Culinary Connections

Renowned chefs push their boundaries to create traditional Indian dishes with American ingredients.

By Natasa Milas

June 2022

Culinary Connections

Increased availability of American products in India provide consumers with more opportunities to incorporate American ingredients in their day-to-day cuisine. Photograph courtesy Nature’s Basket

Have you ever tried duck samosa or tandoori turkey? With the use of American products like Washington apples, California almonds, prunes, blueberries, duck and turkey, Indian chefs push culinary boundaries to recreate traditional dishes with a cross-cultural touch. Increased availability of American products in Indian traditional brick and mortar and e-retail, provide consumers with expanded opportunity to incorporate American ingredients in their day-to-day cuisine. The high-quality and versatility of American products and the creativity of food aficionados sets the groundwork for a deeper culinary cultural exchange.

The Taste of America

The Taste of America Food Festival took place from October 28 to December 31, 2021 and helped introduce new ingredients to the Indian market, recognized culinary needs and forged trade relationships through food. The festival was organized by the Foreign Agriculture Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) office in New Delhi and Indian retailer Nature’s Basket in its Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Pune stores to promote gourmet U.S. food and beverages in India. “At Nature’s Basket, we have always delivered the best of International cuisine and products to our customers. Through this wonderful association with USDA and The Taste of America festival, we were able to showcase a variety of American produce products, which absolutely delighted our customers,” commented Mr. Devendra Chawla,  managing director and chief executive officer for Nature’s Basket.

Chef Natasha Gandhi embraced the festival’s cultural and culinary connections to create U.S.-India fusion dishes. She was one of five Indian chefs who were a part of the program and helped showcase the unique twist U.S. ingredients can bring to traditional Indian cuisine. Her cuisine preparation focused on Thanksgiving.

A woman holding a dish with a roasted turkey

Chef Natasha Gandhi used American produce combined with local flavors to make duck cranberry keema samosa, Malvani duck crepes and a tandoori roasted turkey. Photograph courtesy Natasha Gandhi

“I was part of the Taste of India Thanksgiving campaign where I received beautiful produce from America like turkey, duck and cranberries, which I used to create fusion recipes with,” she says. “These recipes were my love for American produce combined with local flavors I have grown up eating. I decided to make a duck cranberry keema samosa, Malvani duck crepes and a tandoori roasted turkey. While curating these recipes I discovered how I can push boundaries with my cooking skills as it was the first time for me using this product.”

Mark Rosmann, Foreign Service Officer at the USDA, says that the program went beyond just helping Indian chefs test their creative limits. “The campaign promoted high quality U.S. ingredients like California walnuts, pistachios, cranberries, blueberries, hazelnut, pecans, and prunes to name a few available right here in India.”

The program also highlighted the vast sales potential that American food and beverages have in the Indian market. According to a USDA report summarizing the economic impact of the program, e-retail and in-store sales were the highest in Maharashtra, followed by Karnataka, where products sold were valued at $257,000 and $100,000, respectively. “During the eight-week period, combined U.S. food product and beverage product sales totaled approximately $400,000 from 272 U.S.-origin stock-keeping units (SKUs). By product category, consumer-oriented packaged foods represented 65 percent of sales, followed by fresh fruits (20 percent), dry/processed fruits (12 percent), meats (2 percent), and beverages (1 percent),” says Rosmann.

The Taste of America festival campaign also helped identify demands in the Indian market and introduced key American produce to Indian tables just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. “As a result of this activity, U.S. poultry like duck and turkey were included in the Nature’s Basket portfolio of SKUs which were not there previously,” he adds.

An important benefit of the Taste of America Food Festival was that consumers in India were educated on the kinds of products that are available, as well as the healthy nature and wide array of options that can be associated with American food. As Rosmann continues, “The broader Taste of America campaign, as well as all our promotions we do in India, has educated the local food industry about the health benefits and versatility of these American ingredients (including quality and safety, the two biggest attributes for U.S. food products in India), which they can use in their own food processing to elevate their products and recipes,” says Rosmann.

Connecting people

The Taste of America campaign created important networks between the local food industry and U.S. exporters. As Rosmann notes, “The Taste of America campaign connected the local food industry with U.S. companies and representatives for future trade opportunities.”

During the Taste of America Food Festival, as Rosmann points out, “consumers in India benefited through a daily dose of quick recipes that can be easily incorporated in their day-to-day life, which are posted on the Taste of America social media pages on Twitter and Instagram.” In this way, new products can be integrated seamlessly with local fare. Additionally, “consumers in India also gained knowledge about high quality, delicious and healthy American products and ingredients.” It is important that USDA offices in India and partners like Nature’s Basket continue to educate consumers about the health and quality of U.S. food products, which they can use for leading a better lifestyle and for immunity boosting purposes as well.

This meeting of culinary cultures speaks to the cooperative spirit between the two nations. Importing food and integrating it into the local culture is an excellent way to exemplify this relationship. “It’s always an honor to work with the Taste of America campaign and to be given the opportunity to be creative while preparing delicious food with American produce,” Gandhi says. It is clear the festival created a lot of delicious connections between the United States and India.

Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.


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