Way to Great Indian Ingredients

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On a hot May morning in 2022, we wind our way between lush bushes and neon pink houses to the edge of the Shivalik Hills. It is Narendra Nagar in Uttarakhand. Ananda in the Himalayas rises on the southern horizon, casting its longitudinal shadows on the green cover falling on the sloping hills.

Foraging in the Shivalik Hills

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Foraging in the Shivalik Hills

I am the only journalist in the seven-member group, which includes the Musk team – the only Indian restaurant consistently rated Asia’s best – Anand’s chef and manager, and a camera crew. This is the first in a series of tours of various states and hospitality specialties in India, exploring ingredients that local communities celebrate but rarely make their way onto urban plates. Developed by Australia-based online travel aggregator, Luxury Escapes, this experiential and experiential trail will soon be available to tourists.

On staff
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Apart from Anand, all other properties — whose chefs will act as mentors connecting people to local communities — are members of Relais & Châteaux, a global organization of independent hotels, resorts and restaurants.

On the edges of memory

Location: Uttarakhand

Rediscovering: mol, timru, hisalu

Barely a few minutes into our trek, we stumble upon bear food. “This is the place mol“, says Kamlesh Negi, Mask’s chef-mentor, breaking open the round fruit with its green-yellow skin. “It belongs to the pear family and turns black when ripe. It is a sweet fruit that bears love. We can eat it too. Try?”

Take the money

pick on mol

And it’s sweet—a mash-up between the fine-grained texture of a fig and the firmness of a semi-ripe guava. Within minutes of discovery, the forest unfolds its bounty. We come across the ridiculous Tamro Which can be referred to as ground black pepper or pickled black peppercorns in dishes. gave kilmoda (barberry), the roots of which are used to treat diabetes. and known as golden yellow Himalayan raspberry. hisalu – Sour, with a hint of mint. “Locally, people just pick them and eat them,” says Anand’s chef Diwakar Balodi. “But culinary, it’s an alternative to raspberries. It can also be used in cheesecake.”

Golden Yellow Himalayan Hisalo

Golden Yellow Himalaya hisalu

A few kilometers away, we come across Himalayan trout in the Ghaggar River, which merges into the Ganges. A native Dhaba We are served freshly caught fish, which is mouth-watering. Tamro in steel plates, with the generous assistance of Dal and rice. Back in Mumbai, Musk’s chef Varun Tutlani will interpret this with smoked barramundi, prepared with pahari masala (a combination of spices that includes turmeric, cumin and fennel) and millet.

Freshly caught trout cooked in tamero

Freshly caught trout was cooked inside. Tamro

The Himalayan story is vast: from the promise of local ingredients in the Biodiversity Park to the creative ways that locals incorporate them into their dishes – the age-old pickling technique (using salt, oil, and even sugar). ), or fashioning them. Paste for the holy Dhamma Or temple food? India has not yet spoken to them.

Stories of resilience

Location: Rajasthan

Rediscovering: Kachri, Carwanda, Grapefruit

Being a native of Rajasthan, one of my earliest memories of my hometown in Nagore is my maternal grandmother cooking mutton in the style of my ancestral Rajput hunters – marinated meat wrapped in bardana and placed in a freshly dug pit. were Above the hot coals, no more than a few odd inches into the ground.

Tasting local food in Rajasthan

Tasting local food in Rajasthan

This is the technique we celebrate when I visit the Land of Kings in July, with teams from Musk and House of Rohit, a heritage hotel in Jodhpur. But the effort is with rabbit meat, or KhadInstead of my childhood mutton. In Rajasthan, fresh ingredients are few and far between. Between the sun beating down on the city and the unforgiving desert that surrounds it, we find stories of forgotten ingredients in the wild plants growing along the way.

“It’s part of our lives. court“Hartanaram Devasi, a 72-year-old farmer, tells me. “It’s a small, wild melon but we use it to tenderize meat, make pickles with red peppers, or use it as a paste in curries.” But as Rohit’s chef Bahadur Singh says, court, Often mistaken for a fruit, it is resilient and one of the few vegetables that grows. Khajri Trees climb its vines. Khajri, Which are often seen as ghosts during dry spells – they shed their leaves, leaving their thin, skeletal branches behind. include court It’s hard to put into a dish, because the lines between the ingredients are so sharp.

Kachari is often mistaken for a fruit.

court Often mistaken for a fruit

For Mask Chef Totlani, court has a soulful story, combining it with other, less popular components of Rajasthan, e.g Caronda (a flowering shrub), which adds a sour and tangy flavor to dishes such as chutneys, pickles and curries, and pomelo (pomelo), which is suitable for the hot and dry climate of the state, as it is drought resistant. It is used in many Rajasthani desserts, e.g Sweet And Pudding.

gave NgfaniA thorny plant that grows abundantly in the streets and dunes of Rajasthan, we find that it can be married into the larger Indian palette. court and green tomatoes. “Stories are all around us,” says Devasi. “It’s just about changing your vision. We don’t have a lot in terms of plants, so we have to create what we have.

