When Chef Sabyasachi Gorai (culinary director, Bob’s Bar) decided to do an iteration of the famous mutton ghee roast but with jackfruit seeds, many believed that he was mirroring Chef Dan Barber’s Wasted initiative. He wasn’t. Known for setting India’s first Armenian food restaurant, Lavaash By Saby, Chef Gorai was presenting an old technique. “Stretching ingredients is nothing new.
It is an art that has been practiced at our homes for centuries, and is part of our culinary foundation. My intention with the Jackfruit Seed Ghee Roast was to use a traditional technique with the knowhow of another cuisine to create something that brings in a modern twist to a traditional favourite,” he says. The jackfruit seed ghee roast today is a hot seller at Bob’s Bar.
Chef Gorai isn’t the only one who has taken this approach. Others such as Chef Sharad Dewan, Regional Director, Food Production, The Park Kolkata, and Chef Balpreet Singh, Director of Culinary Operations, Annamaya, Andaz, Delhi, have been following the ‘root to tip’ philosophy in their restaurants with success.
Chef Singh has been able to turn peels and seeds into versatile, popular accompaniments by treating them differently—seeds are roasted and then used as add-ons for cereals or in granola bars, dehydrated peels coated with jaggery are used for desserts and to add a new element to a pre-plated dish. For Chef Dewan, the scrap repurposing has been an offshoot of exploring regional cuisine and produce. “We have had a great history of using a vegetable in every possible way with numerous recipes dedicated to peels, seeds, stems and flowers. That treasure trove has become the base of reusing vegetable parts that was once thrown away,” he says.
One of the high points of The Bridge (an all-day dining in The Park, Kolkata) in fact is a special, roll-on menu that is dedicated to seasonal exploration of a seasonal ingredient and features specialities like Lau Chopa Aur Chingri, Kola Chopar Checha, Dum Dey Danthal and more. The reprisal of wasted veggie dishes in restaurants may have been the result of the regional cuisine explosion. “Regional dishes have remained a huge inspiration for the trend it has over the years led to the emergence of some interesting usages among chefs,” says Chef Dewan.
The new menu at Sanchez, designed by Chef Vikas Seth (Culinary Director, Sanchez), uses the avocado casing to serve drink and corn ears to infuse flavours into delicate seafood dishes. “Leaf wrapping has been an old practice to add subtle flavours to dishes, using corn ears to roast and steam
vegetables and seafood has enabled us to create newer variations to dishes.”
This happy marriage of traditional technique and thought has found home with Chef Neeraj Rawoot of Sofitel Mumbai BKC too. He uses stir-fried stems and stalks, and watermelon rinds to add zest to the salads at Pondichery Café with a selection of aromatic dust created using dried peels. “The reason isn’t just about showcasing innovation, it is a known fact that most stalks and stems are great tastemaker with a lot of nutritional value. And with diners moving towards experiential healthy food, rethinking these vegetable parts becomes even more imperative,” he says.
Agrees Chef Ajay Anand, Culinary Director of Pullman New Delhi Aerocity, who has been using stems, stalks, peels and seeds as thickeners and flavourants in his dishes in Pluck (a-farm-to-table concept). He feels most chefs don’t realise is the tastemaking virtues of these sidekicks. “Tubers, stalk and peels are rich in Amylose and Amylopectin, which are responsible for thickening and are naturally occurring flavourants—and undoubtedly a better choice to chemical additives,” he adds.
Rethinking scraps as tastemakers is a strategy that many chefs are indulging in. Chef Mir Zafar Ali of The Leela Palace Bengaluru uses the albedo, essentially the white part of an orange peel, to naturally thicken juices. He also uses the the pumpkin web as a puree in desserts to cut down on cream and sugar.
Innovation and repurposing aren’t the only ways that most chefs are approaching the discarded veggies, for many, reworking these “outlaws” has meant bringing in lesser known aspect of Indian cuisine to the tables as well.