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This site is dedicated to every place I've visited ever that has made my tummy happy, it might be cheap, expensive, home made, restaurant made, baked, fried , toasted, pickled or frozen

A taste of nature

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By tyeeao · March 8, 2013 · 0 Comments ·


Eastbourne Bed and Breakfast, lockstockb, SXCFood in its natural, unadulterated form is truly an eye opening experience, and one, which Indians are slowly catching on to. 

There has been a serious paradigm shift in the minds of many Indian consumers about organic produce as a growing section of the population becomes increasingly health conscious. Organic produce; grown without the use of any pesticides, chemical fertilisers or genetic modification has become the new lifestyle choice for many Indians today. With gourmet food stores on the rise in the leading metropolitan cities, organically grown produce is now a statement about how conscious you are about what goes into your body.

Although every authority on organic food in India is adamant about the fact that organic produce shouldn’t be considered a luxury, and should be made readily available to everyone, the fact remains that as of now the reach of these products is to a certain luxury segment of the market. According to Chef Jaydeep Mukherjee of Indigo in Mumbai, “The manufacture of organic produce in the country is still very niche, but if you go back to the beginning of agriculture, everything was produced organically. It’s only in recent times that we began using chemicals and genetic modification to grow our food. Now, the entire process has been bastardized, shortened and corrupted which is why if you want organic food today it is available to you at a premium price.”

The reason for this is that the production of organic ingredients is on such a small scale that the supply is limited. On the other hand, its easier and cheaper to grow grain, vegetables and the like with the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers making it freely available and cheap. Megha, avid blogger and the hands behind i2cook organic products says, “'Organic' is not a luxury but a necessity, however, considering that the growth of organic farming is yet to receive mass acceptance and the requirements of following this path are not inexpensive, and the end cost to the consumer is high. Hence, it is a luxury currently in India, and still must grow into a way of life. Once we reach an ‘organic’ mindset, the prices will definitely fall.”

Organic food is in limited supply because the land allocated for organic farming is limited. For food to be genuinely organic, the land should be left fallow for some number of years to rid it of chemicals and other agents that are introduced into the process of growing produce. As more people opt to eat organic food, demand will grow; supply will then increase and that’s when there will be economies of scale. In the foreseeable future, organic products will not be expensive due to a shift in demand. Good food which is healthy for the body isn’t a luxury; good health is! That’s the philosophy we follow at Organic Haus,” explains Dilip Doshi, founder of Organic Haus.

The benefits of going organic are many fold. First, organic farmers are more ecologically friendly as they don’t pollute their soil with chemicals and pesticides. Also, the food is healthier because it isn’t at all polluted with chemicals. The effect of this kind of agriculture on the environment is also significantly less because it uses less resources than conventional farming. The ultimate aim for a health conscious person is to make intelligent choices when it comes to food and care about what goes into your stomach. If you buy quality ingredients instead of eating junk food you are automatically healthier and happier.  Ultimately eating organically is promoting a lifestyle change as much as it is providing good, clean produce.

Although nascent, this industry is growing steadily. “The organic food industry—speaking specifically about packaged products—is only growing as the Indians become increasingly health conscious and picky about what they eat and buy. They’re also asking about certifications, health benefits, and other aspects of organic food. Figures indicate that the Indian market is going to worth 7000 crore by 2014 from 675 crore in 2010,” says Dilip. sThat indicates how people are choosing organic products, be it fresh or packaged over other options. “Although there’s a lot of room for understanding what actually comprises organic food, and dispelling various myths that people harbour, we believe that the trend is likely to be positive,” he adds.

Organic is not a new discovery. It is the natural way that has been forgotten and is now making a steady comeback. One that is more than welcome considering the unhealthy habits that generations have cultivated over the years. Luxury or not, health is now the main concern the world over, and the growth of the organic industry is doing just that.

I wrote this article for Time 'n Style Luxury (Luxpresso)

The heat is on

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By tyeeao · March 8, 2013 · 0 Comments ·


Juliet Belasyse-Smith, SXCRose is the quintessential summer drink, and with wine gaining popularity in India, this is a perfect choice to counter our tropical, unforgiving heat. In a season that calls for light meals and cooling drinks, it is hearty to note that rose also goes exceptionally well with light, refreshing salads. To add another dimension to this summer drink is it’s pink colour, resulting from the length of contact between the skins and the juice. This duration of contact decides how light or vivid the pink is going to be, and each rose corresponds to a different pink on the palette. Broadly you can expect roses to be dry or sweet and much less bold as compared to red wine. Fruity flavours of strawberry, cherry, raspberry and even the subtlety of watermelon shine through this wine. Versatile with its pairing, it can be eaten with a variety of meats and seafood alike. Most of all, its best served cold.


