Mumbai chefs tell you how to stay cool while eating meat this summer
Eating red meat in the summer is a strict no-no. But what if we told you there was a way to enjoy your red meat and digest it, even in the heat of May? City chefs tell you how to stay cool while you navigate a steak, thanks to simple techniques and easily available ingredients
Have you ever been a target of meat sweat? The words don’t project a pretty picture, but steak lovers accustomed to wolfing down chunks of meat will know what we mean.
Red meat is difficult to digest and sometimes the effort is just too much for the body. According to Chef Amit Chaudhary, Corniche, the ordeal is too much to take in the summer. “Ideally, we should consume less red meat during this season because it is too hot and is more taxing for our body to digest,” he says.
“Vegetables, fish and salads, for instance, are much easier to digest and transpire less heat in the body,” adds Chef Vikas Seth, who leads the kitchens at Sanchos and SingKong. In Seth’s opinion it’s best to go vegetarian in this weather. But meat eaters, who do not want to be denied their pound of flesh, have a way out this season.
Digestives on the side
Ask for seekh kebabs at the smallest thela in town and they will always be served with a plate of accompanying pudina and julienned onion. Sitting beside the mutton biryani at your booth at the poshest restaurant you will inevitably find its constant companion — the raita. These traditional accompaniments may not be as drool-worthy as the meat they’re served with, but they aid digestion and are far more important for your body. Especially in the heat of Mumbai’s May, adds Chaudhary.
The chef, who has other tricks up his sleeve to help counter the heat of red meat, believes that Arabic and Mediterranean cuisine are well suited for this season. “The food is easier to digest because of the ingredients they use. For instance, yoghurt, mint, sesame, cilantro, parsley and lemon,” explains Chaudhary.
TIP: Marinating the meat in citrus for a longer period will help make it tender. Replace spices like garam masala or black pepper with herbs such as parsley, basil and cilantro.
Rather than cooking with these ingredients, Chaudhary recommends garnishing the dish with them. “In most cases, overheating kills the nutrients in a particular ingredient. So rather than cooking with yoghurt, it is better to serve it raw on the side or add it to the dish at the very last minute. It is the same with sesame seeds. If you’re making a quick stir-fry, remember to garnish the dish with a generous dose of sesame seeds just before serving,” says the chef. Cucumber, he adds, is also a great cooling accompaniment to a meat dish.
TIP: If you must serve your meat with a starch, avoid rice or potatoes. Opt for cous cous or chickpeas instead. Spice down, fruit up
Caffeine and spices, claims Chef Seth, are a bad idea during summer. “Avoid using too much chilli and garam masala in the summer. Wherever possible, replace these spices with subtler flavouring such as herbs,” says Seth.
Dishes like ceviche and carpaccio, suggests Seth, are more advisable to eat because the thin slices of fish and meat are marinated in little other than citrus making them less taxing to the digestive system. “It is a good idea to keep your food as natural as possible,” he advises. “But eating raw or semi-cooked meat can be dangerous in summer, because meat is extremely prone to bacterial growth. So if you’re unsure of the quality of meat served at a restaurant, avoid eating raw meat and rare steaks,” advises Chaudhury.
TIP: Add more fruits and vegetables to the meat dish.
According to Chef Amey Surve, Eat Drink Design, incorporating fruits in your meat dish helps in two ways. “Fruits have natural fibre, which helps digestion. Also, your body tends to lose a lot of water during summer and fruits, which usually have a high water content, help balance the body’s water loss,” says Surve, who loves serving parma ham with melon wrapped in rice paper rolls. “I also recommend serving pork chops with arugula leaves and a citrus fruit. It makes for a delicious salad,” he adds.
TIP: Keep the portions of meat small; avoid family-sized steaks.
A cut apart
During your next visit to the butcher, remember to ask him for leaner chops, advises Chef Chaudhury. If you want chunks of meat, ask him to trim the meat from the shoulder. “The leg part has more fat,” explains Chaudhury. “Also, it may be difficult for the butcher to remove the fat from the bone. So it is better to insist on fillets,” he adds.
When buying pork, Surve suggests you refuse tough cuts. “Don’t buy meat from the hands or legs. Avoid eating shanks in the summer. The best cuts would be from the belly, loin or ribs, as you will find more fat marbling here. Even if you cook this meat for longer periods, it doesn’t harden,” he says.