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Mumbai food: Chefs, experts whip up a culinary storm from sour treats handcart

Two chefs, a mixologist and food writer take up our challenge to pick ingredients off a sour treats handcart and show you how to whip up a culinary storm at home

For the last 10 years, Naginder Gupta has been manning the handcart on Station Road in Vile Parle (E). He sources the ingredients from the APMC in Navi Mumbai. “Vendors source them from the interiors of Maharashtra. Ber is only available till March,” he says
For the last 10 years, Naginder Gupta has been manning the handcart on Station Road in Vile Parle (E). He sources the ingredients from the APMC in Navi Mumbai. “Vendors source them from the interiors of Maharashtra. Ber is only available till March,” he says

Dried jujube
The twist: Ber Jam
Since the tiny, maroon bead resembles a date, due its crumpled texture, the pectoral dried fruit of the jujube tree is also known as Chinese date, after its country of origin. However, the fruit is widely found in India too.

Though tangy-sweet, it doesn’t have a dominant taste, believes chef Himanshu Taneja, culinary director at The St Regis Mumbai. He uses the dried fruit to make a jam blended with orange juice, castor sugar and cinnamon. “You can toss it with sesame and have it as a snack.”

Ingredients
500 g fresh Ber ( Deseeded and Cut into small pieces)
100ml Orange Juice
150 g golden caster sugar
1 stick cinnamon

Method
Place all the ingredients in a wide saucepan and add a splash of water.
Put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil. Simmer gently until the bers are softened.
Boil down until the mixture thickens slightly, then take off the heat and leave to cool.

Kamrakh (star fruit)
The twist: Star Fruit Salad
Also known as carambola, the waxy skinned, star-shaped fruit is part of most nostalgia-tinged conversations revolving around after-school eats. Native to Indonesia, China and popular throughout Southeast Asia, the fruit is now finding space in Indian cuisine as a flavouring agent due to its khatta-meetha taste. “It’s largely used in syrups and cocktails as a garnish. I like to grill it with fish,” shares Taneja, who also thinly slices and tosses it with carrots, Belgian endives and fennel bulbs for a salad on-the-go. “Pick a star fruit that is not over-ripe or plump because it loses its sweetness by then. Use one with a firm texture.”

Chef Himanshu Taneja. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Chef Himanshu Taneja. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Ingredients
1 large carrot, peeled and trimmed
1Star Fruit
1 bulb fennel
2 number Baby radishes
1 head romaine lettuce
2 white Belgian endives
6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Small bunch fresh dill, chopped

Method
Peel all vegetable like a ribbon - carrot, fennel (including the greens) and radishes.
Hold all vegetables in ice cold water for minutes so they become crispy. Drin and pat dry on kitchen towel. Roughly chop both the lettuces.
Make a refreshing dressing by mixing Olive oil lemon juice salt black pepper and chopped dill.
Thinly slice star fruit and refrigerate it.
In a bowl mix all ribbon vegetable, lettuce and dressing. Place it in center of place. Add little dressing on star fruit and arrange it nicely over salad. Serve cold.

Jungle Jalebi (Pithecellobium dulce)
The twist: Jungle Jalebi Margarita

Binny Dadwal. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
Pics/Sneha Kharabe

Jungle Jalebi derives its name from coils of fuchsia-green pods encasing white beady fruit with black seeds. The tree is native to the tropics and now, found in the Indian wilderness. It goes by various monikers — Camachile, Ganga Imli, Kodukka Puli (Tamil) and Manila Tamarind. With a mild sweet and sour taste and a paper-like texture, its use in food is restricted to meat dishes, but Jungle Jalebi lends itself well to drinks, as celebrated mixologist Binny Dadwal found out. “It gave a nice, dry texture to the margarita. I ground the beads into a puree, and mixed it with tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. I will use this ingredient now,” says the managing director of Drinq Bar Academy.

