Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Cuisines of India have been influenced by other country cusines during its colonial era. One major influence on Indian Cuisine has been that of the Portuguese. The first successful voyage to India was by Vasco da Gama in 1498, when after sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, he arrived in Calicut, Kerala. Calicut, between now Kerela and Mangalore have been influenced greatly by the Portuguese. The Portuguese subsequently conquered the city of Goa, and therefore, they ruled from Goa. The present-day Mumbai (Bombay) was also part of Portuguese India until the British took over and leased it to the East India Company.
The Culinary Institute of America's ( https://www.ciachef.edu/cia-singapore ) course objectives for Global Cuisines and Cultures includes a Local Immersion Programme (LIP) that is a study of global cuisines and culture to allow their students to develop a greater understanding through experimental learning of the connection between gastronomy, culture, society, local and global food systems in Singapore.
For the culinary students, we presented a 3-course modern Indian tasting menu to story-tell the Cuisines in India. While barely traversing the food and the Cusines of India, there was a concerted effort to showcase diverse, sustainable and heritage ingredients in a plant-based menu paired with RedDot brews.
The graphically designed backgrounds of the menu dishes are tile patterns of Portuguese, Mughlai and Indian origin to reflect the dishes in the menu. A creative brainwave from @charu.shah.photography (https://www.charushahphotography.com ), a Singapore food photographer to showcase-support my story-telling of the influences of these cusines into the dishes from India.
India is a continent of cuisines with a rich cultural history reflects in its food and the sheer diversity of ingredients used in the cuisines. These cuisines are heavily influenced by India’s history, conquerors, trade partners, religions, cultural practices and the regional produce.
A country of cuisines that is as diverse as it population is also home to many ingredients that make for a great sustainability story. As Chefs, creators, we carry the responsibility to showcase non-mainstream ingredients that can bring mainstream diners on board with menus that are diverse and sustainable.
Barely scratching the surface of the cusines of Indian and all its gastronomic glory, the Menu was as follows:
Amuse Bouche: Poha paired with Pineapple Seltzer
Starter: Zucchini-Carrot Bajiya, Green Plantain Bread Pakoda, Cabbage Vadai, Coconut Hummus paired with Roselle Yuzu Saison
Mains: KARANA ”Whole-plant Pork” Chop with Indian Bottle Masala, Elephant Foot Yam Sorpotel, Bamboo-Green Plantain Moilee, Sannas paired with Lime Wheat & English Ale
Dessert: Dark Chocolate Mysore Pak, Sweet Potato Halva Mooncake, Fennel-Rose Muzaffar Cake paired with Chrysanthemum Rum Larger
Each course was built around showcasing Heritage Ingredients of Indian origin. The students were walked through other culinary uses of the ingredients and the thought process behind the dish. There was a table of ingredients displayed for the students to familiarize themselves.
Showcasing: Beaten or Flatten Rice Flakes, Purple Chilli Padi (GUI), Indian Coriander
Poha is a simple, 'ingredient named' breakfast dish that is eaten in central India. Rice is parboiled before flattening so that it can be consumed with very little to no cooking.
Amusing the palate with this light, fluffy dish made with flattened rice marks the first meal of the day with lightly seasoned flavours of turmeric, fennel, green chilli, sugar, salt and lemon. Sauteed with onions for the umami, it is a perfectly balanced dish in terms of flavours. Served with fried mung bean and fried green peas to provide that crunch.
A dash of Indian Coriander or grated coconut for that freshness and a purple chilli grown at Ground-up Initiative (https://groundupinitiative.org/farm/ ) that is the only Kampong in Singapore.
Showcasing: Indian Green Plantain, Zucchini, Carrot, Cabbage, Tarragon Flowers (GUI)
To demonstrate the diversity in the cuisines of India due to its large geography the starter dishes were based on the fritters common to the North, Central and South India.
South India Fritter: Vadai: The food historian KT Achaya (who was also an oil chemist and a food scientist) posits that the Indian deep-fried snack vada or vadai was liked by ancient Tamil people and originated somewhere between 100 CE to 300 CE. Made with Urad Dal (skinned black gram), the lentil is soaked, ground into a batter and deep-fried. The wet batter is shaped and deep-fried. With its signature hole in the middle, like a doughnut, this savoury fritter is full of protein and fried with Cabbage.
