Skip to main content

Madam Ji is a Traditional-Modern Fusion of Indian Cuisine

India, the second-most populous country in the world, is home to one of the most dynamic cuisines in the world. A country with thousands of years of history, the origins of Hinduism, Buddhism, and countless languages and cultures, Indian cuisine is a vast subject. From the ghee and yogurt sauces of northern India to the fragrant, coconut-rich dishes of the south, Indian cuisine is incredibly diverse.

For this article, our expert is from Madam Ji, a modern Indian restaurant located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Opened by chef and owner Abishek Sharma in summer 2020, Madam Ji desires to provide a new type of culinary experience for Indian cuisine. “Indian food is becoming much more widely accepted and is more accessible than ever which I think is amazing,” said Sharma. “It is no longer an “exotic” or “rare” encounter which means that people have higher expectations than ever.”

Related Videos

The Spices

Array of Indian spices on table.

It’s impossible to discuss Indian cuisine without diving into the role of spices in India. Spices for Indian dishes can range from fragrant to subtle or spicy, each playing a role in the final flavor. It’s also important to understand that curry powder does not exist in Indian cuisine. The creation of curry powder was a Western invention, although curry powder is also used in Japanese cuisine (Japanese curry was derived from a British interpretation of Indian cuisine).

Instead, the closest thing to Western curry powder in India is masala, a mixture of spices and herbs that can vary greatly by region and household. A good masala is what gives many Indian dishes their patented flavors. Creating a masala mix involves a variety of fresh spices contained in a masala dabba, a circular spice container filled with round stainless steel containers of powdered and whole spices. The creation of a great Indian dish is heavily dependent on the layering and balancing of these spices. Often, spices are dry roasted before cooking to release the full aroma and fragrance.

Regional and Religious Diversity

South Indian food on banana leaf.
South Indian food in Tamil Nadu, India.

A common misconception is that all Indian cuisine is heavily spiced and rich. “I believe that Indian food is still misrepresented as heavy and overly spicy,” said Sharama. “But what people don’t see is the vast amount of fresh ingredients and layered mild spices that are incorporated into every dish.” In reality, there are many examples of Indian dishes that aren’t heavily spiced with chilis or rich with butter. Most Indian restaurants in America serve northern Indian food, which has a foundation of ghee (clarified butter), yoghurt, and wheat-based bread. But in other regions, such as the south or the coastlines, the use of coconut, mustard oil, and rice is more common. Although many dishes are spicy, every region in India will have items that range in spice level.

Many Indians are also vegetarian and that has a profound effect on the cuisine. Cuisine in India is heavily influenced by the countless religions in the country from Hindu vegetarians to non-pork eating Muslims and Jains, strict vegetarians that also don’t eat root vegetables and certain fruits. Even McDonalds is not immune to these influences — the beef patties in the Indian version of the Big Mac are replaced with chicken (called a Maharaja Mac).

A New Spin – Modern Indian Cuisine


This evolution and influence of modern sensibilities in Indian cuisine is not restricted to only fast food. At Madam Ji, Sharma is attempting to put a different spin on classic Indian flavors while still retaining aspects of tradition.

“At Madam Ji, we like to take traditional, nostalgic dishes and serve them with our interpretation of modern palates and style,” said Sharma. “We make sure that the traditional spices and flavors are not lost but are highlighted whether it is fusion or an elevated classic.”

Unlike the larger portions of traditional Indian items, Sharma offers smaller bites at Madam Ji with a modern, delicate presentation. These smaller bites enable guests to try multiple dishes, allowing for a more varied eating experience. The mixture of flavors can be quite unique at Madam Ji, such as the naan with goat cheese and samosas filled with American mac and cheese. Of course, not all of the dishes at Madam Ji are so contemporary. The array of tandoor roasted meat items at Madam Ji will taste familiar to any fan of classic Indian tandoori chicken or lamb, although the chops at Madam Ji comes delicately plated with an array of vegetables and a garnish of microgreens. There is a careful balance at Madam Ji of the modern with the traditional. Sharma has made an effort to include more classic dishes, such bone-in homestyle chicken curry slow-cooked with spices and onions and served with roti bread. An interesting element of Madam Ji is its cocktail and wine program. The majority of Indian restaurants in America do not offer curated, custom cocktails. Madam Ji has decided to challenge that narrative by creating several Indian-inspired cocktails.

Even the interior of Madam Ji represents something different, opting for a sleek, trendy vibe instead of the more formal look of a traditional Indian restaurant in America. All of this is leads to a combination of the old with the new, an evolution of Indian flavors. Yet, the foundation of Indian flavors is never neglected at Madam Ji. “We get creative with our ingredients while always making sure the Indian flavors are the star of the show,” said Sharma.

Editors' Recommendations

5 food and drink trends the experts wish would just go away
Food trends can be fun, but these are a few we're totally over
food and drink trends that should die in 2023 molecular gastronomy

We all love food trends. There's something exciting about being in on the fun and chatting knowingly about delicious newcomers like butter boards and cloud bread. Every now and then, it's good to jump on the bandwagon because you may find you love something you might not have otherwise tried if not for TikTok or Instagram. We're all for unique experiences and constantly learning and trying new things. Sometimes, though, these trends outstay their welcome. Sometimes, they just won't take the hint, which means it's time to drop the nice manners and scoot them out the door. We've chatted with some experts in the food world to find out which of these trends they're most eager to see go, and we have to admit — we couldn't agree more.

Molecular gastronomy
Marissa Johnson, professional event planner and founder of Inflatable Blast, says, "This trend has been around for a while, and it's time for it to go. We're all for experimentation in the kitchen, but some of the 'molecular' dishes we've seen look more like science experiments than food."

Read more
The best (and worst) stadium food in the US, ranked analyzed over 100,000 reviews to bring you the best and the worst foods at U.S. sports arenas
Baseball food — chili dog and chili fries.

The beginning of winter is a time for sports highlights. Baseball is in the midst of free agency, the NBA season features marquee matchups throughout the holidays, and the NFL is tilting toward the playoffs. Whether it’s in your hometown or an excursion on the road, heading to a sporting event is an iconic way to experience a locale. Sports stadiums like to show off local culture, and there are few better ways to do this than with stadium food.

M&R Glasgow
The best stadium food

Read more
Mcdonald’s explores automated store, so our dystopian future is one step closer
McDonald's newest endeavor is a super-sized mistake
adult happy meals are here nonthaburi  bang yai 29 there is a 2017 logo mcdonald s

Well, it's finally happened, folks. At long last, robots have officially taken over. No, they didn't come for our cars, our computers, or our homes. They've come for our cheeseburgers.

Last month, in Fort Worth, Texas, McDonald's launched their first automated, no-humans-required, soulless and lovin' it restaurant, and people have feelings.

Read more