In a pickle
As age-old techniques of fermenting and pickling gain fresh currency among diners, city chefs tell us how they are using them in foods as diverse as cream and chocolates
Exactly where your pumpkin spice kombucha sits today on the kitchen shelf, a bottle of achaar stood many moons ago. And much before any of us learnt to pronounce "sourdough" correctly, small bakeries in Bandra were serving gutli or kadak pao, a similar hard-crusted bread. Then, what is it that chefs and foodies are suddenly waking up to? Could it be an extension of the clean-eating and zero-waste food movements? Perhaps. Or does it have more to do with the West employing these ancient techniques, thereby reminding us of our roots? Whatever it is, fermenting and pickling are in.
"I grew up in Ambala, watching my paternal grandparents employ a lot of preservation methods, whether it was salt-curing meats or storing grains. However, very little of these were documented. I think today, we are able to put a name to these methods through more identifiable things like kombucha and miso vis-à-vis global eating trends, of which fermentation and pickling are currently a huge part. The processes are the same, we're just re-defining them," executive chef at Olive, Rishim Sachdeva explains.
At the end of 2015, when current habits like sustainable and organic eating and homegrown cuisines were yet to experience the boom they are a part of today, Sachdeva had just joined the Bandra fine-dine. "It was strawberry season and I had picked up so many that I had to find a way to preserve them." Since then, the chef has experimented with pickling several ingredients, ranging from sorrel leaves to mangoes.
Today, the methods are being ubiquitously commissioned inside restaurant kitchens. Here are a few interesting finds.
More than meat-s the eye
At this Asian eatery in Lower Parel, chef Avinash Naha makes use of pickled condiments in three of his dishes. But chiefly, there's the xin jiang lamb chops (Rs 745) which is accompanied by pickled cucumbers that help offset the strong flavours of the meat marinade.
Speaking about fermentation and pickling as culinary methods, Naha says, "It's no surprise that cultures across the globe enjoy such an assortment of pickled foods. In fact, food experts say that the evolution of diverse pickled foods in different cultures has contributed to unique food preferences, such as spicy and sour flavours in Southeast Asia or acidic ones in Eastern Europe."
At: Typhoon Shelter, Tulsi Pipe Road, Lower Parel.
Time: 12 pm to 3 pm; 7pm to 1am
"Indian culture has always had fermented foods, like idli, curd and kanji. However, pickling and fermenting methods vary in every region. In the West, for example, fermentation was mostly used to preserve meat or say, for cheese, but in Japan, they work with miso, rather than dairy.
So, I think today, as the world gets smaller, people are waking up to these processes from different countries," says Gresham Fernandes of Salt Water Cafe. These methods have been intrinsic to his childhood as an East Indian growing up in Bandra. Fernandes whips up a chaas fried chicken burger with spicy pickled radish (Rs 470) at his eatery.
At: Salt Water Cafe, Chapel Road, Bandra West.
Time: 9 am to 1 am
From the coast
During a food trial, we opened a jar of pickled radish, and it smelled like everyone in the kitchen farted at the same time," veteran chef Rahul Akerkar jokes, hinting at the unpredictable nature of these culinary techniques.
At his new restaurant, the yellowfin tuna loin (Rs 725) comprises curry leaf and sesame rub, avocado pachadi and pickled beets." "This dish was inspired by my travels through Kerala and the state's cuisine. The focus was on creating a dish that allowed every element to not only shine individually but to also augment and elevate each other," he adds.
At: Qualia, World Crest, Lower Parel.
Time: 6.30 pm to 1 am
The stuff of cream
At Alex Sanchez's new eatery, he ferments cream to turn it into crème fraîche, which is then incorporated into their signature potato love letters (Rs 325). The restaurant has a live sourdough culture, too.
"Fermented and pickled foods are ingrained in our lives. We once relied on them for preservation, and we will have to turn to them once again as sustainability becomes an essential part of the modern world," he shares.
At: Americano, Radha Bhavan, Fort.
Time: 7 pm to 1 am
A sweet chemistry
For his pickled plum blanc manger (approximately Rs 350) chef Prateek Bakhtiani uses pickled plums, both as whole slices and in a purée form. Outlining the difference between the two processes, he tells us, "Fermentation is a biological process: it requires microfauna to metabolise sugars in the food and break it down into sugar alcohols.
A byproduct of this process is acids, which is what gives fermented foods a tart flavour. Pickling on the other hand, is not a living process. It is when food is macerated in an acidic or saline brine."
At: Ether, A6, Wadala West.
Time: 12 pm to 6 pm
Email: email@example.com (order 24 hours in advance)
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