Tease and tame the tongue

Tease and tame the tongue

LIVING IN THE KITCHEN

For those in love with the aromatic Hyderabadi biriyani, a Singaporean version would come in as a shock. But for those who have travelled and tasted authentic Singaporean Laksa cuisine – a laksa biriyani would be a gastronomical treat. Though a hardcore continental breakfast eater, I did give a shot to this spicy breakfast mix of soup, veggies, meat, noodles and eggs, when at Singapore and found it rather filling. According to me this traditional Singaporean breakfast can be a wholesome lunch or dinner.

With the discerning elite making more rounds of the globe, it’s just natural to have a preference for flavours tasted abroad. This aspect is explored widely by chefs in India now. The trick is to not miss on the authentic flavours and ingredients while preparing a dish with borrowed recipes. Back home, our chefs are working hard to ensure just that. So what’s the biggest challenge in borrowing recipes and flavours from abroad? The ingredients perhaps! 

Chef Raj from ITC Sheraton says, “On my visit to Singapore I picked up laksa as the one preparation that could be easily introduced to the Indian palette without compromising on the basic ingredients and taste.” However, he too finds it hard to find the key ingredients locally.

“The laksa leaves are the main ingredient of the preparation and render a distinct taste to the preparation. They are very difficult to source here in India and we have to get it flown from Singapore,” he says.

Some chefs prefer plucking from their own garden. Executive Chef Maitree Roy Chowdhury from Devigarh Resort grows everything from herbs like parsley, mint, celery and lemon grass to lettuce and even aubergines at the resort garden. “It gives us the opportunity to serve freshly plucked herbs and greens to our guests and they definitely taste better,” she says.

Their mojitos smell divine with the freshly plucked mint and lemons. “Once a family staying at the resort ordered an out-of-our-menu exotic aubergine dish from Lebanon. We had to get hold of the recipe and ingredients available locally to match up to the recipe and it turned out to be great. Though we could not source all the ingredients, the guests appreciated the taste and the presentation.”

Other much-in-demand ingredients are porcini mushrooms and truffles. Top chefs source them from where they grow the best – Italy. “Truffle risotto is loved by all and therefore we have to make sure that the supplies are ordered well in time,” says Chef Saby of Olive. To save on time and ensure freshness some chefs prefer to prepare stuff in their own kitchen. Cheeses like ricotta and mozzarella are often made fresh at home.

Chef Romil Parashar Malik from SideWok says she makes the best of her time when she or her friends travel abroad to study and collect the ingredients and how they can be introduced in India. SideWok sources some of its spiciest sauces from China.

Vibhuti Bhandari is an adventurous eater and badly misses yasai chili men, an oriental preparation that she had at a restaurant in London. “This exotic stir fried noodles with veggies like snow peas, adzuki beans and pok choy that I had at Wagamama in London is just not available here,” she says. Also a few bakery products like scones and clotted cream is what she craves for in India.  

Priti Bharadwaj insists her friends  shop for Wasabi sauce each time they visit China. “Tong offers Wasabi peas, but the taste is just not the same,” she says.

Other tough-to-find ingredients widely used in preparing exotic dishes are caviar – a luxury delicacy consisting of fresh or processed roe which is usually imported in India; foie grass for garnishing; black rice for sushi; French sweet breads and the bolillo; Thai nam pla, a strong fish sauce and shrimp paste. 

The list is long but chefs here are doing their best to offer an authentic eating experience by being up to date with the latest culinary trends and sourcing ingredients from wherever they can.

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