Fruit and Nut
The bright yellow bulbs of jackfruit looked dapper next to the roasted brown of pecan nuts. Almost like they had some kind of innate chemistry. As the unused ones were being carried back to the kitchen in silver trays, I mulled over the strange combination. Fruit – soft, tender and juicy. Nut – solid, dry and crunchy. Opposites really. While jackfruit, the largest tree-borne fruit that’s high in energy and dietary fibre has an inimitable sweet taste, the pecan’s delicious, rich, sweet-buttery flavour with its high fat content makes wonderful additions to pies and fudges. Extremes, but together they seem agreeable, in harmony, playing the balancing act.
The Mandarin-speaking chef who made Jackfruit and pork cutlets with bacon and pecan nut fried rice had difficulty conversing in English but his smiling visage was more than eager to tell stories from his homeland. This is his first time outside China. Inspired by his uncle, a chef in Mianyang, the Sichuan Province and fascinated by restaurants and people who came to eat there, Sichuan Masterchef Tang Xi Bing decided that the food industry was ideal for him. “My uncle’s restaurant kitchen felt like the factory shop floor, only, surrounded by fresh ingredients and food,” he smiles.
In comparison, Senior Sous Chef Anupam Gulati of Amaranta who made jackfruit halwa and pecan nut ice cream with banana and chocolate jalebi with mango muesli cheesecake was at ease. While plating his dish, the IHM Lucknow graduate tells us how he gets his love for food from his grandparents and father, both foodies. They introduced him to authentic flavours at some of the most excellent dhabas and restaurants in the country. After a stint with another hotel, Chef Gulati joined the pioneering team at Amaranta, at Oberoi Gurgaon when it started in 2010.
“It took us two years to conceptualise the restaurant. We visited several Michelin restaurants in London and Singapore to understand what the world wants. Amaranta means a flower that never fades. The restaurant brings together nine Indian coasts – including Saurashtra, Kochi and Kolkata – under one roof,” he says. Ask for its USP and the chef gets all thoughtful. “We serve curries as curries not sauces. Like they are meant to be. On the side. You can choose your fish and be assured that it has been specially flown in the same day from a coast in India where it’s best found. But we haven’t restricted ourselves to just seafood, there is a huge variety in vegetarian fare as well.”
Chef Bing got talking about the impulsive decision of joining a restaurant and later a catering school to learn Sichuan cuisine. He passionately spoke of how after working for 19 years in China, he thought it would be a good idea to take his skill elsewhere and see how authentic Sichuan cuisine would be accepted around the world. India is his first destination and he has been here for a year. “The concept of ‘Indian-Chinese’ always intrigued me! I must say it’s quite delicious even though not much Chinese! Having said that, Indians do appreciate authenticity and the Sichuan cuisine is really cherished here. At Threesixtyone, I get to cook for different kinds of palates. Some have a course of Japanese appetisers, then want a Sichuan dish and then end with an Indian dessert! It’s interesting for me, but that’s the best part. Chef Bing’s favourite Indian dish? “Paranthas!” he smiles.
Chinese cuisine uses a lot of different kinds of nuts especially peanuts or ginko nuts in stir fries and soups, with chicken and other meats, adding crunch to the dish. Fruits and nuts are often used alongside with the most common ones being apricots, oranges and apples along with pecan nuts, peanuts and almonds.
Indians have always used fruits and nuts in their cuisine – from Kashmir to Hyderabad, Awadh to Kerala, maintains Chef Gulati. Most Indian desserts mix the two superbly. There are a lot of nut-based cooking oils too. Salads, raitas and most rice dishes like pulaos and biryanis use fruits and nuts together.
Chef Gulati points out that there are certain rules that apply when fruits and nuts are combined, “Citrus fruits are best teamed with vegetables while nuts go well with salads. It’s best not to mix fruits with a high acid content, with protein-rich foods. So citrus, strawberries, pineapples should not be mixed with eggs or too many nuts, especially the ones with high heat value.”
In Chef Bing’s kitchen, “no one tells me to make anything spicy’ because when you tell a Sichuan chef ‘more spice’ you don’t know what you are asking for”! he grins. Chef Gulati’s inspirations come from his everyday experiences as well as his interaction with guests. “I enjoy travelling and tasting authentic dishes from the Indian countryside – away from big cities and big restaurants – at roadside shacks and eateries. Old forgotten foods and recipes of India fascinate me and I have a lot of books on cooking and the history of food and culture. I like to see how old recipes are passed on and how cultural interactions influence the food of our times.” The Delhiwalla chef loves the city’s sheer diversity and richness, especially in its food, “with the traditional and the contemporary, the old and new, the high-end and the street – it’s a great city to be a foodie and a chef!” In his kitchen, “everyone has to cook with their hearts. I encourage my team to be creative and we try to adapt their innovations to our menu.” He sends his team out shopping for ingredients to butcheries, fisheries, vegetable or grocery stores or even the farms so that they know where and how their food journey begins.
