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Food is best served in a bowl, feel Mumbai restaurant chefs

Plates are passe. Eating food in a bowl seems to be the new in thing, and Mumbai restaurants are whipping up a wholesome recipe

At home, we have white-coloured deep bowls, laced with a green leaf print. This we use for khichdi, dahi bhaath, noodles, bhel and anything we feel will taste best in a mash-up.

Even Nigella Lawson agrees. If the celebrated food show host had her way, she'd "eat everything in a bowl," she confessed in a recent interview. Her last book (October 2015), Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food, in fact, has a dedicated section for food in a bowl.

James Biaka, chef at Bandra’s Korean eatery, Hengbok, presenting the bibimbap.  PIC/ATUL KAMBLE
James Biaka, chef at Bandra’s Korean eatery, Hengbok, presenting the bibimbap. Pic/Atul Kamble

"Eating in a bowl is comforting. Dip your spoon in and relish," James Biaka, chef at Bandra's Korean eatery, Hengbok, says as if explaining our choice.


Pic/ Atul Kamble

Korea's signature dish, the bibimbap, also comes in a bowl. "We heat a stone bowl or a hot pot on fire, add a spoonful of sesame oil, and add rice to it. Then, we sauté vegetables like zucchini, carrot, spinach and sprouts. To this, we add meat," says Biaka.

Traditionally,  Chef James Biaka  would break a raw egg  on the the Bibimbap. But  eaters in Mumbai prefer it cooked
Traditionally, Chef James Biaka would break a raw egg on the the Bibimbap. But eaters in Mumbai prefer it cooked

Next comes the gochujang sauce, the fiery and pungent fermented sauce made of chilies, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. "We finish this with a raw egg. But customers in Mumbai like it cooked," he smiles, adding that the dish tastes best when all the elements are given a thorough mix. "The best part is the burnt rice at the bottom," says Biaka, his voice heavy with nostalgia.

Similarly, the donburi from Japan contains protein in the form of meat and carbs from vegetables and rice. "Japanese and Asian meals are usually served in a bowl and comprise a healthy mix of protein and carbs like the Indonesian Nasi Goreng and Japanese noodle soup, ramen. On our menu, we serve the MamaKatsu-Don, which has Japanese rice, fried tofu or chicken in a crispy panco cutlet. Typically, the flavours have to be subtle, but we serve a spicier version to suit the palate here," says Jaiywanti Dugal, food director at Azure Hospitality that runs Mamagoto.

But, it's not just Asian meals that come in bowls. Other city restaurants are catching on too.

A bowl meal of cottage cheese, broccoli, red rice with lima beans
A bowl meal of cottage cheese, broccoli, red rice with lima beans

The Pantry
For their December menu, the Kala Ghoda healthy lunch spot added a bowl meal of cottage cheese, broccoli, red rice with lima beans — a fine balance of protein, carb with enough vitamins and minerals. Owner Pankil Shah says the eatery attracts a lot of professionals on the go. “Keeping with our theme of healthy, fresh, local and organic, we introduced this as a pre-plated healthy option. Soon, it will be on our regular menu,” he adds. Interestingly, at their beer festival last July, Shah created a San Francisco-style burger, but in a bowl. “This one is Paleo friendly. It had slices of bacon instead of bread, with a vegetarian/chicken patty, lots of green leaves and chunks of avocado. It has all the elements of the burger, and this one dish is all you need.”

Meat on Top at MeSoHappi is cooked in peppercorn sauce
Meat on Top at MeSoHappi is cooked in peppercorn sauce

MeSoHappi
One of the fastest moving items on their menu is the Meat On Top. Chef Aniruddha Patil introduced this menu last month, keeping the shopping season in mind. “There are so many people ranging from workers and shoppers to revellers, who pass by our Linking Road branch. So, this was an obvious choice to ensure a satisfying personal meal. Our bowl has a bed of mashed potatoes, topped with spinach and mushroom cooked in a herb and peppercorn sauce. This is finished with crunchy chicken pieces.”

Lamb stew.
Lamb stew. Pic/Sameer Sayyed Abedi

Indigo
To make Mondays bearable, Indigo Deli launched its Food Truck menu this week. “I took inspiration from streets in Europe, New York, San Francisco, Mexico and South East Asia,” says head chef Jaydeep Mukherjee, who also added two “convenience” dishes to the list — Middle-Eastern peppered lamb stew with basmati pilaf and Spanish paella with seafood, bacon, sausages, chicken. “No frills, but energising in content, we slow braise the lamb legs for eight hours in a peppery broth of red wine, garlic and rosemary. To this, we add root vegetables and herbs. The rice, too, is cooked in the same stock used to cook the lamb,” says Mukherjee. The paella is cooked in a saffron sauce to which he adds a special with meat stock. “It has seafood, bacon and salami. What more do you want?”


Chickpea stew with veggies, cous cous and spinach

Eddie’s Bistro
When partner and head chef Nishant Mitra was designing the holiday menu at the Middle Eastern and European-influenced joint, Bandra, he was reminded of the warm Irish stew, full of carrots, potatoes and meat, and the Peruvian farmers who mixed their left over corn and potatoes in a vessel and left it to slow cook while they tilled the land. “Winter gives you the feel of snuggling, pulling your feet up and eating easy. Like the Tibetians enjoy their thukpa of noodles and red beans, I wanted to offer a wholesome meal.


 Chef Nishant Mitra

We made a stew out of chickpeas, flavours dominated by oregano, sumac and coriander. Throw in some herbs, orange peels and we get a hot and sour stew to which we added roasted sweet potatoes, blanched spinach and cous cous. A dash of olive oil and a sprinkle of pine nuts, and it’s ready,” says Mitra. The holiday season may be over, but you’ll soon find it on their daily menu, thanks to its popularity. “We will also make variations for non-vegetarians,” he says.

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