Dan Ruth & Ellie Roscher, FlickrSangrias, Spritzers and Sunday Brunch

Summer in the Indian subcontinent is the perfect time for long, leisurely and languid Sunday brunches that allow for a slow setting without having to sacrifice your social life completely because of the heat. What better beverage option at a brunch that Sangria. With Spanish roots, Sangria is a wine punch that is traditionally made out of red wine, fresh seasonal fruits and a splash of normal or citrus-flavoured soda. Over the years though, there have been many variations of the Sangria that use white wine and even Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. Its cooling, fresh fruity taste goes hand in hand with the strong sunshine of the summer. Another option is the wine spritzer, of which there are many types too. The most basic is white wine and seltzer or club soda. Each country in Europe seems to have a different take to this cocktail. One of the more famous versions is served in Italy, where they use Prosecco, club soda, and Campari or some other coloured alcohol.


cumi&ciki, FlickrChampagne
and Wine Cocktails

Cocktails are a fun, interesting way to enjoy a drink and in the summer, the central ingredient best be wine or champagne. The list of cocktails and concoctions that star one of these two drinks is dangerously long, but the all-time favourite is the Bellini- champagne and fruit juice.

This is a story I wrote for luxpresso online

A Perfect Balance

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By tyeeao · March 8, 2013 · 0 Comments ·


jetalone, FlickrJapanese cuisine is full of exotic ingredients that turn into out of the ordinary dishes, which can only be defined as culinary luxury. 
 

Japanese cuisine calls for the harmony of all senses and is known to be extremely healthy in addition to being exotic to our tastes. With a vast section of society being exposed to different cultures and tastes through their travels, Indians today are developing a palate for varied tastes, as well as becoming health conscious which makes Japanese cuisine a very popular choice. “When they are back in India they still want to enjoy the flavours and cuisine that they experienced abroad,” says Executive Chef Clinton Cooper, The Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai.

In Japan, the fugu or pufferfish is a valued delicacy. The thrill of eating this particular fish is that it is highly toxic, about a thousand times more poisonous than cyanide. If not prepared with the utmost care, enjoy this dish can quickly be fatal. It is for this reason that Japanese law requires that only licensed chefs be allowed to prepare this dangerous dish, and this takes up to three years. Afterwards, the chefs have to pass a written test and a practical test, where it is said that they have to prepare and eat the fish themselves. Executive Chef Clinton Cooper says, “Most deaths have occurred when fishermen catch puffer fish and try to prepare it themselves without the required training.” As part of the thrill for connoisseurs, professional chefs sometimes leave a bit of the poison in so that it partially numbs the tongue and lips for a brief period of time. Most commonly served as sashimi, it can also be prepared deep fried, in a salad or a stew. The soft roe of the fugu, is also a delicacy which is grilled and served with salt. Also, the scales of the fugu can be dried out, baked and served with hot sake. The liver has most of the poison, and hence it is not eaten at all.

First time visitors and connoisseurs alike are likely to be extremely satisfied after a meal at San Qi. You can choose from four different cuisines; Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Indian, each backed by amazing chefs who reinvent and recreate their menu ever so often.

The Japanese menu includes delicacies like Fugu and silken tofu as well as an excellent selection of sushi and sashimi. In their assorted Tsukiji Market selection you can find sashimi of Yellow Tail, Botan Ebi shrimp, Fatty tuna, Globe fish and Hokkaido Scallop. The special part about this selection is that it is top quality, premium produce sourced from the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. It is supposed to be the largest wholesale seafood market in the world. “Once a month, our chef visits the market and brings back the best produce, so you can be assured of quality,” adds Chef Clinton.

Their fugu preparation is precise and simple, and more than the taste of the fish, it is the texture and thrill of eating it that is completely exciting.

The Kobe beef is another must-try, at San Qi. It is not for nothing that it is considered the most premium beef in the world. “The cow is raised on top quality grain and beer and is massaged daily to keep it as relaxed as possible to ensure maximum tenderness,” explains Chef Clinton. This creates unique marbled meat, which is high in fat content and subsequently melts in your mouth. The delicious salad of asparagus and Shimeji mushrooms adds a lovely contrast to the richness of the meat. All in all, a harmonious meal. 

