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Asian food invasion

While so far restaurants were dabbling with popular American and European varieties such as barbeque, béchamel, thousand island and others, the focus is now shifting to lesser-known Asian sauces.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2013 14:54 IST
Sonal Ved

If you like your food with a punch of extra flavour, then you must have a penchant for sauces. One of the commonest things that chefs use to amplify a dish’s taste, a sauce can make or break a meal. While so far restaurants were dabbling with popular American and European varieties such as barbeque, béchamel, thousand island and others, the focus is now shifting to lesser-known Asian sauces.

Apart from the popular choices such as hoisin, plum, oyster and sweet bean, a newer range comprising variants like nam pla, Sriracha, sambal and ponzu are increasingly being used to flavour Asian and experimental fare. According to Chef Paul Kinny, from The InterContinental, Marine Drive, Indians have a natural liking for Asian fare. Since the flavour palate between both cuisines is somewhat shared, experimenting is relatively easier. “European cuisine is more rigid, therefore one has to stick to the rule book,” says Kinny, who recently hosted a Sriracha sauce festival at the hotel’s Thai restaurant, Koh. He used the zesty sauce to paint dumplings, wontons, steamed rolls and even desserts like oriental toffee.

Nachiket Shetye from 36 Oak & Barley at Kemps Corner feels that the reason these sauces are gaining popularity on the culinary circuit is because Asian cuisine is at its final frontier in Mumbai. With several Asian restaurants popping up on the city’s food map in the last one year, we couldn’t have agreed more. “Cuisines from countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia are still fairly undiscovered,” says Shetye. This makes them a lucrative choice for new restaurateurs and menus. “Plus, the ingredients used in Asian cuisine are readily available,” he adds.

To give you a taste of these, here is our guide to various Asian sauces that are now available in Mumbai. And, if you would like, you can even attempt making your own sauce.

Try this Ponzu sauce dish

Agedashi Tofu with Orange Ponzu and Ginger
100 gm firm tofu (cubed)
1 tbsp corn starch n juice of one orange n 2 tbsp light soy sauce n 1 tsp ginger (crushed) n 50 gm lotus root (sliced)
oil for deep frying
Dust tofu and lotus root with corn starch and deep-fry them in hot oil. In a pan, empty orange sauce and add ginger and soy sauce to it. Simmer until it reaches medium
consistency. Strain and drizzle ponzu sauce on deep-fried tofu and lotus root.
— Mitesh Rangras, co-owner, Aoi, Bandra (W)

Get saucy at

What: Spicy Sriracha Vegetables
Where: Koh, InterContinental Marine Drive
The sauce, named after a city in Thailand called Si Racha, is not for the faint-hearted. Sriracha is a scarlet-coloured ingredient that is pungent and certified to leave a blazing aftertaste (though not as hot as Tabasco or wasabi). Since it’s made using a combination of chilli pepper and garlic, it pairs well with blunt-tasting sea creatures such as prawns, crab and fish. At Koh, it is tossed with a bowlful of vegetables and greens such as pakchoy, mushrooms, baby corn and sweet peppers, and is recommended with sticky jasmine rice. Wash off the heat with their cold tea.
Price: `725

What: Salt and Pepper Calamari
Where: Singkong, Khar (W)
Tom yam is usually a soup, but at Singkong, the chefs have transferred its flavours into a sauce to serve with one of their appetisers. Milk-soaked, tender pieces of deep-fried calamari are served with a dollop of tom yam paste that is flavoured with heaps of lemongrass, kafir lime leaves and galangal. Since it is potent on its own, the paste is diluted with a little mayo to sober down its character.
Price: `325

What: Tempura Prawns and Vegetables with Ponzu
Where: Aoi, Bandra (W)
Crispy fried prawns and vegetables team extremely well with orange-based ponzu sauce. The tangerine-coloured sauce has heady notes of orange and a runny consistency. Since it lacks body, it doesn’t stick around for too long and is merely a passing influence on the overall dish. To offset the saccharine taste, there is also a helping of hot wasabi mayonnaise served alongside. What works is the temperature see-saw created by piping hot tempura with cold ponzu.
Price: `300 onwards