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9 months ago
Unlikely Ingredients

MARBLE-SIZED POTATOES

You thought baby potatoes are small? Guti aloo – a well kept secret of Assam – takes the size of the root several notches lower, and quite literally to that of gutis or marbles. Traditionally eaten as a sukha bhaaji, a dry preparation of the potato with seasoning and tempering, the seasonal relish (November to March) is not heard of much beyond the north east, where it grows. It has only recently begun to make its way to the western shores of the country.

While O-Tenga, an authentic Assamese takeaway in Andheri serves it like it's eaten in Assam, at Arth, chef Amninder Sandhu uses it for her dum aloo served with khemiri roti. As the potatoes are so small, have a nice bite like chickpeas and her gravy tastes very similar to that of channa masala, many mistake the dum aloo for chole.

FLOWER POWER

With the molecular gastronomy wave, a more subtle trend that caught on a few years ago was the use of edible flowers in cooking.

The latest favourite is the butterfly pea flower. While the web sings it praises for its health benefits, chefs love it as it allows them to plate diners some magic. Boil merely a teaspoon in one glass of water and you get a lovely indigo blue extract. But where it gets exciting is that when add to it a squeeze of lemon, the extract changes colour to a deep purple. Although it's sweet when eaten raw, the flower loses its flavour when boiled. For chefs that's just great – they have a natural colouring agent that doesn't intefere with taste! And so it's been used in versatile ways.

While Shizusan at Lower Parel does an infused tea cocktail with it called Hattori Hanzo, Nara Thai is using it to reinvent the classic Pisco sour. It's also the prime ingredient for Tasse de Thé quinoa salad. Both Iyaza and Nara are using for their rice preparation: Wood Oven Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with Blue Pea Pod Rice and Khao Phad Samunprai, respectively. Butterfly pea teas are also available online.

EDIBLE CHARCOAL

While clean coal endures the clutches of controversy with the climate change debate, activated charcoal is being viewed as the new, cool, cleansing agent in the food world. Made by burning coconut shells and some other plants at high temperature, attributed to it are qualities like managing certain kinds of poisoning and drug overdose, weightloss, preventing gas, reducing cholesterol, etc.

Available in powdered form in Foodhall at Palladium as well as online, it has a very subtle smokey taste, which can't be identified so much in cooked dishes as when used raw like in icing for desserts. To sample at Foodhall you also have a lovely charcoal and mint lemonade, charcoal pizza bases, burgers and croissants. Even as they are getting mixed reactions, the bar Dishkiyaoon at BKC offers a charcoal waffle with coriander pesto and crisp bacon. POD Supply that offers personalised optimised diets, is brining out a range of products with activated charcoal like taco shells, wraps, pancakes and rawa idlis.

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