CHENNAI: In average-looking samosa sat atop a bed of savoury chole, coated in sweet, red chutney. To the unsuspecting consumer, it may simply seem to be a tamarind drizzle but the first bite coats the tongue in a fruity alternative — close to the typical option but just different enough. Other all-day breakfasts on the Ameri-cran Dream menu by SOCIAL offer the same experience, thanks to the unique curation by chef Shamshul Wahid and food historian Anoothi Vishal.
In a partnership with US Cranberries, the culinary experts worked on various monsoon breakfast items that mesh Indian flavours with tangy cranberries. “Cranberries are an extremely versatile fruit that can be paired with both sweet and savoury dishes. The US Cranberries and SOCIAL partnership for this menu is about pushing the boundaries and creating a playful burst of flavour with each dish,” shares Anoothi, to which Saurabh Arora, regional executive chef, added, “This menu has been made keeping in mind the special breakfast dishes eaten during the monsoon season. (In these), we have incorporated cranberries in a thoughtful way. The idea is to not have a forceful inclusion of cranberries or add them for the sake of it, but (create) a flavour combination for a well-paired dish.”
Working on a menu
The construction of the menu was a result of much trial and error, informs Saurabh, adding that there was a tasting menu created with the dishes in mind and with inputs taken from Anoothi, the same was whittled down to seven items — Dal and Cranberry Kachoris with Methi Chutney, Cranberry Mangore with Mint Chutney, Cranberry and Cashew Samosa Chaat, Mirchi Keema Pao paired with cranberry lehsun chutney and cranberry relish, Cranberry Sabudana Khichdi, Spicy Coriander and Cranberry Vermicelli, and Pulled Mutton Nihari with Cranberry Baos. Speaking of the collaborative effort, Anoothi said, “The man behind the ever-popular menus of SOCIAL and Smoke House Deli — chef Shamsul Wahid, is all about his craft. For him, food is his one true passion and it shows. Through the course of our association, from conceptualisation to finalisation, the chef channelled my vision and added his special touch. He has managed to give cranberries a never-seen-before avatar and created a monsoon-special menu to remember.”
And so he did, but would it be a pleasant memory? The samosa was a well-fried — crunchy exterior with a chewy interior pastry — snack, filled with a spiced mush of potatoes and peas. It was topped with sev, and a chutney that may be too sweet for some, but just right for others. The dish comes fairly well together, thanks to the savoury, smokey chole underneath. If you’re a vegetarian, you may want to save some to pair with the baos accompanying the nihari your nonvegetarian friend devours. The baos were speckled with cranberry, offering a surprising sweetness that was reminiscent of raisins hidden in samosas, when paired with the savoury and oh-so-salty nihari. The chewy nihari was followed by the Mirchi Keema Pao, which was (an initially disconcerting) light green.
The outlier vegetarian at the table seemed to enjoy the plain pao with the cranberry lehsun masala, but the non-vegetarians were confused with the rainbow of flavours provided by a sweet pao, salty meat and spicy powder. The latter, however, left one craving for more with its sweet and spicy tingle. The vermicelli was much more agreeable to the crowd, reminding us of homemade goodness with its savoury and silky mouthfeel. However, it is easy to forget the topping of cranberries that add nothing much to the already perfect dish.
Where the vermicelli excelled, the sabudana khichdi confused. The texture was more like porridge and the cranberries offered more to the aesthetic than the taste. The same went for the kachori, which offered the cranberry little opportunity to shine. The feast ended with the mangore, a moong dal pakoda. A good ending to a rollercoaster ride, the bite-sized snacks were savoury and crunchy, assisted with a delicate amount of cranberry sauce. The mint chutney with which it was served also added to the earthiness across the palate, wrapping up the complex flavour profile well. In the end, the experiment had its ups and downs. The affordability of the items certainly beckons a taste. And where we can appreciate the attempt to reinvent Indian breakfasts with a foreign ingredient, we’re not sure we’re ready to swap out the originals just yet.