The future secret of Indian cuisine could be … soy sauce?


Every dish is better with a dash of soy sauce, even a dessert: this is the ambitious pitch of Japanese food giant Kikkoman, in hopes of persuading Indians to use it in curries, sweets and all. the rest.

Convincing 1.3 billion people to add an East Asian cooking staple to their butter chicken and samosas isn’t a snap, but it will likely be easier than the 1960s brand in the United States.

“When we entered the United States, people thought we were selling insect juice because of its dark color,” said Harry Hakuei Kosato, Kikkoman representative in India.

Today, the brand’s funnel-shaped distributor is ubiquitous in American households, accounting for half of the company’s $ 4.4 billion in revenue, and Kikkoman now hopes to replicate that success in India.

Sales have been boosted by the West’s growing craze for Japanese cuisine since the 1980s, but the company takes a different approach from India, which is home to a large vegetarian population.

“It’s not about making everyone eat sushi. We want our soy sauce to become India’s ketchup, ”Kosato said.

A chef prepares a samosa filling with minced meat with Kikkoman soy sauce at Ishaara, a restaurant in Mumbai. | INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP-JIJI

He hopes the marketing of the sauce as an endlessly adaptable condiment will strike a chord in a country where culinary innovation is part of street food culture.

For example, Mumbai’s Grilled Bombay Sandwich – a hawker staple – is a buttered British-style toast, but with a topping that includes boiled potatoes, onions, tomatoes, red beets and chutney. cilantro, garnished with a pinch of grav, a crispy and fried Indian snack.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that some Indian chefs started using soy sauce in their dishes long before Kikkoman launched in the country earlier this year.

Restaurateur Prashant Issar first deployed it in a biryani six years ago, when he ran Mirchi and Mime, a Mumbai restaurant featuring modern Indian cuisine.

Since then he has added a dash of soy sauce to a range of local dishes, from lamb samosas. keema.

“When I tried it with keema pao, it was just like ‘oh my god.’ It was an explosion of flavors, ”said Issar.

“It has that nondescript umami flavor, that tangy, tangy quality that you can’t find anywhere else,” he explained, describing it as “a bit of a chef’s secret.”

Kikkoman is now trying to get the word out to mainstream Indians and relies on social media influencers like Shalini Kapoor to spark appetite for his product.

For Kapoor, a home chef who never liked the “synthetic” taste of locally available soy sauces and couldn’t imagine using the condiment in Indian cooking, the results were revealing.

She even used it to make jalebis – a fried pretzel dipped in sugar syrup.

“I think it’s amazing in Indian desserts,” she said.

But it might take the rest of India longer to catch up, she admitted.

“They just need to taste it.”

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