The Taste of Old & New

Molecular gastronomy and the use of modern equipments,like the smoke gun or anti-griddle,helps Masala Library present Indian cuisine differently,without compromising on authentic flavours

Published:September 29, 2013 5:10 am

A platter arrives with a kettle of hot water,a bowl containing what look like dried leaves,another with a white powder and two empty tea cups. Carefully and in proportion,the chef adds some leaves and powder to each cup,and slowly pours in the water. Soon,the water takes on a dark tinge and the leaves seem to bloom,transforming the contents of the cup into a hearty yet light mushroom soup.

An airtight glass jar full of smoke,is placed on the table. Upon opening the lid,chicken kebabs on skewers come into sight. Although the smoke has dissipated,it leaves behind a smokey flavour distinct to wood-fired ovens in the kebabs.

Placed atop a bed of crumbled cake and chocolate-coated hazelnuts,a ladle-full of chocolate-flavoured whipped cream turns into a solid chunk when liquid nitrogen is poured over it. In the mouth,however,it melts instantly,leaving the diner with an experience similar to that of consuming chocolate brownie with ice-cream sans the loads of calories.

When it opens on October 5 in Bandra-Kurla Complex,chances are no meal at Masala Library will be complete without such seemingly magical tricks. A “modern Indian cuisine restaurant” by culinary veteran Jiggs Kalra’s son Zoravar,it has a kitchen stocked with a variety of fancy equipments. “We extensively use molecular gastronomy — a science that helps enhance both flavours and dining experience — apart from other tools such as a smoke gun to generate smoke and anti-griddle which freezes any liquid in a matter of minutes. But that isn’t our USP; the intention is to offer a take on traditional Indian cuisine,” explains Zoravar.

The twist,therefore,is presented in various forms,from a platter of Cheddar Cheese Nankhatais — a cross between a buttery savoury biscuit and a soft,cheesy bread — served complimentary on every table to Mishti Doi Sorbet and Pesto kebabs topped with parmesan papads.

“There is need to present Indian cuisine differently. From a regular Udupi eatery to a fine-dining restaurant in a five-star hotel,the presentation of desi food remains the same,” Zoravar points out,adding that Indian fusion restaurants internationally have won Michelin stars but no one has achieved that within the country. “We will attempt to provide a better dining experience without compromising on authentic Indian flavours,” he says.

Authenticity of flavour,Zoravar stresses,is of utmost importance. For instance,in the main course options,the menu has select items from a multitude of regional cuisines. The taste of the Rajasthani laal maas as prepared traditionally is maintained,with the meat cooked so tender that it falls off the bone in one swipe. But it need not be eaten with regular rotis or naans — instead,the Lucknowi sheermal,a crispy bread with a hint of saffron,complements the meat well.

Among the traditional items,where the flavours and cooking methods have especially been retained,it’s the choice of ingredients that changes. For example,kebabs are served with a yoghurt-based dip and the chilli powder used in it is the intensely hot Hebanero variety of Mexican origin. Similarly,the pomegranate raita has been prepared using cumin powder,chilli powder and salt but the tiny red balls added to it burst in the mouth upon the lightest of pressure from the tongue,causing an explosion of mild rose flavour.

Inside the kitchen,chef Himanshu Saini and Saurabh Udinia have occupied different corners as they sweat it out with the staff for pre-launch trials. Udinia is busy adding apple-flavoured hickery wood chips to the smoke gun even as his colleage whips Nashik orange and kaffir lime with lecitin mixture to create foam that stays for up to 15 minutes. Watching them at work,Zoravar says,“It’s fun to experiment till presentation doesn’t take away from the taste.” Saini agrees and adds that the greater challenge lies in cooking the traditionally-prepared dishes the way they should be.

To execute ‘spherification’,Saini then brings out a bath of calcium chloride solution and into that,he pours drops of pea pulp,mixed with sodium alenade in a predetermined proportion. Each drop,as soon as it falls,takes a perfectly spherical shape and turns into an island,without fusing with another. As he sieves these out and places them in a water bath before adding to the soy kheema,it is time to serve the Mishti Doi Sorbet with a dash of strawberry syrup.

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