Thailand's butterfly pea flower gives a blue shade to food and drinks in Mumbai restaurants

Sep 12, 2017, 05:58 IST | Raul Dias

Imparting a brilliant blue hue to everything it comes in contact with, the butterfly pea flower from Thailand finds a place across menus of city restaurants and watering holes

While chemistry might not have been everybody's cup of tea in school, it's proving to be everybody's cup of cocktail these days. Enter the brilliantly blue butterfly pea flower from Thailand with its chameleon-like colour-changing properties, turning purple when it comes in contact with lime juice.

"This unique flower makes it the perfect addition to a good-looking drink without using any artificial colour," says Ami Shroff, mixologist at London Taxi, one of the latest bars to have caught on this trend that first saw traction six months ago.

To get a little geeky on you, this flower of the clitoria ternatea plant, when steeped in water has been a perennial favourite herbal tea in many South Asian countries, and particularly in Thailand where for centuries it has been known as nam dok anchan. It's also renowned for its health benefits that include everything from tackling conjunctivitis to enhancing memory and brain power.

"Our mixologists focus heavily on local ingredients from Southeast Asia", says Tanai Shirali, Director - Operations at Bellona Hospitality, the guys behind the popular Shizusan Shophouse & Bar, that also uses the flower. "It isn't sweet and syrupy and has an earthy, woody taste like regular green tea. However, most people prefer their cocktails a little sweet, so the addition of the citrusy lime not only changes the colour but when mixed with palm sugar, gives the drink the required sweet note," he adds.

At the newly opened Nara Thai restaurant, the flower features prominently on both, the food and drinks menus. "The butterfly pea flower is a neutral ingredient. It is devoid of a strong flavour of its own and doesn't influence the flavour profile of the drink or dish. It imparts a different colour depending on the citrus level of the dish/drink. You can experiment with the colours while being assured that the flavour doesn't get affected", says Karyna Bajaj of the restaurant.

1. Butterfly Pea Sour 

A refreshing iteration of a classic Peruvian Pisco Sour, this cocktail at Nara Thai pushes the creative envelope further. Made like a standard Pisco Sour, with pisco, lime juice and sugar syrup, the drink is enhanced with a tea made with butter fly pea flowers and is anointed with the obligatory cloud of foamed egg white and a dry butterfly pea flower as garnish.

At Nara Thai, ground floor, Raheja Towers, BKC.
Call 61378080
Cost R600

2. Hattori Hanzo

The cocktail menu here focuses on classic cocktails with an Asian twist utilising lesser-used ingredients like oolong tea, and, in this case, butterfly pea flowers. A mélange of tequila, butterfly pea flower tea and lime, the cocktail is named after the Japanese warrior/monk Hattori Hanzo. The drink changes colour and is an apt toast to celebrate Hattori Hanzo's dual life.

At Shizusan Shophouse & Bar, Skyzone, Highstreet Phoenix, Lower Parel. Call 7045004138 Cost R575

3. Blue Chamomile G&T 

Another riff on a tried-and-tested cocktail -- this time the G&T -- is the blue chamomile G&T at Kamala Mills' newest hotspot. Here, the gin is infused with dried butterfly pea flowers and chamomile and kept very simple with the addition of lime juice and tonic water.

At London Taxi, Kamala Mills, A-Wing, Trade World, Lower Parel. Call 9029990454 Cost Rs 725

Flower power

Not just the flower, the roots of the butterfly pea flower plant are used to treat eye infections too. The flower is supposed to be rich in peptides, that help fight cancer cells. Since it’s caffeine-free, pea flower teas don’t just look good but make for a healthy substitute for those going decaf. For a cool party trick, freeze the flower in ice cubes to add some fun to your drinks.

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