Ivy for sale

Nagfani for sale

A sea of ​​green gold

Place: Goa

Rediscovering: Seaweed

A few months later, I am in Nerul, overlooking the Arabian Sea. If one looks closely at the rugged, seemingly moss-covered rocks on the coast, one will find them alive and green – with a treasure that India is waking up to. Seaweed.

With over 700 species, it grows on rocks below high water mark and on the sea floor. But unlike Southeast Asia, with its seaweed-rich cuisine, this diverse, mineral-rich marine algae receives little attention in India. I spoke to Sebastian Menezes, a local fisherman, who says he sees seaweed as fluff – with no culinary value – and uses it as bait to catch small fish. goes But then I meet Gabriela D’Cruz, a marine conservationist from Goa who is on a mission to awaken Indians to this green gold through her initiative, The Good Ocean, which offers restaurants across the country a variety of dried seafood. Swar supplies. For example, Totlani recently teamed up with Ahlia By The Sea, a Rileys & Chateau property in Candolum, and D’Cruz to create a seaweed cocktail.

Gabriela de Cruz harvesting seaweed.

Gabriela de Cruz harvesting seaweed.

“Often, when we go out to sea, the fishing community thinks we are usurping their space and fishing,” she says. “For Goans, the full potential of seaweed has yet to be realized.”

The power of green

Location: Kerala

Rediscovering: pachakurumulaku, waza

It’s October, and the last pit stop on my ingredient trail is the brightly colored streets of Fort Kochi, where the lessons of Rajasthan resonate. When we enter the spice markets, we come across a pepper house that is breathing its last breath.

I am accompanied by Chef Robin Thomas of Malabar House, a boutique hotel in Fort Kochi, and Chef Vipin Joy of Purity, a property on the banks of Vembanad Lake in Mohammed, 50 km away. I learn that green chilies (also known as pachakurumulaku in Malayalam), sourced from the Idukki Hills, is an important ingredient in Kerala that has not yet come to India on a large scale. Apart from its medicinal properties – it relieves digestive problems, respiratory problems and inflammation – it is used to spice up many traditional dishes, including some in the traditional Onasadiya.

A fish with green chili that Thomas specializes in.

A fish with green chili that Thomas specializes in.

Then there is the banana plant, or Waza All its parts are celebrated in the south, but it has fallen out of general use in other parts of India where it is largely eaten as a fruit alone. Around Purity, I see farmers using the plant’s leaves as a cover during the rains, its roots as medicine, its bark as fertilizer, and its pods to thicken their gravy. use “We use banana blossoms in our traditional dishes, e.g Wazhapo Thorn and avial [a mixed vegetable curry]Says Vijayan, 72, who owns a banana orchard. “Stem, known as ThorAlso used to make a Thorne [vegetable stir-fry]”

Vijayan in his banana garden

Vijayan in his banana garden

Explore the trail.

The trail will soon be made available to the public by Luxury Escapes (price still undecided). While the first phase mapped the northern, western and southern regions of the country, the next iteration will cover the regions of central, eastern and northeastern India. Arun Ashok, Regional Manager (India & Middle East) Luxury Escapes, Trail’s main objective is to mainstream local hero ingredients and empower local communities.

The Future of Desis

The story of India’s indigenous ingredients is one that has endless potential, but is limited to its regions of origin. “Unfortunately, the idea [in urban India] Are the ingredients from abroad still better,” says Tutlani. “Even in Mumbai’s Breach Candy Market, you see them parading imported fruits and not more Indian ones, because they are less consistent. And are not pretty to look at.”

So, from incorporating them into our larger supply chain to creatively interpreting their uses, we have a responsibility to keep them alive and empower the local communities who are the custodians of their stories.

Saving stories

Prateek Sadhu, a chef who has been exploring produce across India for nearly a decade, says the only way to popularize hyperlocal ingredients is to be creative in the way one uses them. He shares three that should be used on a pan-India scale.

Sea buckthorn berry: FIn the Sapti Valley and Ladakh, it’s a vitamin C powerhouse that cooks in India need to get creative with. It can be used in jams, juices and even fish curries because of its pungency.

Dandelion Leaf: Often eaten in Kashmiri households, it is very bitter. It can be used as a flavoring agent in meat and vegetables (after the leaves are boiled twice in salt water to remove the toxicity).

Tingrimbai: It is the Naga version of Meghalaya. Axis. Locals use smoked and fermented beans in their pork and chicken dishes. They also make chutney from it.

The author is a Mumbai-based writer and editor.

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