North India Fritter: Bread Pakoda: Green Plantain Bread Pakoda, a street snack that is usually made with a stuffing of boiled potatoes. Here stuffed with Indian Raw Plantain to showcase the starchiness of the vegetable that gives almost the same taste and mouthfeel of a potato.
Central India Fritter: Bhajiya: Vegetables are usually cut and deep-fried with a Chickpea flour that is used to make a batter. Again, lending its protein these quick to make fritters are a favourite with a hot cup of tea on any rainy day.
These street foods of India do have common elements like turmeric, spices, herbs and use of legumes as a batter-flour but are very different dishes that are influenced by the geographic location and therefore cuisines of India.
Served with Singapore grown Tarragon Flowers from Ground-up Initiative (https://groundupinitiative.org/farm/)
Cuisines of India have been influenced by other country cusines during its colonial era. One major influence on the Indian Cuisine has been that of the Portuguese. The first successful voyage to India was by Vasco da Gama in 1498, when after sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, he arrived in Calicut, Kerala. Calicut, between now Kerela and Mangalore have been influenced greatly by the Portuguese. The Portuguese subsequently conquered the city of Goa, and therefore, they ruled from Goa. The present-day Mumbai (Bombay) was also part of Portuguese India until the British took over and leased it to the East India Company.
Portuguese influenced Cuisines of India are a perfect choice for exhibiting a plant-based menu because these are typically meat-heavy. Dishes usually include blood, offals and innards of fatty meats types like pork and sometimes include game meat. A perfect menu challenge to be reckoned with while creating a plant-based menu!
Showcasing: KARANA Whole-Plant Pork (Young Jackfruit), Elephant Foot Yam, Bamboo Shoot, Fermented Coconut-Rice, Mizuna and Red Amaranth Microgreens (Urban Farmer MsGreenFingers)
@eatkarana Whole-Plant Pork Chop with Indian Bottle Masala: Made from Young Jackfruit, Karana is a Singapore company that is Plant-based, solving consumer concerns around food transparency, healthy eating and sustainability, whilst offering a genuinely meaty taste and texture. Karana is Chef-forward and offers Chefs foodservice ready packs of Young Jackfruit that is super easy to use and apply to menus/dishes. Young Jackfruit has been used across Cuisines in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Traditionally used as a "poor man's meat" in India it is a sustainable crop and mostly consumed as a fruit. In its young/raw stage it is low in the glycemic index as it has not developed its flavours or sugars. While it makes for a great meat substitute, it is seasonal, cumbersome to cut and store. Therefore, Karana like companies is indispensable for Chefs like us who want to champion sustainable produce and provide diversity to the palate and plate.
"Deliciously indulgent Asian comfort food, made from whole-plants. www.eatkarana.com to check them out.
Indian Bottle Masala: Masala, essentially is a spice blend. The story goes that When East India Company (British Colonising India), in the 17th century, absorbed the English speaking Indian's who were inhabitants of the Portuguese rule in India. These Indian's developed their own subculture, one that was syncretic to the original Portuguese influenced but with elements from the British-East Indian Culture. The making of the patty, also called "chop" made usually with Pork is a British Influence while the use of a specific blend of spices known as the "East Indian Bottle Masala" is very indigenous to this subculture. It is known as a Bottle Masala as it is traditionally stored in Beer Bottles that was again a part of the British giving. Here, serve you, a Karana's Young Jackfruit made into a patty, called chop with flavours of the Indian Bottle Masala.
Sorpotel: Portuguese is the only cuisine that introduced wine in cooking in India and is also the only one that uses so many types of vinegar. They were responsible for bringing in the indispensable Chilli to the Indian shores and their techniques of cooking with them. One such dish is the Sarapatel or Sorpotel, which means confusion, probably referring to the mish-mash of the parts of the Pig, usually made with Pork blood, offal such as liver, the heart etc. Here, serve the humble Elephant Foot yam for all its meaty glory with the spiciness of a typical Sorpotel.
Moilee: The origin of this dish dates back to when the Portuguese occupied the coasts of Kerala. That is probably why it is much milder than other dishes that are Portuguese influenced. Essentially a coconut-milk based stew it is usually cooked with fish or seafood. Here, serve you Green Plantain to provide the stew with body and Bamboo Shoots.
