Indian food has come out on the world’s culinary map, where ‘Indian street food’ constitutes a colossal part of it. “Street food’, which has got a connect from all walks of people, constitutes around 45% of overall Indian food market. With diversity of culture, the food here in India is as diverse with each region having their own speciality. Osama Jalali had a long stint with the top media including The Hindu as a journalist, who later started doing small food festivals, consulting with top restaurants. ‘Masala Trail’ a street food restaurant bringing the regional soul to Delhi is his latest venture into the business. “It was during one of the dinner date with my daughter that I realised the gap in the Indian food industry,” shares Jalali who was questioned by his daughter about the ‘chutney’ being presented at the restaurant in not the original form but with fusion and tamasha making it a foam based chutney. Jalali then and there decided to work on the ‘lost recipes and food’ of India. He started doing food festivals reviving old delicacies and foods from Mughal Era and Shahjahanabad now called as ‘Old Delhi’. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
What was the whole idea behind ‘ Masala Trail’?
The diversity in Indian street food is immense as each region has its own specialties to offer. ‘Street food’ is a symbol of the regional soul, reflection of diverse cultures, a meeting point for people from different religions and a staple diet for the multitude. With a focus on evoking memories and nostalgia by presenting local delicacies which people miss the most from the place they belong to, Masala Trail was born to savour the street food in its original form.
You have done many festivals focusing on non-vegetarian food. Why a vegetarian restaurant?
As a fact India has a 31% population that eats only vegetarian food, whereas almost 99% population relish the vegetarian delicacies provided by street food vendors in its authentic form. Hence, we thought of doing a vegetarian restaurant. Our menu is a collection of handpicked dishes which all of us ate while growing up in our home towns. We are presenting regional Indian cuisine in a traditional manner, which are dying a slow death because of the evolution of modern Indian cuisine.
Can we see a non-vegetarian restaurant opening in near future?
After consolidating all the Masala Trail we are coming up with a Mughlai restaurant very soon. The work is already in the process, we have started working on the concept. Within two months you will see a Mughlai restaurant as well on the same pattern where we will be exploring the lost recipes and foods from Mughal Era. We will be showcasing traditional Mughlai food – there will be menus from Shahjahan’s era, Humayun’s era. We will showcase how food travelled from that era and changed today as the food of Shahjahanabad.
What is the concept you are planning to launch the restaurant on?
It will be a fine dining model and not like Masala Trail which is a very price conscious restaurant. It will be a high end fine dining restaurant. The location most probably will be CP.
How about expanding Masala Trail as you have grown into a good number in last three months?
We have nine outlets as of now. Going further, we are looking for franchisees and food courts across the country. We want to make regional food accessible at metro cities. Masala Trail is the journey of ‘India under one roof’. So, we are also planning to open an outlet in Dubai because many people are exploring the routes of Indian food in international markets. We don’t do any fusion, any modern food- its simple plane food.
How is the response so far?
People love our food and hence they come back to us. We have got a good number of repetitive customers at Masala Trail. On weekdays we have got a footfall of around 400-450 customers whereas on weekends it goes up to 600-800.
What trend do you see growing in India?
Regional food is for sure growing in India. Lots of organic, healthy food is coming up. Farm to food concept is doing well. Regional food will rule the trend because how much you eat modern cuisine, molecular food at the end you will go back to traditional food. Modern food is just an experience though Indian food is comfortable, something which I can relate to. Indian food is all about community eating.