Yummy…Pizza from Italy to India, via America

Good Memories

I still remember the sheer pleasure that I had when I first spied a Tandoori Chicken pizza at one of the first California Pizza Kitchens (CPK) that I ever laid my eyes on. It was ages ago when I was a fairly “fresh off the boat” Indian trying to understand how to live in the great US of A.

I had been there perhaps two or three years by then, but from living in the deep South in a fairly small town, I did not see much that was new or exotic or foreign.  At that time, if there was a new restaurant opening in town that was not all about Southern Fried food, it had to be one of two alternatives – Chinese or Mexican.

So, here was this CPK – in Vegas of all places (it’s still there at Mirage), and my word, but there was an Indian dish on it. What an exciting feeling!  Like I had taken a small step on Indian soil while in America. You don’t get it?  Well, you had to be there.

Fast forward several years (at least two decades) and here I am, fresh off the boat from America to India.  [People here probably look at me just as strangely as when I was a new and different type of person over there].

Oh yes, what was the topic of this post? Pizza! Admittedly, I am not a big pizza eater ever since I took the Atkins vow. But, I can sense my taste buds stirring when I spy one of the flyers of the local Dominos, Pizza Hut or other Pizza establishment here.  The Tandoori Pizza of CPK is so… passe.

New Kinds of Pizza in India

Here is a sampling of the kinds of pizzas you can enjoy in Mumbai and many other cities in India –

FROM DOMINOS INDIA

Peppy Paneer – Chunky paneer with crisp capsicum and spicy red pepper

Spicy Chicken – Hot and spicy chicken with red pepper

Keema do Pyaaza  – double keema topped with onion and jalapeno

Chick N Spicy – Hot and Spicy Chicken with Capsicum and Mushrooms


FROM PIZZA HUT INDIA

Chicken Tikka Makhani – Tandoori Chicken, Onion, Tomatoes and Green Chillies

Kadai Chicken – Kadai Chicken + same as above

Kadai Paneer – Kadai Paneer + same as above

Paneer El Rancho – cross between Indian and Mexican pizza. 😉

And of course, as a spicy appetizer, Garlic Bread Spicy Supreme (Garlic bread with cheese, onions and green chillies)

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FROM SMOKING JOE’S (founded in India)

CHATPATA MAKKAI ALOO
American Corn and Potatoes cooked in a Tangy Sauce with Spring Onions and Capsicum

MURGH MALAIDAR
Succulent Chicken cooked in a Yoghuri based marinade with Spring Onions and Capsicum Spices of Capsicum and Onions

TANDOORI PANEER 
Tandoori Paneer + Coriander + Green Chillies

CHICKEN MALABARI 
Chicken cooked in Spicy Masala Gravy + Coriander

BUTTER CHICKEN 
Chicken cooked in Makhani Sauce + Coriander

Hungry yet? These are all pizzas, folks (except where it is garlic bread).

The Pizza Journey

The way I see the journey of the ultimate pizza is this…

1.The Italians invented it.

2.The Americans perfected it (or thought they did).

3.The Indians took the American version and added a spicy kick to it.

And so the new love affair begins…

Now, the trick is to export some of this distinctive, spicy, fiery fare back to the US for the Indian diaspora to enjoy.

The Hungry Market!

Finally, to give you an idea of how quickly and massively Indians are taking to pizza, Jubilant Foodworks (Dominos’ exclusive distributor in India) has been clocking 30% growth in same store sales over the past several quarters. It holds 50% market share in store sales and 70% in the home delivery segment.  Its market cap in July touched an amazing $1.4 billion. Compare that to the market cap of the franchiser Dominos Corporation which at that same time was $1.5 billion.  Jubilant’s revenue is about a tenth of Dominos!

The bullishness of investors appears totally out of sync – but they are obviously banking on this massive population continuing to fall in love with pizza. Not just any pizza, but the spicy Indian kinds. In this still nascent phase, who knows what other Masala and Vindaloo pizza we are yet to see? And taste.

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Note: All images are from the respective company websites.

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Posted on October 28, 2011, in india and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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