cuisine, Indian wedding style, is a special phenomenon
have changed quite a bit at urban Indian weddings. It is not that weddings
are no longer serious matters. Its a new, more open mindset, the attitude
of acceptance and a willingness to experiment, that has made the traditional
less formal, more light-hearted, imbued with a spirit of fun that is easily,
So it is now as much part of the modern lifestyle to be married on a beach,
in a plane, at midnight or, indeed, not at all!
And part of that change is evident in the wedding feast. While the old ways
are still revered and often part of the meal whichever one it may be more
people are choosing an esoteric blend of culinary styles to reflect their
own way of thought. Today, in fact, it could be considered exotic to serve
up a very traditional meal, because so many of the components are no longer
a part of everyday eating.
The marriage is not just between bride and groom, but between East and West,
North and South- of India and beyond and of cooking methods, ingredients
and presentation. And the meals that result, a divine fusion...or sometimes,
infrequently, a mess.
There is often a theme to a wedding and the main meal follows that path.
In India, western concepts are often adopted to show off a certain international
consciousness. So a couple may be married on the beach, Hawaiian style.
Guests would then sit down to a huge feast including everything from the
starchy poi to whole pig roasted in an underground oven, with fish, shellfish,
root vegetables and fruit.
an alternative, the mood may be Italian; the meal would consist
of a sunny selection of vegetables cooked in olive oil, meats delicately
seasoned with fresh herbs like tarragon, oregano and basil, pastas redolent
with cheese and spicy tomato sauce and cold tiramisu or gelato to finish
The Japanese dinner would be a tale told of delicately flavoured
broths, beautifully wrapped sushi, exquisite arrangements of teriyaki and
liberal lacings of sake.
If the flavour were Arabia, couscous - jewelled with dried fruit,
nuts, saffron and mutton or chicken - with a variety of meat and vegetable
accompaniments would be set on the table.
There is a special taste to the Indian wedding feast of today. It is rarely
all about food typical of one region of this vast country. Caterers these
days - be they family retainers, traditional bawarchis or a more modern
company in the business - need to satisfy all sorts of palates, and have
evolved a unique way of doing so. They create fusion meals, which take common
favourites from all over the country and serve them together in a way that
makes the mouth water and the mind wander to places known and unknown.
But here, too, there is generally a theme of sorts. A Punjabi family
would probably prefer to stick with the food of home, and serve up melting
kebabs, butter-laced saag, multi-grain rotis, meats tender from the tandoor,
fresh cold buttermilk and sweet milk-based desserts.
A Kerala wedding could concentrate on avial, poriyal, meen curries,
mutton cooked in coconut extracts, rices of various kinds and puddings ranging
from payasam to naiyyappam. In Mangalore, seafood takes precedence;
in Gujarat, chaste vegetarian food is the norm, especially in the
Jain community; and in Kashmir, the wazwan makes a meal fit for kings,
not just mere mortals.
Fusion cuisine, Indian wedding style, is a special phenomenon. The
most common, perhaps, is the Punjabi-Chinese, a culinary approach tasted
all over the country. It spices up the basic flavours of Chinese cuisine
often believed to be permutations of soy sauce, ginger and garlicpastes
in vinegar, chillies and sugar, all enhanced by the presence of liberal
sprinklings of monosodium glutamate.
So dishes such as Vegetable Manchurian small fried cabbage, carrot, onion
and flour dumplings floating in a thick, garlicky sauce, Sweet and Sour
Chicken butter fried chicken, green peppers, carrots, beans and onions in
a sweet tomato-ketchup-based gravy, Fried Rice long grained rice sautéed in oil, dotted with small pieces of vegetables and/or meat and Hakka Noodles
flat ribbon pasta stir fried with the same sort of mixture are favourites
on marriage menus.
The others frequent on the wedding table are dosas small and large or stuffed
and plain, breads Indian or western style, and salads. The last are, indeed,
interesting to eat through. They may be the standard local layout of roundels
of onion, tomato, beetroot and horseradish (mooli), or less conventional
toss-ups of sprouts of various seeds, cucumber, cracked wheat and coriander
leaves, in a form that could be Arab in its origin. Lemon wedges are ubiquitous,
keeping company with chillies, chutneys, sauces, raitas and papads.
then, of course, there is dessert. Cake and ice-cream are as often seen
as are jalebis, gulab jamuns and barfis, with the more exotic of sweets
including trifles, custards, fruit creams and mousses.
So where does the culinary experimentation stop? When weddings no longer
have feasts and guests no longer need to be fed. And that would be near
impossible a state to achieve!