It surprises me to say it, but Indian culture is becoming the next cool thing.
It's amazing to me because, for the longest time, the "cool" Indian kid in class was the one parroting swear words in his funny accent. But Indian culture has started to take off lately due to a surge in the Indian American population and popularity of movies like Slumdog Millionaire. Now, the "cool" Indian kid is the one taking home the prom queen (right after Mathletes practice, of course!).
This cultural shift is equally obvious in the world of food. Indian food has creeped into the weekly rotation of Taco Tuesdays, Take-Out Chinese Wednesdays and Trendy Thai Fusion Fridays -- all once misunderstood exotic cuisines that have secured spots on the carousel of accepted foods by mainstream America. And as an Indian guy creating a hot sauce inspired by my homeland's cuisine, I couldn't be happier.
What's Out There on the Shelves?
We want this blog to be an ongoing forum that highlights the newest, most unique, innovative, and delicious food products on market shelves. So, instead of focusing on restaurant chefs embracing this trend, we'd rather showcase food product entrepreneurs getting their Indian-inspired sauces, chips, beverages, and other packaged items into American stores. Some of our current favorites include:
- MissionRoot: We've never tasted anything like these ready-to-drink beverages inspired by the South Asian concept of Ayurveda. Equal parts fruity, herbal, flowery, and spicy -- the three flavors are meant to complement a yoga session, which should make them extremely popular with those pursuing an active lifestyle.
- Moksha Beer: Wonderful Indian-style lager. Though the balance of the beer suggests it'd pair well with South Asian food -- it's also a great way to wash down some nachos.
- Biena Foods: Founder Poorvi Patodia is the premier chickpea roaster in the states. There are currently three delicious, crunchy flavors (Sea Salt, Lime and Chili, and Cinnamon Maple) that are a distinct take on the humble garbanzo bean. Awesome stuff.
- I'm surprised that lassi hasn't completely blown up yet here in the states. The yogurt-based drink is simply a better version of all those8 smoothies sold in every city. Two companies are making them particularly well -- Dahilicious, which promotes its probiotics and rejuvenating potential, and That Indian Drink, which features inventive flavor combinations crafted by a French-trained chef specializing in Indian-Latin fine dining.
- Global Village Fruits: Move over acai and goji berries -- jackfruit has the potential to be the next exotic superfruit to blow up in the U.S. Founder Annie Ryu sources dried jackfruit directly from India to bring this completely unique, tart taste to the states. Can't wait for this to come available.
- Cobra Corn: All-natural Indian spiced popcorn! Unbelievably addicting. Chai Caramel and Mumbai Masala flavors will be a hit at your next party. Order wholesale HERE.
- Well...of course... we have to shamelessly plug ourselves here! Bandar Foods Monkey Sauce - in Spicy Mango and Mint Cilantro -- officially launches in a few weeks. Bandar takes inspiration from two of the most popular Indian chutneys, and transforms them into a squeezable, tasty hot sauce specifically designed to be used with everyday American foods.
What's Actually Appealing: Indian Food or Indian Flavors?
Interestingly, many of these newer food concepts aren't branded as purely "Indian" products. Instead, we're seeing Indian flavors repackaged in innovative ways meant to seamlessly fit into everyday American life. Although Americans may not be ready for heavy Indian stews every day, the distinct aromatic flavors of cumin, cardamom, mustard seed, turmeri, and tamarind are turning out to be ideal flavor complements to burritos, burgers, pizza and other common American foods. Another example: our friends at Palo Alto-based Tava Indian Kitchen have successfully developed the Indian equivalent of a Chipotle restaurant - serving insanely filling "burroti" and rice bowls with great success. I wouldn't doubt they become the next great American restaurant chain.
And we couldn't be happier for this entire movement.
Please comment or email us with other Indian-inspired food product trends you see on the shelf. We'd love to write about it!
Follow Dan Garblik and Lalit Kalani on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@bandarfoods