This is a story I wrote for luxpresso online

A harmony of senses

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By tyeeao · March 8, 2013 · 0 Comments ·


 Geoff Peters 604, Flickr

Japanese cuisine is a lesson in simplistic elegance. Beautiful presentation, fresh ingredients, and a play on textures have made this food very popular in India today.

The quintessential Japanese meal is a lesson in art appreciation. The visual appeal of not only the meal, but even the décor, the tableware arrangement and its creative expression is very instrumental in soaking in the experience of the cuisine. Japanese cooking pays immense attention to the quality of its ingredients, especially with sushi and sashimi.

“The essence of Japanese cuisine is based on the fundamental belief that the best tastes occur naturally and need only be enhanced by the slightest intervention. In keeping with that belief, sashimi is the best instance of the nation’s food philosophy,” explains Chef Kazuhiro Koizumi, Japanese Chef , Pan Asian, ITC Maratha.  

The concept of Goho in Japanese cooking refers to the five basic preparation styles that a Japanese meal includes. These are:

Raw (tsukuru), includes sushi and sashimi, the most popular Japanese preparations. Sashimi is expertly sliced raw fish served with daikon and wasabi, while Sushi is raw fish and sticky rice, treated with vinegar and served in nori (seaweed). Nowadays, sushi also includes vegetables and meat that is either cooked or marinated.

Simmered (nimono) includes Sukiyaki and Oden. The first refers to a kind of stew with sliced meat, vegetables, tofu and noodles, while the second is a winter dish of fish cakes, eggs, seaweed and radish in dashi soup.

Steamed (mushimono) includes Chawanmushi, a healthy steamed eggpot which is traditionally the first meal children eat. Also, Yose Mushi is a dish of vegetables and seafood in a light broth.

Grilled (yakimono) includes Teppenyaki, Teriyaki and Yakitori. These three types are very popular in Japanese restaurants around the world as they are prepared in front of the guest on a grill.

Deep fried (agemono) includes dishes like Agedashi Tofu, Tonkatsu, and the most famous Tempura. All these are either tofu, pork or seafood deep fried in batter and served with different condiments.

Types of Sushi

Though sushi began life as part of a widespread ancient Asian tradition of pickling fish for preservation, it now refers to a combination of raw fish and vinegar- flavoured rice with its street origins in the early 1800s The nature of sushi itself has undergone a fundamental shift, with Californian influences- mayonnaise, avocado, mango, faux seafood, firmly embedded in the rice-and-fish concoction. 
      “An example of a modified Japanese Sushi is the uramaki roll. Uramaki literally means "insideout maki roll". Some found that the dark texture of the nori didn’t suit their palate. So, innovative Japanese chefs turned the makizushi on its head, literally, by tucking the nori inside the layer of the rice, and calling it uramaki. 

“Japanese cuisine is extremely healthy as it focuses on the freshness of the ingredients and maintains their integrity by not processing them too much. It allows the true flavours to speak for themselves. This is why as Indians are getting more health conscious, Japanese cuisine is becoming more popular. Also, the majority of Indians are now very well travelled.  When they are back in India they still want to enjoy the flavours and cuisine that they experienced abroad.  Indians are also getting more adventurous in their eating habits and it is a chance for those who haven't travelled to enjoy a taste of being abroad,” adds Executive Chef Clinton Cooper, San Qi, The Four Seasons. 

Sushi rice wrapped in nori and topped with another item, usually fish roe

Rice filled into deep fried tofu pouches

The most common preparation of a seafood or vegetable filling wrapped in sushi rice, and finally a layer of nori.

A small piece of seafood on top of a knob of sushi rice

Cones made out of nori, filled with rice and other toppings

Sushi rice shaped like a ball, and topped with seafood or any other topping

Referred to as the haute cuisine of Japan,  Kaiseki is  a complex formal meal, with mini portions of many preparations, that celebrates shun,  the freshness of food, by employing only the highest- quality, in-season, local ingredients, is Japanese haute cuisine. It is visual artistry that confluences with aromas and flavours and combines colours, textures and the appearance of the food. Traditional Kaiseki cuisine does not include meat, owing to its Buddhist origins.

--Inputs by Chef Kazuhiro Koizumi, Pan Asian, ITC Maratha and Executive Chef Clinton Cooper, San Qi, Four Seasons Hotel.

