The influence of pop culture on the evolution of the culinary and dessert scene in Mumbai
From the first Chinese restaurant in Mumbai in the 1960s to a plethora of Asian-themed restaurants to choose from, the city’s culinary and dessert scene has changed a lot over the past five decades. Read on to find out how this shift happened and what influenced it recently.
Mumbai first tasted Chinese cuisine in 1967, when Flora restaurant opened in the city. Over the years, many other Chinese restaurants have opened in the city, including Fat Kong, Dynasty, Gypsy, Royal China, among others.
This then progressed to opening a bunch of Pan-Asian restaurants, which added items from other Asian countries to their menu, such as Thai curry, dumplings, sushi, khao suey, etc. , other than regular Hakka noodles, fried rice, schezwan , Manchurian, sweet corn soup, etc.
And now, over the past few years, the city has seen the opening of restaurants that cater to specific cuisines from other Asian countries, such as Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and more.
With the internet making cultures around the world more accessible and also with many Indians traveling abroad, there has been a higher demand for different cuisines here. Giving an example of sushi, Sameer Malkani from the Food Bloggers Association of India (FBAI), said: “Initially, sushi was only available in five-star restaurants. With internet, cable, OTT platforms and people traveling, the exposure was very high. And there were plenty of consumers to experience it.
And with the growing demand, retailers as well as distributors have also started sourcing these ingredients, which were not so readily available in the market a few years ago.
“We are the importers and distributors of Japanese food products in India, so we have a good basic knowledge of Japanese food products and the taste of Japanese cuisines. Also, since I know Korean cuisine is healthy and tasty, so we predicted that Heng Bok would have a good demand for Korean cuisines in the market in the future,” said Rinchen Palkit, owner of Korean restaurant Heng Bok as well. than the Japanese restaurant Kofuku.
Palkit also said that there has been a huge increase in demand for Asian cuisines due to Japanese food culture as well as Korean dramas which more and more people are enjoying.
Talking about the most ordered dishes at the two restaurants, Palkit said that at Kofuku they are sushi, sashimi, ramen, gyouza, tempura, bento, Japanese curry rice and Japenses hot pot; while at Heng Bok it’s Korean barbecue, tteokbokki, kimchijjigae, kimbab, dak galbi, dolsot bibimbap and Korean hot pot.
Apart from these, other Asian themed restaurants that have opened in Mumbai include Izumi, Mizu, Nara Thai, Koko, Fatty Bao, Hakkasan among others.
Influence of pop culture on the dessert scene in Mumbai
“Pop culture and social media fads have had some influence in the baking world,” said pastry chef and Le15 Patisserie co-founder Pooja Dhingra. People want to do what they see on TV or online. With more and more chefs showcasing their work and sharing recipes on Instagram, it has definitely found its way into food trends around the world, she said.
Dhingra said traveling to new destinations inspires her a lot to come up with new products. But during COVID, she had to use what was available to her to look for inspiration. “We were all collectively watching TV shows throughout lockdown and these inspired our Ted Lasso cookies and our K-drama collection. The response to both has been overwhelming and I didn’t expect it to go so well,” she said.
She too agreed that pop culture and social media have definitely influenced the food and dessert scene in Mumbai. “For example, people want desserts that will look good on Instagram. Many trends such as dalgona coffee, banana bread desserts, all originated from Instagram and then found their way onto many menus,” she said.
Shikha Murarka, owner of Mishmash Bakery in Mumbai, also said that many of their creations are heavily based on pop culture these days. “We saw a huge demand for superhero cakes. We personally made over 20 cakes just on this theme,” she said.
She said orders were starting to come in on everything trendy. “For instance, stranger things was trending recently, so a lot of people started wanting desserts based on the same,” she said. Murarka received a few orders for stranger things-themed cakes after the release of the recent season of the Netflix show. She said that even when it comes to desserts, if people see something that other people are doing, they also start demanding the same.
Dhingra and Murarka said they are working on product development and innovation throughout the year.