The first time I tasted burrata was a few years ago at an Italian restaurant in a five-star hotel in Mumbai. Nothing prepared me for the intense gooeyness and what it did to my palate. Think a softer version of mozzarella in a gelatinous pouch that’s filled with stringy curd and cream. Paired with fresh heirloom tomatoes and the best of olive oil (a classic combination), the dish was the highlight of my meal. I was captivated, but could never find any cheese that matched the experience.
Cut to 2016. I chanced upon this mysterious cheese once again at Bandra’s One Street Over. Paired with roasted baby carrots and pesto made with carrot tops, the burrata stole the show. I found it again at The Table (Colaba); this time, the burrata was served with marinated peppers, hazelnuts and olives. And at The Clearing House, a newly opened fine dining spot in Ballard Estate, it came accompanied with tomato thyme chutney and olive tapenade. More recently, at Ranveer Brar’s Gourmart Kitchen (situated above TAG – The Amateur Gallery, Lower Parel), it is served with green tomato chunda and miso dust.
In less than a year, this fresh Italian cheese has taken over every new menu in town. Chefs are experimenting with the most unthinkable, yet tasty combinations and diners are happy to scoop it up with a fresh slice of ciabatta. “Burrata is unusual from the cheese we normally eat or come across. The combination of hard and soft texture creates an interesting play on the palate. And the mildness of the cheese is comforting,” says chef Nitin Kulkarni of The Clearing House, adding that it’s a sellout item on their menu.
How it spread
Though burrata has been around since the ‘50s, it never left its tiny Italian village of Puglia. Like many great inventions, this too, was discovered by accident. When cheese makers would make mozzarella, a lot of trimming would be left over. To use it up, they would make fresh cheese wrapped around the trimming and use cream as binding. The cheese was tied with a top-knot and taken home to be eaten all day.
So, how did it reach our shores? Since the beginning of last year, burrata-based dishes have been a hot culinary trend across restaurants in Los Angeles and New York. Similarly, chefs in the city found local cheese makers who were experimenting with burrata. Bengaluru-based Father KL Michael was one of them. A priest from the Vallombrosan Benedictine Congregation, he learnt the art of cheese-making over eight years in Italy. Today, he supplies batches of fresh burrata mozzarella, ricotta and caciotta to five stars and restaurants such as Luna Gusta at The St Regis Mumbai. Here, it is paired with organic fennel, citrus, pomegranate molasses and volcanic salt.
At The Pantry (in Kala Ghoda), fresh burrata is sourced from the Valsad-based Goloka Farms. It is served with fresh coconut cream and bhavnagri chutney, another unique desi version. “The restaurant market has opened up. Now, we find local alternatives to almost every exotic ingredient in India. A wide variety of options are available for chefs to play with,” says Ranveer Brar of TAG Gourmart Kitchen.
And it’s not just the availability of burrata that adds to its allure. According to chef Phuong Tran of Ellipsis, it is a good alternative to paneer, a taste familiar to Indian palates. “The burrata, with its mildly sweet flavour profile and unctuous mouth feel, is the perfect beginning to any meal,” he says.