 This is a story I wrote for Time 'n Style Luxury (Luxpresso) 

A taste of home

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By tyeeao · May 16, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Vineet Bhatia, Ziya, Oberoi

Beginnings

As a child I was a very poor eater, and I chanced upon food quite accidentally. I actually wanted to become a jet pilot for the Air Force. When that didn’t work out, I joined hotel management; thinking that I would work at a bar, mixing cocktails, but the kitchen was my calling. I walked in one day, and never looked back since. Now, you can’t keep food away from me.

Of beliefs and inspirations

My food philosophy can be explained in one line; keep it simple. The flavour of the elements needs to come through, so it needs to be uncomplicated and focus on the key ingredients. Fresh produce makes all the difference in achieving this end. Good quality product treated with respect and love doesn’t need embellishment, and will taste divine just as is.

I’ve never had a godfather in the industry, but I have been lucky to have brilliant grounding and training in my field from the Institute of Hotel Management in Dadar, to the start of career at the Oberoi Hotel. That said, I moved out of India at a very young age, so I didn’t really have a particular mentor to teach me. Instead, I learnt from everyone, everywhere.

I do admire world class chefs that have built successful food empires like Alain Ducasse.

The Indian affair

Indian fare runs in my blood. I’ve grown up on it, so it’s not something I can get bored with. There is such depth of flavours and spices in Indian cuisine that you don’t necessarily come across in other cuisines. We also have very deep historical and cultural ties with food. Every successive empire that ruled India diversified the cuisine, which adds to the deep rooted food culture of the country.

Travel tales

I’ve had the good fortune to travel to many places, especially now on account of my new show, Twist of Taste. This opportunity has only made me realise how different each place is from the next, even within India. From Punjab to Chennai and Guwhati, the food element is immense, and world’s apart. There is so much depth in the cuisine of different parts of the country and in the world that as a chef it becomes very difficult to choose one. I tend to keep each food memory as a souvenirs of all the places I’ve been, and then try and incorporate styles, techniques, flavours and ingredients from everywhere into my cuisine. Internationally, I am partial towards Venezuela because it was pristine and untouched, and from those crystal clear waters, I got to try some of the best seafood I’ve ever eaten in my life. The simplest preparations of the seafood chargrilled with a little salt, pepper and lime, right on the beach, was a magical meal.

Art of Creation

Cooking is a medium of self expression, and I believe that a chef’s personality shines through his food. Also, your mood plays a huge role in the food you prepare and the menus decide. I also pick up techniques and adapt them to my style of cooking. Asking a chef which of his creations he likes best, is like asking a father to pick a favourite son, you just can’t do it. That said, I have a great sweet tooth, and I can safely say that the chocolates samosas I have on my menu are by the far most famous, and most loved item by all my patrons. There’s a blend of dark chocolate, white chocolate and almond, in a samosa. What’s not to love?

I am constantly thinking about food, and conceptualising new ideas, consciously or subconsciously. But sometimes, ideas also come to me in a flash, and things just have a way of coming together when you start working on the initial idea.

Stars- the Michelin kind

It came as a big surprise when we were awarded our first Michelin star. Way back in 1999, when we opened Rasoi, the idea was to cook from your heart and please your guests, and that’s exactly why we got a star after a mere year of opening. An achievement like that really changes your life because you are lifted to the limelight and the food that you cook and believe in gets the recognition it deserves. Also, it helps you stand out from a crowd because once you have a star, you are taken a lot more seriously, which also motivates you to do more and push the boundaries. The essence of my cooking has not changed but I have certainly taken all my experiences and evolved.

Reality TV

We were very clear about not wanting to venture into television initially. So when we were approached, I agreed to do a show only if it was educational in some way. I had no interest in doing the same kind of cooking shows with butter chicken and rogan ghosht that you see on television today. They left it to me, and I came up with the idea of discovering food from different places and putting a twist to the traditional dish, so that the flavour is the same but is prepared or looks completely different. The idea pleases everybody because there is food, travel as well as room for creativity.

The first of 13 episodes was scripted, but soon after we realised that we can’t plan what to cook. Of course, preliminary research about the place was conducted so we knew what the place had to offer more or less but what we cooked was a completely spontaneous decision. We visited each place, went to local markets, walked through the street and found our inspiration there itself. What we cooked on each episode was pretty much decided on the spot, taking cues from our interaction with the locals because that’s where the true taste of India is, not in the five-star hotels.

Favourite memory: As a child, eating parathas with lamb cooked by my mother

Most memorable meal: Up in the mountains in Switzeland, with my family eating pizza while it was snowing outside.

