-buying stock
- Ensure that you store food correctly
- Practise stock rotation on a regular basis
- Keep a stock inventory
- Always donate leftovers to a local charity
- Sensitise your diners about wastage of food