Ingredients:
50ml Tequila
20ml lime juice
20ml Jungle Jalebi puree
10ml cointreau
Dash of chilli powder
Rim of chat masala

Method:
Rim the glass with chat masala, take shaker add all ingredients in it shake it hard and strain it in margarita glass.

Imli (tamarind)
The twist: Rare Yellowfin Tuna With Soba Noodles, Tamarind Miso Glaze

Chef Nitin Kulkarni. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Chef Nitin Kulkarni. Pics/Bipin Kokate

Tamarind is used across communities. Maharashtrians use it in their dals. It’s a staple in seafood gravies of Karnataka and the entire southern belt infuses sambhar and rasam with the souring agent. “You can buy it now and stock it for the whole year. Pick the variety with thin skin, light brown colour and moderately sour taste,” shares chef Nitin Kulkarni of The Clearing House. Though it isn’t on the Ballard Estate restaurant’s menu currently, the chef mixes fresh tamarind pulp with honey and miso paste to create a glaze for a yellowfin tuna dish. “Combine tamarind with sweet ingredients and a hint of spice. The sour ingredient caramelises the sweet. This enhances its flavour too,” he shares.

Ingredients:
Yellow fin tuna (sushi grade) - 300 gms
Soba noodles - 60 gms
Dark miso paste - 15 gms
Light soya - 60 ml
Tamarind pulp - 10 gms
Finely chopped ginger - 5 gms
Deseeded Thai chili - ½ nos
Honey - 10 gms
Olive oil - 30 ml
Sea salt - 15 gms
Crushed black pepper - 15 gms
Pickled ginger - 5 gms
Red radish - 2 nos
Straw mushrooms - 2 nos
Microgreens - few sprigs

Method:
Clean and pat dry the tuna loin. Rub it with a mixture of sea salt and crushed black pepper. Let it rest for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, soak the tamarind in cold water to remove the pulp.
Combine the tamarind pulp, miso paste, finely chopped Thai chili, ginger, honey and light soya and bring it to one boil. Strain the mixture with a fine strainer and cool at room temperature.
Remove the sea salt and black pepper from the tuna loin using a kitchen towel and marinate evenly with the tamarind miso glaze made in the previous step and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Boil the soba noodles in salt and boiling water till it turns soft. Strain the boiling water and shock the noodles in an ice bath to cool them instantly.
In a hot sauté pan, sear the straw mushrooms in olive oil.
Combine the mushrooms with chilled soba noodles and wedges of red radish and juliennes of pickled ginger.
Season the noodles and place it on a serving dish.
Remove the marinated tuna loin from the fridge, slice it evenly and place the slices to the side of the soba noodles or as you wish.
Drizzle a little tamarind miso glaze on the plate and garnish with microgreens.

Amla (gooseberry)
The twist: Victoria Sandwich With Strawberry, Amla And Ginger Jam

Amla juice may have been part of your grandmother’s nuskas, but ever tried the fruit in a cake? Twenty-six-year-old food writer Ankiet Gulabani experiments with it in a jam infused with ginger, cloves and strawberry. The slightly runny mix is sandwiched in a Victoria sponge cake. “It’s a simple pound cake. Amla has pectin, so the jam sets well. Buy the fruit that’s greenish-yellow in colour and ensure the piece is not damaged. You can also make a sabzi out of it.”

Ingredients:

For the cakes:
Salted Butter 175g, softened, plus extra for greasing (I never bother with unsalted)
Caster sugar 175g
Eggs 3
Self-raising flour 175g (if you don't have self-raising flour, make your own. To every cup of maida, whisk in 1 1/2 tsp baking powder)
Baking powder 1 tsp
Salt a pinch
Milk 2 tbsp

For the filling:
Non-dairy whipping cream 110ml (Rich's cream or Tropolite)
Strawberries 1 cup, chopped into small pieces
Amla 1 cup, cut around the seed, chopped into small pieces
Ginger 2 tsp
Sugar 1 and 3/4th cup
Clove 1/8 tsp, toasted, then powdered (optional)

