How the Aussies mix it up
With a cafe chain launching a month-long Aussie eats pop up, city chefs discuss a cuisine enriched by European and Asian influences, and the thrust on quality meats and local produce.
An ongoing Australian food festival piques our interest as we spot Asian flavours, German and Tex-Mex elements on the menu. City chefs reason that this is what defines contemporary Aussie cuisine — a mix of traditional produce and influences from migration. This amalgamation of farm-grown meats, diverse seafood thanks to their coastline, and cooking methods brought by migrants is gaining popularity globally, though it's still taking baby steps in Mumbai.
Then and now
The first Australian inhabitants were hunter-gatherers and ate bush tucker that included native fauna or flora. "So, meat is a core part of the cuisine, and preparations incorporate fruits and flowers from the rainforests and herbs from verdant woodland," chef Dinesh Shinde from Aromas Café, which is hosting the festival, tells us.
Today, the food served at eateries there has evolved but is still built on local produce. Which is why Estella, the Australian-inspired eatery in Juhu, boasts of steamed Australian barramundi and Tasmanian scallops. "The fish has soya and ginger dressing while the scallops have a green Japanese miso dressing as Aussies are big on Asian flavours now due to the huge population from the continent," explains Rohan D'Souza, head chef at Estella.
Chef Saurabh Ratauri
Farm-grown red meat is as good as it gets thanks to the quality pasture available for feed. "The content is not gamy or chewy, but tender. And it doesn't smell bad raw," reveals chef Saurabh Raturi, head chef, The Bluebop Cafe, where they serve Australian lamb chops with Italian seasoning (rosemary, thyme, pepper, salt and garlic).
Australian lamb chops
"They are big on berries, breads and use a lot of dry rubs with dried cumin and thyme, celery, olive oil and garlic," points out Ameya Mahajani, consultant chef, Aromas Cafe. This is why the restaurant has used black garlic fried rice that is abundantly grown in Australia, with curried prawns inspired by Sri Lankan flavours, another Asian country with a strong presence in Australia.
Chef Dinesh Shinde and Chef Ameya Mahajani
Chef Rohan D'Souza
The aboriginal cooking techniques included encasing meat or seafood in paper bark and cooking it over hot coals and stones. "This method infuses the seafood or meat with smoky, earthy flavours. Today, the lamb tartare uses similar simple ingredients and methods of cooking," adds chef Shinde. And as slow-cooking is the traditional way to cook meat, every eatery there has a wood grill. "If you're cooking at 50 degree Celsius, the meat will be cooked evenly and thoroughly in eight hours but won't be overcooked. We can't replicate it, so we use the sous-vide method with modern kitchen equipment," informs chef Ratauri.
Fermentation is another technique that's picking up. "This has been coupled with French techniques," adds celebrity chef Sarah Todd, who is Australian. A lot of their food is also baked thanks to European influences and stir-fried due to the Asian touch, chef D'Souza adds.
But what remains a specialty elusive to India is kangaroo meat. "It's more difficult to cook, is braised and then slow-cooked, which is where their traditional method of cooking comes from," says Nitin Kulkarni, head chef, The Clearing House. The tender bits are grilled but the tougher ones are cooked at 80 to 100 degree celsius for up to 72 hours.
Nitin Kulkarni and Sarah Todd
Baby steps in Mumbai
It's because of the unavailability of kangaroo and the lack of appetite for it that Australian cuisine hasn't picked up in Mumbai, points out chef Raturi, adding that India has barely opened up to eating emu, another Australian delicacy. Interestingly, with growing Indian influence in Australia, there is a visible change in palate preferences Down Under. "Queensland has seafood preparations that use mangoes just like in south India, south Australia is big on marinades and slow-cooked meats like in Delhi and Rajasthan, and we all love our chilli, inspired from the growing
Thai influence," says chef Todd.
Try it out at
At Aromas Cafe, Bandra, Juhu, Powai, Thane.
Till December 20, 8 am to 1 am
At The Bluebop Café, 318, Linking Rd, Khar, Khar West.
Time 12 pm to 1 am
At Estella, Nichani Kuttir Building, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu.
Time 6 pm to 1 am
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