Taj and ITC are riding the immunity boosting food wave with specially designed healthy menus, available for home delivery. Gone are the days when 5-star hotels were synonymous with only indulgence. Today, immunity boosting dishes are the way to go. “The discerning diner is very self-aware, wanting to know what has gone into his dish and where it comes from,” says Manisha Bhasin, Corporate Executive Chef, ITC Hotels.
This growing awareness of healthy, immunity-boosting food among consumers, driven by Covid-19 pandemic has driven Indian hotel groups to design special menus, available for home delivery. These are rich in nutrients and anti-oxidants, cooked with safe and traditional methods and ingredients.
ITC Hotels has designed a Feel-Good Menu that highlights local produce, support farmers, utilises slow cooking methods and ancient grains; all with the aim of providing wholesome yet tasty dishes. Similarly, based onfeedback from Qmin users (the gourmet delivery platform from Indian Hotels Company), Taj Hotels has launched INNERgise, a range of curated meals with a focus on local flavours and fresh ingredients that strengthen immunity. Along the same lines was the ‘Be Nourished’ menu, an initiative by JW Marriott’s Bonvoy on Wheels programme, which is no longer available for delivery. Shrikant Jogdankar, Sous Chef, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, says, “People want to avoid non-essential foods.They don’t want to put on weight sitting at home since most offices are shut.”
Taj’s INNERgise all-vegetarian menu was created in consultation with Arya Vaidya Sala – Kottakal; a century-old institution that practices ancient Indian health care sciences. The food is prepared using simple cooking techniques like sautéing, steaming and grilling to ensure that the nutrient quotient of the ingredients remains intact. Instead of individual dishes, three course meals are available to give the body all nutritional supplements it requires for the day. They have mixed sprouts curry, rich in anti-oxidants, Omega 3 fatty acid. The Tanddori Phalon ki Chaat has raw tamarind which is good for your eyes and boosts immunity.
The ITC’s Indian-cuisine based Feel Good menu focuses on ingredients which are used in Indian households, though not regularly, like kacchi haldi, moringa, amaranth. Bhasin says that she wanted to launch one menu across all properties. So she drew a list of ingredients that are available across pan India easily. According to Bhasin the dishes on the menu are effortless to eat and delicious. These are prepared the way your grandmother would, with freshly ground spices, without the help of mixers, and pressure cookers. Even metallurgy plays a role in the preparation of the food; copper vessels are used as they have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
Keeping in mind local flavours, Taj Krishna’s Chef Md. Shahid Hossain, Executive Chef, says “Some of the items from the menu are similar in all regions but majority of them have been tweaked and adapted with local flavours and ingredients available.” For example, in Hyderabad, Ambada Mushrooms is one of the most popular dishes. In the Andhra-Telangana region, Ambada aka sorrel leaves is a local ingredient, which is loaded with vitamins. The mushroom in the dish is rich in zinc, which is anti-Inflammatory, and clears nasal passages.
Innovation leads the way at ITC, where Bhasin experiments with classic dishes without losing their essence. Phirni is usually made with chawal ka atta, but Bhasin decided to give it a healthier twist with bajra, which is high in magnesium. It worked wonderfully together while keeping the flavour of the much-loved, familiar phirni. Another great discovery was Amla ki Launji. Bhasin reminiscences how her mother would sauté amla with sarsoon ka tel and salt, she says “It was an effort to eat it, but I knew it was good for you.” Since the Feel Good menu aims to be effortless for patrons to eat, she decided to tweak it. The result is an Amla ki launji that is laden with spices, cooked with sugar and vinegar creating a winner dish that is rich in vitamin C.
“Considering this is a complete vegetarian menu, in a predominantly non-vegetarian region, Telangana and Andhra we’ve gotten a really good response.” Hossain shares that the preconceived notion was that it would be bland, but the guests at Taj Krishna have been pleasantly surprised with the menu, even asking about the recipes.
Chef Bhasin says, “The younger generation is leaning towards these menus due to a greater awareness of nutrients, sustainability, local produce, and a curiosity about what is in their food.”
Chefs want consumers to not just try one dish, but a full nutritious meal. Taj is positioning their INNERgise menu as a lifestyle choice, which consumers can keep ordering with the subscription menu. There are popular amongst those recovering from Covid as it covers their daily nutritional requirements. “Even guests staying at our hotels for a week or longer prefer healthy meals,” says Hossain.
Bhasin says that guests are more inclined towards quality than quantity nowadays; and they are willing to pay for exceptional quality. During the brief window when ITC opened its restaurants before the second wave of Covid, they noticed a new trend. Several guests asked for these immunity boosting dishes, and wanted to know exactly what their dishes contain, and how it will help the body.
ITC also tries to embody responsible luxury by lowering the carbon footprint. The chefs work alongside local farmers and communities to source the ingredients. For example, ITC in Delhi sources its supplies from in and around a hundred-kilometre radius from the city. The Feel Good menu is also delivered in a bag that is easy to dispose. At the JW Marriott Sahar, Mumbai, a herb garden takes up space in the patio area outside the café, where the hotel has planted 20 to 25 herbs, fruits and vegetables.
Plans for the future
The Taj group plans to expand the concept of INNERgise to its stay packages as well. These packages will come with a 3 to 5 day itinerary, immunity boosting meal plans, and spa therapy. In addition to the INNERgise meals, the hotel group is launching gift hampers, which can be delivered through the Qmin app. The hampers will have a host of nutritional pre-packed items like a millet-based flour, which can be used to make idli, gluten-free bars, etc.
“Going forward we will also have a winter edition of the Feel Good menu, because we very strongly believe that you must eat what is seen seasonal,” says Bhasin.
IHCL’s INNERgise meal combo starts at Rs. 1500 plus taxes, for two people. Subscription meals start at Rs. 4000 for 3 days, one meal per day.
ITC’s Feel Good meal combo starts at Rs. 1150, excluding govt. taxes, for two people.