-This is a story I wrote for Time 'n Style Luxury magazine

Mixing molecules

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By tyeeao · May 14, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Born in Angers, the birthplace of Cointreau, it was probably in Richard Lambert’s destiny to ultimately end up being the brand’s Global Brand Ambassador.

Richard Lambert Courtesy Cointreau

The cocktail story

It all began with my love for the bar and its inimitable vibrant culture, at a young age. I was always fascinated by the world of cocktails. My passion about perfecting the craft of cocktail making and learn all about the intricacies lead me to pursue a career in mixology.

Molecular mixology

Molecular Mixology is a special practice of mixing drinks using the analysis and techniques found in science to understand and experiment with cocktail ingredients on a molecular level. Inspired by the practice of molecular gastronomy (which works in similar ways with food dishes wherein the dish are completely deconstructed into different elements but tasting it together will still be the same as the original) this practice has become a popular study of many mixologists. It is very interesting from the research point of view, it really open a new era for cocktail making.

Mixing drinks

To conceptualise a new cocktail, what you need is the power of empathy. Being sensitive to your customer's mood instantly gives you the wisdom of what kind of drink to make for him or her. For eg: After a hard day's work, the cocktail you mix for a lady would be very different from the one you'd serve her on a dinner date with her boyfriend.

Recent trends

Topping the trend list is classic revival, meaning that bartenders are going back to the essence of the original cocktails recipe. We are talking about cocktails such as White Lady, Margarita, Side Car or even Cosmopolitan.

Another trend that is up and coming is the use of fresh fruits which offers a new kind of dimension to a cocktail or helps create something new.

Cointreau talking

The 160 year old, world famous orange liqueur, Cointreau was first made by Edouard Cointreau. The intent behind Cointreau was to create a new brand of Triple Sec. Cointreau was the original triple sec. Many have heard of Cointreau and many have had first hand experience with it, either while toasting with a margarita or celebrating with a soufflé. As Global Brand Ambassador for Cointreau, I am on a mission to enlighten the world with virtues of Cointreau and its unique know-how. I want to share finer nuances of blending cocktails and Cointreau’s importance in making the world’s best cocktails.

During my recent visit to India, I was overwhelmed by the response from the bartenders and mixologists in India. More and more bartending professionals understand Cointreau’s importance in blending some famous cocktails and appreciate its unique attributes. It was an eye opening experience.

Signature Cocktail

I have always enjoyed mixing cocktails but creating cocktail for Ms. Dita Von Teese was a memorable moment for me. While creating the cocktail, I kept in mind Dita’s sumptuous and seductive image of controversial Ambassadress and burlesque artiste and the creation resulted in Cointreau Teese.

Ms. Dita Von Teese adores violets, this flower stood out as the obvious choice. Cointreau Teese is concocted like a fine emanation of the inspirations of this beautiful icon of burlesque. Like her, it is subtle and incredibly refined.

BOX :

Cointreau is the exotic orange liqueur from France and the original Triple Sec. Cointreau’s texture and fruity flavour along with use of natural ingredients like essential oil, make it a perfect cocktail ingredient

-    50ml (1.6 fl oz) Cointreau

-    30ml (1 fl oz) Cranberry juice

-    20ml (0.6 fl oz) Lemon juice

The bartender's tip: add the orange zest to your drink.

  • One can add different ingredients like fruits and spices, and it tastes even better.

 

-This was an interview I took for an article on molecular mixology for the Time 'n Style Luxury magazine

Ciao Italia

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By tyeeao · May 14, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Chef Vincenzo Courtesy Oberoi Hotels

A taste of true blue Italian cuisine is never too far away for those who have visited Vetro, at the Oberoi in Mumbai. With simple, yet stunning food, and a perfect ambience, this restaurant takes the dining experience to the next level.

What makes or breaks a restaurant, other than the food, is the quality of service offered to every single table. And here, Vetro scores a cool 10 on 10, because from the moment you walk in, till you take the last sip of their Fresh Brew coffee, the staff will make you feel comfortable and special. The space is astounding, and the extensive use of glass gives the restaurant a distinctively different appearance and feel at different times of the day. With the option of a lounge and a dining area, guests can decide whether they just want to enjoy a leisurely glass of wine or enjoy a full fledged sit-down meal.  Vetro also boasts of a large Enoteca or wine library which has an extensive collection of Italian wines that have selections from Piedmont, Toscana and Venetto, and the best wines from Tuscany, known as ‘Super Tuscans’. You get to sample 4 reds and whites, along with a selection of Italian cheeses, and then pick the perfect one to go with your meal. This entire experience is bound to work up a good deal of excitement for the meal that follows.