JACKFRUIT AND PORK CUTLETS WITH BACON AND PECAN NUT FRIED RICE
Jackfruit and pork cutlets
Ingredients to use for 4 portions: Pork mince, 240 gm; Jackfruit cleaned and diced, 160 gm; Eggs, 2; boiled Potato, 1; Bell peppers (red yellow and green), 10 gm; Salt, 15 gm; White pepper powder, 10 gm; Char siew sauce, 80 ml; Bread crumbs, 100 gm; Refined vegetable oil, 100 ml.
Method: Mix all the ingredients together. Check seasoning, make this mixture in round patty like cutlets. Coat with egg and bread crumbs. Pan-fry on a low heat flame till golden brown.
Bacon and pecan nut fried rice Ingredients for 4 portions: Bacon chopped, 160 gm; Pecan nut, 80 gm; Steamed rice, 500 gm; Scallions chopped, 40 gm; Salt, 10 gm; Sugar, 10 gm; White pepper powder, 10 gm.
Method: Render the bacon in a wok till crisp. Put the steam rice, pecan nut, scallion and seasoning. Toss till the rice is heated and everything is mixed evenly.
JACKFRUIT HALWA AND PECAN NUT ICE CREAM WITH BANANA AND CHOCOLATE JALEBI WITH MANGO MUESLI CHEESECAKE
Pecan nut ice cream
Ingredients for 10 portions: Full fat milk, 900 ml; Sugar, 160 gm; Liquid glucose, 45 gm; powdered milk, 40 gm; full fat cream, 200 ml; ice cream stabilizer, 5 gm; Jackfruit peeled and diced, 250 gm; Pecan nuts chopped. 50 gm.
Method: Mix all ingredients in a pan except for jackfruit puree and pecan nuts and bring it to boil. This is the ice cream base. Cool to about 5 degrees Celsius. Deep fry the jackfruit without seed. Cool and make a fine puree of it. Mix this with the ice cream base along with pecan nuts and churn in an ice cream churning machine. Bring it down to 0o Celsius and store in a deep freezer.
Banana and chocolate jalebi
Ingredients for 4 portions: Banana , 250 gm; Dark chocolate paste,100 gm; refined flour, 60 gm; rice flour, 20 gm; baking powder,¼ tsp; curd (plain yogurt), 20 gm; sesame seeds, 2 gm; warm water, 75 ml; saffron threads (slowly dry-roasted and powdered), 1/2 gm; sugar, 90gm; water, 500 ml; green cardamom seeds powder, 1/2 tsp; rose water, 15 ml; Ghee or vegetable oil for frying.
Method: Peel and cut the bananas and slit them to spread the chocolate paste in between. Dust with refined flour and refrigerate for an hour. For batter, mix the flour, rice flour, baking powder, curd and 3/4th cup of the warm water in a ceramic bowl. Whisk and then add remaining water and saffron powder. Whisk until smooth and set aside for two hours to ferment. Whisk again before use. Prepare one string syrup by dissolving sugar in the water. Just before the syrup is ready add saffron and cardamom powder. Heat oil in a flat pan, dip the refrigerated bananas in the batter and deep fry them till golden and crisp. Drain oil and immerse in the syrup till fully soaked. Slice and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.
Mango muesli cheesecake
Ingredients for 15 portions: Philadelphia cheese, 1000 gms ; Caster sugar, 188 gm; Whole eggs, 9, Corn flour, 88 gm; Fresh cream full fat, 250 ml; Melted butter, 43 gm; Egg white, 8; Sugar, 200 gm; Mango muesli cereal, 250 gm; melted Butter, 90 gm.
Method: Take a round mould and line the base with a thin layer of crunchy muesli and melted butter and store in a refrigerator to set. Cream the cheese with castor sugar, whole eggs, corn flour and cream, keep aside. Now whip the egg whites and 200 gms of sugar till they become soft peaks. Finally, fold the cheese mix in meringue slowly and finish with adding remaining melted butter. Pour into lined moulds and bake at a pre heated oven at 160 degrees Celsius for about an hour on a steam-bake combination setting. Cool it down, remove the mould and serve.