New Delhi: Urban India is changing its breakfast menu.
“Aloo parantha” (Indian bread stuffed with cooked potatoes) and curd, the traditional morning meal in at least a billion homes in northern and central India, are slipping off the culinary map.
They are losing the battle of the palate to sausages, scrambled eggs, hash brown, cereals, home fries and orange juice.
America has conquered the Indian breakfast table. "Tastes are changing. Young people in their 20s and 30s, who loved home-made ‘aloo paranthas’ 10 years ago now prefer sausages, hash brown and eggs for breakfasts," entrepreneur Anshul Lal, co-owner of a Delhi-based hip breakfast café, Cocoa By Belgique, told this writer.
The economic boom in Indian metros and the Tier II cities, rising disposable incomes, spurt in cross-continental business travel, exposure to diverse cultures and changing lifestyles are altering taste buds, say food analysts cutting across cities.
"The Indian economy is booming and people have more money to splurge. The competitive market has made luxury meals affordable. Moreover, Indians have woken up to the importance of nutritious food like cereals, cold cuts, salads and fruit juices - especially for breakfasts, the primary meal of the day," Kashif Farooq, owner of Delhi-based Urban Café, said.
The cafe, which set up shop in the heart of the capital six weeks ago, is launching its "Sunday Brunch" - a combination of late breakfast and early lunch- next month.
"The breakfast-brunch concept has taken off in a big way in India. It breaks of daily meals in double-income Indian homes. Several reputed standalone eateries across the metros have added late breakfasts to their menus," Farooq said. But round-the-clock coffee shops of five-star hotels are still preferred breakfast destinations. "They open at 5 am and the volume of food on offer is more," the restauranteer explained.
The early morning crowd at the cafes are mostly young professionals working for multinational companies and the scores of business processing organisations that have sprung up in the metros. Their motto is to work hard and party hard. "Most of my friends look for a heavy breakfasts after a hard night pf partying and come to Cocoa. I know of several people in my clientele who skip breakfasts at home for an American meal at cafes. Sometimes, people drop in midnight looking for breakfast- a cross between late night snack and the morning meal," says Lal of Cocoa by Belgique.
However, the crowd on weekdays peaks from 11 am to 2 pm. “Since we are located at the Select City Mall in Saket, we have to set out clock to mall timings, which opens at 10 am,” Lal said.
However, Cocoa by Belgique serves breakfast platters till throughout the day till midnight. Breakfast for two costs around Rs 700 with tax and for one Rs 279. “Our four combo breakfasts are very popular,” Lal said. The four combination breakfast platter includes the All American Combo, the Country Combo, Classic Combo, Waffles and Pancakes and the assortment of Omelette- stuffed and rolled.
Rajesh Khanna, operations head of the food and beverages section at the The Patio in The Metropolitan Hotel, feels that modern Indian breakfasts can best be described as “half eggs, half aloo paranthas.” According to him, 50 per cent of the country is yet to outgrow its morning fetish for “fried home-made bread”.
But foreign breakfasts are catching up.
“Our continental breakfasts of sliced fruits, bread baskets, choice of omelettes, scrambled and poached eggs, cereals, soups and juices are a hit. The corporate crowd loves it. We host at least seven to eight corporate breakfasts every month- they usually begin with company briefs, followed by food and brainstorming sessions,” Khanna said.
The Patio rustles up 250 breakfasts on an average every day. The menu is cyclic and a meal costs Rs 900 (without tax). The Sakura, a Japanese eatery in the same hotel, is known for its quaint breakfasts of assorted vegetables and chicken simmered in light soy (soya) base stock, grilled salmon, steamed rice, soy bean soup, pickles and fruits.
“I have never had breakfast at home,” says Vineet Singh, a Delhi-based senior communications executive. He drops in at the All American Diners at the India Habitat Centre in the capital every morning en route to work for his favourite platter of Sunrise Skillet — a combination of scrambled eggs, grilled chicken, beacon, sausages and pancakes. “The price is a reasonable Rs. 195,” Singh says.
The Diners is also known for its Ultimate Omelette, a folded variation of the pan fried egg stuffed sausages, ham, cheese, tomato and
bell peppers. It costs Rs 165.
The popular breakfast café, America’s oldest, which has branches all over the world, draws both the indigenous and expatriate crowd in India. At any given point of time, the Diners café in Delhi is packed to capacity. The crowd is patterned. “The expatriates and the working crowd form bulk of early morning crowd followed by young college and university students from 10 am –12 noon,” says a Diner’s spokesperson.
Studies link healthy breakfasts to the lower incidence of chronic diseases, increased longevity and a sense of well-being. Doctors say a good breakfast increases attention span and people are in better control of emotions. India is finally learning to eat right.
-Madhusree Chatterjee and Jay Akbar