Starting out with a refreshing glass of champagne, while mulling over the menu, you can instantly see how simple yet delicious the creations are. Abandoning all efforts to pick from the many options in front of me, I go with the suggestions of the staff and prepare to be amazed.

As a first course, the Lasagne of Blue Crab, with crispy squid and a deep red, seafood sauce with chilli oil, was simply perfect. The contrasting textures of the crispy squid opposing the soft crab meat, is lovely to taste. Following, was one of my favourites; Squid Ink Taglioni with green mussels, three pepper cream, lemon and clams. The colour that the squid ink lends to the dish is in itself so very interesting, and then to add to it, the elements of citrus and the fresh clams and mussels leaves all your senses deeply satisfied.

If you can, you must also try the Roast Red Snapper with broad bean and horseradish cream, marinated in cherry tomatoes. The fresh softness of the fish and the crunchy broad bean is a perfect combination to taste along with the zing of the horse radish cream.

Of course, no meal is complete without a little something sweet, and boy, does Head Chef, Vincenzo di Tuoro know how to serve up some dolce. If ever you get a chance to visit, a must try is the Vanilla Pannacotta which is like a cooked cream, with a peach and coconut sorbet and the always famous Tiramisu, a coffee, mascarpone, chocolate and liquer dessert,  with with raspberry and Himalayan honey sorbet. A full belly and cup of fresh brew later, and you’re ready to take on the world.

This is an article I wrote for  Time 'N Style magazine, November-December 2011 issue

 

Royal Foods

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By tyeeao · October 14, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

As part of their lineage, royal cooks passed on their knowledge from generation to generation. It was a matter of great pride and honour for each senior to be able to convey this valuable information to his son. Owing to their status, and illiteracy, these recipes were communicated verbally, and were never written down. The kitchens operated in a manner, where each cook specialised in a dish, and the recipe of that dish was a closely guarded family secret.


Courtesy ITC Sheraton Rajputana Courtesy ITC Sheraton Rajputana Courtesy ITC Sheraton Rajputana Courtesy Bala Ringe

 

RAJASTHANI CUISINE

The Rajputs of Rajasthan are descendants of the noble warrior class and were keen hunters. Though a large portion of Rajasthan is dominated by vegetarians, the Rajputs are extremely fond of game meat. Quail, partridge and rabbit are fixtures in their preparations. They are one section of royalty that is completely removed from the Muslim influences shared by Hyderabadi and Mughlai or even Awadhi cuisine. Their Hindu heritage and the fact that they lived in the harsh conditions of a desert region influenced the kind of food they cooked and ate. Laal maas and safed maas are the most famous meat preparations of the Rajputs. Laal maas is game meat or any other kind of meat, cooked in a red curry with chillies. It is spicy owing to the chillies found in Mathania, a village close to Jodhpur. Safed maas is meat cooked in milk and hence has a white curry. Another favourite among game meat, is rabbit, and the Jodhpur gharana is famous for a dish called khud kharghosh, which is rabbit or hare meat cooked and roasted in a pit. The most common bread served in Rajasthan is bajre ki roti, made out of millet, a grain found in the area. Today, these recipes are served in five star hotels all over the country, but its origins lie in the honest food, hunted on the unforgiving grounds of this desert land.

Courtesy Bala Ringe Courtesy ITC Maratha Courtesy ITC Maratha

AWADHI CUISINE

The rule of the Mughals in India greatly influenced how a significant part of this country dines today. The richness and opulence of the food in this cuisine ensures that it is unmistakably the food of royalty. Lucknow’s Awadhi cuisine is influenced by the Mughal cooking styles. Traditionally, apart from being rich, the food from this region is also very meat-oriented. The explosion of flavours that is evident in Mughlai food comes from the many spices used in a dish. In addition, the aromas that waft through are the result of cooking with ground and whole spices. The bawarchi of Awadh introduced the dum pukht (slow oven) style of cooking hundreds of years ago, which involves sealing the vessel with the food inside, and cooking it over a slow fire. This is along the same lines of pressure cooking and allows the food to cook in its own steam and meat to cook in its own juices and remain tender. This tradition is believed to have arisen from need. The ruler of Awadh, it is said needed to feed his people during a famine. So he ordered a pit to be dug and sealed containers to be put inside, and cooked for a long time on slow coal fires.

