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A burst of Singaporean and Indian flavours as Zomato enters the digital space

Food and entertainment carnival Zomaland organised online this year over two weekends earlier this month
Native showcases ingredients that are locally foraged, in their bespoke cocktails. The Singapore-based bar holds the 12th position in the World’s 50 Best Bar rankings.

Nandini Ganguly   |     |   Published 26.06.20, 09:07 PM

The current situation due to the pandemic has forced many popular festivals around the world to take the digital route, just like food aggregator biggie Zomato’s food and entertainment carnival — Zomaland. What usually brings together celebrated chefs and restaurants under one roof along with curated entertainment, and is held across different cities in India, was organised online this year over two weekends earlier this month.

The online carnival titled Zomaland@Home, held in partnership with Singapore Tourism Board for the second time, had cooking demonstrations, candid and fun-filled sessions, all streamed live on the Zomato app and its social media pages.

This year’s line-up included names from the food, entertainment and nightlife industry from Singapore as well as India like chef Saransh Goila, chef and food writer Sarah Huang Benjamin, chef Eric Chan, stand-up comedian Abish Mathew, and mixologist and owner of one of Asia’s 50 best bars, Vijay Mudaliar. Some of the curated shows like Kitchen Roast, Table Talk and Late Night Munchies are available for watching on the aggregator app and its social media handles.


Talking sustainability and going back to the roots with award-winning mixologist Vijay Mudaliar

It was after we watched Vijay Mudaliar’s live stream on Zomaland@Home about DIY cocktails with locally sourced ingredients, is when we hit the press button on Google and found out about the Singapore-based mixologist. Vijay’s bar, Native, is ranked 12th in the World’s 50 Best Bars list and sixth in Asia’s 50 Best Bars rankings. Native is one of those names in the international bar scene that seems to be taking necessary steps in order to lessen their impact in the environment by being sustainable and going back to roots. A global trend that Vijay Mudaliar seems to have tapped into.

Here’s what we learnt about the award-winning bartender…

We came across an interview of yours where you said, “who we are, where we are from and what’s around us”, while describing the idea that Native is based on. Why Native?

Working in some of the world’s most renowned bars for nearly a decade, I finally decided to begin my independent journey and founded Native, driven by the concept of ‘foraging’, which is something I believe in. The foundation is based on the values of sustainability, Asian roots and tradition.

Native ranks 12th in the World’s 50 Best Bars list and sixth in Asia’s 50 Best Bars rankings. What was the creative process behind Native like?

The core (idea) of Native is inspired by the cultural heritage and diverse flavours, which originated from Singapore. We try to source regional ingredients, which our grandparents used, and incorporate them in our innovative recipes.

Did being sustainable come easy or was that the most difficult part?

Sustainability is (a) buzzword that’s been thrown a lot these days. However, we have always integrated it as a part of our lifestyle at the bar. Being in the food and beverage industry, we believe it is an integral part of our ethos and it plays a huge role in shaping how our customer thinks and drinks.

Zomaland went virtual this year with Zomaland@Home and you hosted a show as a part of that. Do you see popular food festivals taking the same route post-pandemic as well?

We understand that it will take some time for people to hit the bars and clubs like the earlier times, but that shouldn’t stop them from celebrating at home or unwinding their day with a drink or two. Enjoying an evening by the bar side, sipping your favourite cocktails is always more fun but as long as it is unsafe to gather in social places, virtual platforms are filling the void by enabling people to connect and socialise through Internet. It is inexpensive and people are preferring to sign up for such events.

It was exciting to be hosted by Zomato and the Singapore Tourism Board who provided a platform for curating these decorative cocktails and engage with cocktail enthusiasts who are looking for mixology hacks at home.

The ongoing pandemic has taken us back to basics. Did you revisit any ingredient and found it interesting to work with during this time?

We have been working a lot with familiar local flavours such as calamansi, blue pea flowers, laksa leaves. Revisiting our local flavours but in different ways.

What do you think is going to be the trend in the world of mixology in what is going to be the “new normal”?

We are definitely going to see things like cocktail delivery and home-based activations being the new normal.

Do you see a major shift in the format of the international bar scene?

Yes, the global bar community is getting much more connected and we are seeing greats bars popping all over. We are going to see more innovation and creativity accelerating the scene in the next few years.

Have you explored the cocktail bar scene in India? If yes, was there any particular ingredient/local spirit that inspired you to come up with your own version with that in it?

India is full of interesting ingredients and it is always fun explorating the various options available there. One of my favourite ingredient is gondhoraj. It’s an amazing citrus that packs so much flavour. We brought back some and made cocktails with jamun, which has a great colour and flavour to it.

What are the most interesting ingredients we will find at Native?

Some are interesting and some are familiar but used in different ways. We explore things like wild pepper leafs, wild ginger flowers, using foraged jackfruit plus it’s seeds and foraged starfruits are just some of the interesting ingredients we use at Native.

According to you, what’s the most versatile ingredient that pairs well with most of the spirits?

Coconut! It’s one of my favourite ingredients and it goes mostly with any spirit!

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