Sannas: Sanna and plural Sannas are spongy, steamed savoury rice cakes originating from areas of Goa and Mangalore that is very largely influenced by the Portuguese Culture and Cuisine. Fermented with freshly grated coconut and brewed coconut toddy these cakes make the perfect vehicle to mop any spicy gravy on your plate.
Served with grown in Singapore: Mizuna (Mustard) and Red Amaranth Microgreens from an urban farmer and Edible Flower Queen of Singapore https://msgreenfingers.blogspot.com @EngTingTing @eng.ting.7
The art of pastry making is perhaps a much less talked about skill in the repertoire of Cuisines in India and thus, culinary schools. The craftsmanship of traditional savoury and sweet pastry still remains a secret of many generations old street vendors of India.
While Chefs in India also have had to travel all over to discover and learn the craft over years, probably decades. A Chef to mention here is Chef @nayakgirish of @BombaySweetShop who is reinventing the Indian Mithai (sweet) who inspired me to re-think Indian desserts for this course meal.
Showcasing: Chickpea Flour, Vermicelli and Sweet Potato
Dark Chocolate Mysore Pak: Indian Pastry is just never talked about. The Mysore Pak, one of the most difficult dessert is a great example of Indian pastry. Traditionally made with Ghee, Chickpea flour and sugar, this is a very technical Indian dessert. The sugar provides the structure, the ghee cooks it and the chickpea flour, unlike that I have seen in any cuisine makes the dessert. Every element plays a role and the science behind is difficult to understand as there is not much-documented temperatures and scales. The origin of this dessert comes from the Maharaja of Mysore Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar who summoned his royal chef Kakasura Madappa and asked him to create a dessert. Chef Kakasura decided to create a dessert with chickpea flour, cow's ghee, sugar and cardamom. The much-delighted king decided to name the pale yellow sweet after his kingdom "Mysore". Served to you is a plant-based version, with cocoa butter, instead of the ghee and coated it with Dark chocolate to balance out the sweetness from the brown sugar.
Fennel-Rose Muzzafar Cake: Mughlai is a type of cuisine that came about as a result of the Mughal rule in India from 1426 to 1857. During that time in India's history, the food was rich and cooked with aromatic spices, nuts, and dried fruits. The official language of the Mughal Empire was Persian, so many Mughlai dishes also have Persian and Turkic names. Once prepared for royals and emperors, these dishes feature flavorful meals that combine the traditional spices and flavours that embodied Indian cuisine. A Mughlai influence dessert is the Kheer or Muzzafar. Made with vermicelli it is usually served as a pudding and cooked in milk and thickened milk solids. Here paired with Rose and Fennel, it is cooked with sunflower seeds and cashew to give you the same mylkiness.
Sweet Potato Halva Mooncake: Arabic invention. The name "halva" comes from "hulw," the Arabic word for "sweet." The Halva again is a Mughlai influence on Indian Dessert, made with different ingredients and thus textures. It is cooked with wheat, semolina, vegetables or fruits. A paste-like-dessert, it always has to melt in the mouth. Made again with ghee it is very fatty. But most often than not, it is not a great dish to plate much like a lot of your childhood favourites. Here, sweet potato is cooked into halva with cashews to give the richness and served like a mooncake to keep the fatty story but with beauty.
End of the Food Story. Now, ...the brews.
As Culinary Students brewing as a process is part of a Chef's curriculum. The 'craft', pun intended and science behind the brewing process, irrespective of whether you consume or not, it is important to understand.
BrewHouse Singapore's first locally owned, independent commercial microbrewery prides in its craft beer. Brewed by Master Brewer @Crystalla_reddot their brews are unfiltered and unpasteurized, therefore with live cultures.
They brew European style curated to Asian flavours. Craft Beer typically has a shorter shelf life, produced and cold chain all the way.
RedDot is a great example of a sustainability story. Their spent grains go to Insectta (https://www.insectta.com), an urban insect farm and Hay Dairies (https://haydairies.sg) in Singapore.
They also pride themselves in using the spent grains as compost for their edible garden and into their cookie and pizza doughs. RedDot recycles the hops and yeast into their brewing process to be a sustainable business case in Singapore.
With the hope that the students at @theculinaryinstituteofamerica in Singapore are inspired enough to search their heritage and look at ingredients that are diverse, sustainable and possibly, local!
Food Photography, Website Design by @Charu.shah.photography
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