The ingredients used, like mutton, saffron, lamb and cardamom ensure richness in the food, as does the assortment of preparations served at a dastarkhwan, which literally means a ceremonial dining spread. A large gathering of people sit around the elaborately laid out table and dine in communion. Two of the most famous dishes in Awadhi cuisine are kormas, kakori and galauti kebabs. Both these dishes have been introduced by the Mughals and are now an intrinsic part of the dastarkhwan. A korma is a preparation that braises meat in a thick, buttery curry, which is rich and delicious but mildly spiced. It is eaten with a variety of Indian breads like naan, tandoori roti or roomali roti. The kakori and galauti kebab is decidedly the most lavish of the kebab family and is distinctly popular because of its smooth velvety texture. Legend has it that these kebabs were prepared for toothless nawabs who didn’t want to give up the luxury of eating meat. The meat is ground and kept moist so that the smoothness remains intact. The difference between kebabs in Awadhi cooking and those in Punjab is that in the former, they are cooked over coal and wood grill and in the latter they are cooked in a tandoor (an oven made of clay).

Courtesy Bala Ringe Courtesy ITC Maratha Courtesy ITC Maratha

HYDERABADI CUISINE

The Nizams of Hyderabad were said to be excellent hosts and so it should come as no surprise that the menus served at these stately affairs were nothing less than extraordinary. Their elaborate feasts were a matter of pride and honour, and cemented their status in society. Awadhi, Mughlai and Hyderabadi have a sense of commonality in the fact that they are all Muslim colonies and have similar food items, but cooked in drastically different ways. Hyderabadi cuisine focusses on procuring the right kind of ingredients and cooking them in a certain way to create a desired result. They are famous for the use of elements like tamarind and coconut in many preparations that lend it a distinctive flavour. Though practically every state has its own version of the biryani, the Hyderabadi biryani has become something of a legend in India today. They have two ways of preparing the biryani, one is called pakki biryani and the other is called kacchi gosht biryani. The pakki biryani is when the meat and rice are cooked separately and then layered together, and is similar to the awadhi style of biryani. In the kacchi style, the meat is marinated and the meat and rice are cooked together in a dough-sealed container. This style requires lots of effort to ensure that the meat is cooked perfectly, without over-cooking the rice. It is served along with mirch ka salan (gravy of green chilly) and dahi chutney (yoghurt mixed with mint chutney and onions). Hyderabad is also famous for other non-vegetarian dishes like nihari, which is cooked overnight and traditionally eaten in the morning at the break of dawn. It is rich with the flavour of bone marrow and tender pieces of meat that just slide off the bone. Their preparation of raan, a leg of lamb, is also a long, tedious process of marinating the meat overnight and cooking it in an oven the next day. The royal cooks or khansamas knew the importance of the virtue of patience when it came to creating good food, and consequently turned it into an art form.

 

-- With inputs from Rajdeep Kapoor, Executive Chef, ITC Maratha and Akshraj Jodha, Master Chef, ITC Sheraton Rajputana

This is an article I wrote for  Time 'N Style magazine, September-October 2011 issue

An interview with A.D. Singh, owner of Olive Bar & Kitchen

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By tyeeao · October 14, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

A.D. Singh


Aspiring high…

I was far removed from the hospitality industry when I first began my career. After completing my engineering in America, I worked for Cadbury for a while, but I realised it wasn’t for me. I then tried out the NGO sector, but I figured I couldn’t build a life with that salary. I slowly entered the hospitality field, when I opened a small venture called Party Lines, through which I organised boat parties. It started doing quite well! Ultimately, I opened a small café in the Flora Fountain area of Mumbai called Just Desserts, which was a decade before opening the Olive Bar and Kitchen. So it did take me a lot of time and a couple of trials, before I actually realised that my passion lay in this business.

Of trials and tribulations…

As with any other entrepreneurial venture, I faced many challenges through my career. Working through those meant finding a way to handle the external environment and the people involved in it. When the Bowling Company was started, we got caught between the mill workers and the government. Again, when we started Olive in Delhi and Bengaluru, we had to deal with everything--from the ministers to facing restrictions from the surrounding residential areas. Also, obtaining quality ingredients and produce is a big challenge, because ultimately the success of a restaurant depends on the quality of food. Initially, I also struggled with trying to attract the right crowd to the restaurant, but that happened over time.

