CHENNAI: Vegetable markets are not just about the busy cacophony. A visit to the neighbourhood market can bring out a whole vista of pictures, plus a host of sight and aroma. People going about their ware, fresh produce on display. All very fascinating.
And, that’s every chef’s delight, I must say. In fact, it can feel like a child’s trip to the candy store — everything looks so tempting! As a chef, this can be of great interest as we are closely connected to the markets. My main aim is to serve to my guests, lovingly prepared food that has been freshly sourced as well. Recently, I had the chance to visit Chennai’s largest market — Koyambedu. Definitely, I could say that was one of the most interesting trips I have taken in my life. I was excited as I had heard a lot about this bustling marketplace, which also contributes to our everyday supply of fresh vegetables with which my team makes the various dishes we serve in our restaurants.
I got up at the crack of dawn and set off at 4am. We were greeted by truckloads of vegetables being offloaded, vendors running around everywhere with baskets on their heads. An avalanche of vegetables landing from the vehicles. I was amazed to all this activity so early in the morning. Koyambedu vegetable market is the largest in Chennai and houses about 350-400 vegetable shops. Stacks and stacks of bright oranges, crunchy carrots, shiny red tomatoes and bundles of fresh greens were calling out my name! I was already getting the details ready on my mind to prepare the dishes I would make with my team using these super fresh vegetables.
We came back from the market armed with our treasure and immediately I set about preparing my favourite dish, vegetable tagine. Food prepared with the freshest of vegetables is the perfect recipe of a runaway hit! The vegetable tagine with baby carrots, zucchini, tomatoes and onions was a raving success at the party we had arranged at The Flying Elephant that day.
The global Hyatt philosophy of food thoughtfully sourced and carefully served is also the holy grail for us (chefs) and I personally live by this simple directive in my cooking. That is why I also love to prepare fresh mezze, which is also my great take-away from the Middle East. I can definitely say that a visit to Koyambedu vegetable market has been my most purposeful mission in Chennai so far. And also the most interesting! All, at the crack of dawn.
(The writer is the Executive Chef of the Park Hyatt Chennai)