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Food for thought: Mumbai chef showcases lesser-known Indian vegetables

The Mumbai chef highlighted the flavour profiles and possible uses of a number of local, seasonal Indian vegetables

mumbai Updated: Feb 03, 2018 23:06 IST
Krutika Behrawala
Krutika Behrawala
Hindustan Times
Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival,Kala Ghoda,The Bombay Canteen
Chef Thomas Zacharias at the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival on Saturday.(Hemanshi Kamani/HT)

“Anyone who can guess what this vegetable is will get a prize,” said Thomas Zacharias, chef at The Bombay Canteen, holding up a few firm, tiny, oblong green leaves.

He was met with blank stares from the 35-member audience at his demo session, Exploring Hidden India, organised as part of the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival’s food section, powered by Bertolli.

This audience — ranging from homemakers to college students — had moments earlier correctly identified broccoli, zucchini and asparagus.

The vegetable in the spotlight now was moras, a salty succulent typically found among mangroves.

“In Gujarati cuisine, it is often used in place of salt during fasts. I stumbled upon it at a Grant Road market and we use it as a garnish on a corn salad at our restaurant,” Zacharias said. “There are many such local vegetables available in city markets that we don’t know about.”

To drive home the point, he went on to highlight the flavour profiles and possible uses of a number of local, seasonal Indian vegetables, including green garlic, green jowar or ponkh, and mogri or rat tail radish.

In the 60-minute workshop, the chef also whipped up dishes with the same veggies. He made arbi tuk starring colocasia and topped with rat tail radish; hara chana hummus with pickled tendli. “The pickled tendli actually tastes like gherkin. The idea isn’t to be a hipster or cool about exotic local produce but to actually appreciate and use seasonal and local ingredients in daily meals,” he said.

“This is the first time I’ve ever attended a live cooking workshop,” said Nandita Bose, 43, a management consultant from Thane. “I was particularly interested in this one because it focused on easily accessible ingredients instead of highlighting obscure vegetables from, say, Canada or New Zealand.”

The recipes were innovative yet simple, added Shruti Pandey, 26, who works in R&D for cosmetics.

“I follow chef Zacharias on Instagram for his informative posts on lesser-known Indian vegetables. I’m so happy to have attended this workshop. I didn’t know half the vegetables he showed us.”

First Published: Feb 03, 2018 23:05 IST