Often associated with royalty, the colour purple is available to the common man in city menus. Here's what to order in the hue
Let's do a colour test. Name some green vegetables. Easy peasy? Okay, name some red vegetables. There are at least two very obvious answers, though neither is a vegetable. Now, name four purple veggies. It might surprise you to know that many of the common ingredients on your plate - corn, potatoes, cabbage, etc - come in more than one colour. And, this might be a good year to celebrate diversity.
According to health experts from Whole Food, an American food company that examined consumer behaviour globally across 465 stores, our plates are going to look exceptionally vibrant this year, thanks to purple ingredients which are being hailed as the new superfoods.
In Mumbai, chefs who are excited about the new options that purple offers, not just as a colour on the culinary canvas, but also as a healthier version to carb-rich potatoes and rice are happy to experiment.
Chef Sameer Bhalekar of Juhu's Myxx came across the purple potato a few years ago while working for an Italian restaurant at the Oberoi Group. "It had less starch, the texture was smooth and the deep purple colour was natural," he says. So, in December when he took over the reins of the Juhu restaurant, one of the first dishes that made it to the menu was the purple potato gnocchi with spinach cream sauce. The health benefits of the dish, he adds, are astounding. "While potatoes are traditionally associated with weight gain due to high starch content, this one contains antioxidants and also strengthens your immune system and can help prevent certain heart diseases and cancers."
The purple colour in the vegetables is due to anthocyanins, water-soluble vacuolar pigments that lend a red, purple, or blue colour, depending on the pH levels. Chef Kelvin Cheung of Bastain, who has rolled out the PB+J cheesecake with purple grape jelly, feels the trend is more about popularising forgotten vegetables and fruits. "We had almost forgotten the use of certain veggies like purple cabbage and radish, seeing them more as boring ingredients with low market value. But now, there's a revival of these vegetables that had escaped popular imagination," he says.
The only hitch, however, they concur, is the availability. But, that's not stopping chefs from experimenting. Many are importing ingredients from South American countries, the heartland of purple foods.
Chicha Morada, Lima
At Lima, the Chicha Morada could pass off as the good ol' Sangria, only it's nothing quite like it. The Peruvian soft drink is prepared by boiling water with purple corn, pineapple, green apples, cinnamon, cloves, and sweetened with sugar and lime juice. "Due to high concentrations of the corn's natural purple pigments, known as anthocyanins, chicha morada is an antioxidant powerhouse," says chef Jerry Thomas of Lima.
Lunch special veggie dessert
TAG - The GOURMART Kitchen
At Ranveer Brar's TAG - The GOURMART Kitchen, you're likely to find the oddest veggies in desserts. In The Lunch Special Veggie Dessert, it's the red cabbage that makes its way into the panna cotta which also features cranberry, yoghurt sponge, salted caramel walnut, sweet balsamic caviar and ginger crumble. "We introduced this about two months ago, with the idea of adding nutritional richness of veggies into a dessert and creating a pairing that transcends traditional borders," he says. The cabbage is sourced from Pune.The cabbage is boiled with milk and then set into a panna cotta consistency with kappa. "We are also doing a purple yam aioli in our next menu which is made using locally sourced yam from Gujarat."
Black rice tacos served with Sour cream and Pico de gallo
It was when Chef Sanyo Vaz was doing research on global food trends that he came across black rice. "Black rice is a cut above the rest in its nutritional quality and health benefits. It contains more protein and less carbohydrate and keeps you fuller for longer. So, we were keen to source it," he says. With further research, he found that it was available in Manipur.
For the last four months, the nachos and tortillas at the restaurant have been prepared using black rice. "We parboil the rice and then add corn to it because by itself the taste could get bitter."
Purple Potato Gnocchi
The purple potatoes served at Myxx are imported from Peru. "They bring a more distinguished flavour to the gnocchi," says chef Sameer Bhalekar. He says that the vegetable also offers a slightly nutty flavour. Using imported refined flour, the purple potato gnocchi is a dish that the chef likes to lap up himself. "You have to boil the potato to a point where it doesn't get gooey," he says. Not content with purple potatoes alone, he's also searching for purple radish and carrots for the restaurant.
Stuffed Aubergine Roll
At Su Casa, eggplant dishes are most sought after. In fact, the aubergine roll comprising quinoa, mushroom and marie rose sauce, is the highest selling snack. "While aubergines are high in fibre, quinoa is gluten-free. We first dehydrate the vegetable to cut down the bitterness. We balance it out by using blanched tomatoes and wine," says chef Dev Rawat, adding that the aubergines are locally sourced.
PB+J cheesecake with purple grape jelly
Chef Kelvin Cheung of Bastian has fond memories of gorging on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while growing up in LA. "And now that beautiful local grapes are in season, the first thing I thought of was peanut butter and jelly that we had when we were kids. Grape jelly was a must with homemade peanut butter. So we wanted to create a grown up version of this in the form of cheesecake," he says.
Here, they bake the PB+J cheesecake with fresh grape jam and grape syrup. "We let it set and add a layer of jam followed by a layer of peanut butter mousse. It's garnished with grape syrup and candied nuts. And to add to that familiar sandwich flavour instead of a classic graham cracker crust of any kind, we serve fresh brioche toast," he explains.
Crunchy iceberg dumpling, Yauatcha
At Yauatcha, the crunchy iceberg dumpling comprising red cabbage was introduced last year. "It's the most healthy food you can have. Its bitter, peppery flavour signifies that you're consuming two types of cancer-preventing substances. The red pigment comes from plant-based chemicals called flavonoids, while the sharp flavour is the result of sulfur-based compounds," says Chef Charles Chee Ken Fui, Consultant Head Chef. Asparagus, water chestnut, corn and iceberg lettuce are used as filling.