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius regular or 160 degrees celsius fan. Grease the insides of two round cake tins and line the bases with baking paper.
Start by creaming the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Whisk all the eggs together and slowly add them to the butter and sugar mixture, beating it in. In another mixing bowl, add the flour and baking powder and run a whisk through it a few times.
Add the flour to the butter-sugar-eggs mixture, splash in the milk and fold gently to incorporate everything together.
Divide the batter between the two cake tins and place in the oven to bake for 18-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean or when it is springy to touch. Let the cakes cool in their tins for 10 minutes before running a knife around the cake to loosen it from the edges of the tin. Remove the cakes from the mould and let them cool completely.
For the jam, set a plate with spoons in the freezer.
Next, in a medium sized heavy bottomed pan, add the chopped, strawberries, amla, the cloves (optional) and ginger. Let it cook over high heat till it has almost disintegrated.
Add in the sugar and stir at intervals till the jam starts to foam. At this stage, you want to spoon a bit out into one of the metal spoons and let it sit in the freezer for five minutes. After five minutes, you'll be able to tell what the final texture will be like. For this cake, make a slightly runny jam because it's like a delicious sauce.
Keep testing every five minutes till you reach the desired consistency. Lower the heat if necessary, you don't want any scorching to happen.
Decant the hot jam in sterilised jars, remove any air bubbles that rise to the top as it cools, then bottle the cooled jam and use as needed.
Thaw the whipping cream for ten minutes, then empty it into a mixing bowl and using a hand-mixer, whisk the cream to stiff peaks.
Trim the cakes if necessary and once you have two uniform flat layers, lay one of them on a plate and slather on a thick layer of the cream. Spoon over about 4 heaped table spoonfuls of the jam on top of the cream and sandwich with the second layer. Dust the top of the cake with some icing sugar and finish with strawberries.

 

Ber (jujube)
The twist: Jujube Tea Cocktail

If you can get past its cloyingly sweet smell and bite into a ripe ber, you’ll discover that the fruit is a good sleeping aid. It’s even considered a rich source of iron and phosphorous, which helps maintain your RBC count. So, Dadwal decides to create a warm, medicinal cocktail out of it. He picks the semi-ripe orange-red variety instead of raw green and blush red ripe ones. “Fully ripe ones are too sour and sticky,” he says, as he goes on to create a whiskey-based concoction with the muddled fruit, pear, ginger and cinnamon sticks, which mask the fruit’s smell too.

Ingredients:
50ml Scotch
Few jujube fruit
Cinnamon sticks fresh
Pear
Ginger
Sugar for taste

Method:
Boil all ingredients without scotch and double strain in cup. Serve hot with whiskey on side.

Kachi kairi (raw mango)
The twist: Raw Mango Curd

With the onset of summer, Vitamin C-rich raw mangoes have begun cropping up across the city. While pickles and aam pannas are the traditional recipes for enjoying the fruit, Ankiet Gulabani (above, inset) suggests an exotic, creamy curd using a medium-sized tender raw mango, butter, sugar and an egg yolk. “It comes together in 15 minutes; it’s a real game changer. You can enjoy this with shortbread biscuits or spread over toast,” he says.

Ingredients:
Raw Mango 1 medium-sized, finely grated
Butter 75g
Caster sugar 150g
Eggs 2
Egg Yolk 1

Method:
In a saucepan, put the butter, sugar, raw mango over a low heat till all the butter has melted. Stir it a few times.
Beat together the eggs and the egg yolk vigorously.
Take the pan off the heat and pour in the beaten eggs, stirring all the time to prevent the mixture from scrambling. If it does scramble, don't worry, you can still push it through a sieve.
Let the mixture thicken till it coats the back of a spoon. Once it does, remove from the heat and pour it into a sterilised jar and let it cool.
Enjoy this with shortbread biscuits or spread over toast.

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