Kitchen hack: Replace fancy ingredients with local substitutes
Is the budget for exotic ingredients swallowing your wallet? City chefs tell us how you can swap them with Indian substitutes.
With a rise in the popularity of global cuisine, a lot of people wish to try their hand at exotic recipes. However, unless you are the head chef of a five-star hotel, getting all the ingredients is a task. Restaurateurs and chefs across the city reveal that in case of unavailability of certain ingredients, we can swap foreign ingredients with their Indian substitutes.
“Everyone travels these days. As a result, there is an increasing demand for exotic ingredients. It is great that we are able to source them locally. It is sustainable for the economy, and is an eco-friendly approach,” says Varun Sheth, owner, 1Tablespoon Pizza Kitchen, Matunga and Lower Parel.
Here’s a list of culinary items that can be substituted with Indian produce:
“It is one of the best sources of antioxidants, and has skin and hair repairing qualities. Spinach is a good substitute for kale,” says Syesha Kapoor, owner, Boveda Bistro, Andheri (W).
“The demand of this ingredient has increased tenfold. We use Hass avocado, and sometimes finding ripe avocados is quite difficult.Karnataka grows a very similar fruit called makhanphal, which is the substitute I use at our restaurant,” says says Chef Jerry Thomas, Lima, Bandra (E).
Quinoa seeds contain 12 essential amino acids, calcium and iron, and they are also high in protein. There are three types of quinoa — red, black and white. “Although red and black quinoa are not available in India, white quinoa is available extensively in rural Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
A good substitute to quinoa could be finger millet (ragi/nachni),” says Thomas. Another alternative that is suggested by Chingy Patel, head chef and co-owner, Global Chaos, Fort, is rajgira (amaranth). “Rajgira is packed with antioxidants, potassium, vitamins C and E, proteins and iron. It helps curb excessive hunger and is pretty easy to digest as well,” he says.
Ecuadorian palm hearts are quite popular due to their soft texture and versatile nature. “It’s Indian substitute is the banana stem, which is quite common in southern India and is called vazhathandu,” says Thomas.
Chlorophyll is a sought-after ingredient because of its medicinal properties. It facilitates digestion, and also helps maintain hormonal balance. “In the US, it is a major part of diets followed by most fitness enthusiasts. A suitable local substitute would be wheatgrass,” says chef Phoung Tran, Ellipsis, Colaba.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Himalayan Pink Salt, used to make cold food, can be replaced with sea salt, according to Chef Rakesh Talwar, co-owner of Cubano – Bar & Kitchen (Kemps Corner) and The Spare Kitchen (Juhu and Worli). “Apart from sodium, which is the primary mineral in any salt, pure sea salt retains all essential natural elements, including magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and iodine,” he says.
Unlike regular garlic, black garlic is pungent and spicy. “If unavailable, one can use regular garlic with a pinch of ground pepper,” suggests Kapoor.
“Imported from Japan and consumed for centuries, this concentrated powder packs amazing antioxidant properties. It’s substitute, green tea powder, is found locally, but it is nutritionally an inferior product,” says Tran.
Shiitake mushrooms and Enoki mushrooms
“These mushrooms are low calorie, low fat, and sugar-free, making them popular among health conscious guests. The Indian substitute of these mushrooms are locally sourced button mushrooms. They are easily available in the market. However, they do not add as much flavour to the dish as the foreign mushrooms,” says Dhwani Agarwal, outlet Chef, Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Bandra (E).
— With inputs from Rakhee Vaswani, chef and founder, Palate Culinary Studio, and chef Ajay Thakur, brand chef, Mirah Hospitality
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The author tweets @iamsusanjose