Inspiring palate…

I was in Phuket, Thailand with friends and family, years ago and we ate at the same place practically everyday. It had such a comfortable, lazy vibe to it that we found ourselves completely relaxed. I wanted that same feeling of leisure and peacefulness in my restaurant. I found an architect, who worked with my vision. It turned out just the way I had expected!

Olive Bar & Kitchen, Bandra

An experience…

I feel that having the right luxurious ambience is integral to the entire restaurant experience. People need a place to enjoy the cuisines and food they taste, so the external atmosphere has to be conducive for leisure. Outdoor spaces, with elements of nature, add to the feeling of creative freedom and serenity.

Standing out…

I believe in sticking to the basics. You can’t go wrong if you’ve perfected them. Finally, it all comes down to great food, good wine and warm service. Until you have all these ingredients in the right proportions and working the right way, you will not enjoy success. I also like to be involved in all the processes of the restaurant, so even though my chefs conceptualise the menu, I do participate in the discussions and tastings.

This is an article I wrote for the Time 'N Style Luxury June-July 2011 issue

 

Spices at the J.W. Marriott

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By tyeeao · October 14, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Courtesy: J.W. Marriott

This is an article I did for the Time 'N'Style Luxury June-July issue

Walking into Spices, at the Marriott Hotel in Juhu has all the makings of a grand entrance. A long wooden pathway, leads into a spacious, pool-facing restaurant, with perfect lighting to set the right ambience for a quiet evening dinner, a business meeting or even a get-together for family and friends. The theme stays true to the cuisine being served, with genuine Thai handicrafts and fabric screens lining the informal sit-down bars, that truly gives it a complete Asian vibe. This authentic South East Asian restaurant offers oriental cuisine for the well-honed palate that craves genuine fare. It is not tweaked in any way to suit local tastes. The restaurant also has a Sushi bar and Teppanyaki counter where chefs dish out delicious treats just for you.After taking our seats, we were pleasantly surprised by the complimentary khimchi and prawn wafers that arrived to tide us through our decision making process. The crunchy, fried prawn wafers worked in direct contrast to the sweet-sour khimchi, a Korean specialty of mildly spiced and flavoured array of vegetables. 
With the addition of four new top chefs, Thomas Wee, Rahul Borja, Jacky Yiu and Keny Ngan, Spices has revamped their menu to reflect authentic Cantonese, Japanese and South East Asian flavours.

 

Sushi Platter Flavours of Asia

We started with an array of dim sums, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian that was made with such precision that the authenticity of taste shone through and through. The Steamed Hao Gao Crystal Tiger Prawn Dumplings with Asparagus were perfectly translucent, bite-sized and delicious, while the Steamed Sea Crab and Prawn Dumpling had the interesting zest of ginger to flavour the filling. From the fried variety, the Deep Fried BBQ Chicken Dried Shrimp and Mushroom Dumpling, made of puff pastry with a creamy filling, made for an interesting bite because of the contrast between the doughy pastry and the soft, almost creamy centre.  And the Deep Fried Rice Paper Minced Sesame Prawn Roll displayed crunchy flawlessness.
If you are a sushi lover, this array will not disappoint. The sushi platter includes everything from salmon, tuna, mackerel and prawn nigiri sushi—handmade sushi of rice, topped with a piece of seafood held together with a thin piece of seaweed—to vegetarian options of crunchy asparagus maki rolls that are cylindrical rolls of a main condiment in the centre, wrapped around by sticky rice and a seaweed cover over it. Coupled with soya and a hint of wasabi with sweet pickled ginger to cleanse your palate, you might as well be bang in the middle of Tokyo! The sushi consists of seaweed and sticky rice, with a main condiment of seafood or vegetable.

Lastly, the Cantonese-style main course consisting of Braised Deluxe Chinese Dried Seafood with Superior Stock and Chinese Herbs, Steamed Sea Bass Spicy Garlic and Vegetable Clay Pot satiated our hunger completely. The fish preparation, topped with crunchy fried garlic, was so soft it melted in our mouths, while the Dried Seafood with Superior Stock was decidedly Cantonese, with its mild and distinctive fishy flavouring. Not to despair, vegetarians also have a lot to choose from, and the mixed vegetable gravy Vegetable Clay Pot that we sampled was to die for.

The talented chefs along with their teams have taken Spices to a new level of culinary excellence as they specialise in the art of dim sum, sushi, sashimi, wok, and Cantonese cuisine, and therefore bring forth a new and authentic South East Asian dining experience.