Two Aphrodisiac Recipes That Combine Asparagus and Avocado
Having battled a rainy morning — typical to the financial capital at this time of the year — and zooming up to the 37th floor of The St Regis Mumbai, I find myself standing amid the gilded interiors of By the Mekong, struck by the view before me. Taking it all in gives the words ‘standing tall’ a whole new meaning. Looking beyond acres of The Mahalaxmi Race Course and over the superstructures, on every side I see the Arabian Sea envelope the coastal city. Little do I know that I would soon witness creations that may be considered gastronomic works of art.
Soon enough, the clouds give way to sunshine pouring through the large bay windows. With coffee in hand, the photographer and I select a warmly lit corner inside the cavernous restaurant for the shoot. Our hosts for the morning arrive shortly after — director of culinary, The St Regis Mumbai, Chef Martin Kindleysides and chef de cuisine Shi Xilin, By the Mekong, the St Regis Mumbai — bright and ready to serve up their dishes. Their challenge — working their magic with two widely known aphrodisiacs — asparagus and avocado.
Blanched, steamed, sautéed, griddled, roasted, stir- or wok-fried, simmered, or raw — asparagus is a versatile vegetable loaded with antioxidants. Nutritious and rich in vitamin E and fibre, avocado’s roster of beneficial qualities is not far behind.
With over two decades of experience under his belt, Kindleysides undertakes the plating of an asparagus, quail egg and goat’s cheese salad, creating a delicate marriage of crunchy and creamy in one flawless preparation. While watching his precise movements, taking the plate from empty to excellent, I inquire about the concept of the dish. “If you’re dining with your partner, you don’t want a very heavy meal, so the thought behind the dish was to keep it light, fresh and simple. This way, there’s nothing sitting on your stomach, which is why I decided to go ahead with quail egg, some raw-shaved and lightly blanched asparagus, quinoa which is a superfood, and some nice organic vegetables…. This salad packs five aphrodisiac foods into one, and won’t make you feel weighed down.”
Next up is Chef Xilin’s asparagus avocado sliced chicken in Sichuan chilli garlic sauce. Plate in hand, I see him walk out of the kitchen, and I’m confident of his flair for redefining Asian cuisine with a contemporary twist. He smiles reassuringly as he takes his team through the essentials of what goes into transforming a dish into a visual treat, as I stand across and watch them expertly ornament the dish.
An aficionado of authenticity, Chef Xilin, who has over 27 years of experience, gives us some further insight into the main ingredients. “Although avocado needs to be preserved well, it melts like butter in the mouth. As for asparagus, it always looks fresh and has a great crispness to it. They’re both incredibly healthy.” Wok-tossed and marinated with herbs and spices, his dish is bursting with flavour and texture. “Almonds and Chinese chilli garlic sauce too have certain aphrodisiac properties. They give you more energy and impart an edge to the dish.”
Consumed by the aromas and tastes of two award-winning restaurants and their kitchens, I leave the hotel replete with flavourful anecdotes and invigorated senses.
Asparagus Avocado Sliced Chicken in Sichuan Chilli Garlic Sauce
Chicken breast, 30 gm; Asparagus, 28 gm; Avocado, 28 gm; Carrots, 12 gm; Shiitake, 10 gm; Lotus roots, 15 gm; Almonds, 6 gm; Ginger (sliced), 5 gm; Garlic (sliced), 2 cloves; Fresh chillies, 7 gm; Sichuan peppercorn, 4; Soya sauce, 1 tsp; five-spice powder, 1 pinch; Chinese rice wine, 1 tsp; Oil, for frying and cooking; Salt, for taste; Star anise, 2; Stock, 130 ml; Egg white (for marination); Potato starch, 10 gm.
Marinate the chicken with the five-spice powder, soya sauce, salt, Chinese rice wine, egg white, oil and a teaspoon of stock. Heat some oil in a wok till it reaches 185 degrees Celsius, then add the sliced chicken and fry until the colour changes and it is 80 per cent cooked. Remove the chicken from the oil and set it aside. Next, heat the wok, add water, and boil it at 100 degrees Celsius. Add the vegetables to the wok for 10 seconds, remove and strain. Add sliced chillies, ginger and garlic to a heated wok, with 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the star anise, Sichuan peppercorn and ginger; toss. Add the chicken and stock seasonings and cook the chicken completely, add vegetables, toss with rice wine and finish with sesame oil before you serve.
Asparagus, Quail Egg and Goat’s Cheese Salad
For the salad: Soft goat’s cheese, 2 tbsp; Avocado (ripe and sliced), 1; Asparagus (lightly blanched), 6 spears; Asparagus (shaved and kept in iced water), 4 spears; Quail eggs (soft-boiled), 4; Fresh raspberries, 6; Almonds (toasted and crushed), 1 tbsp; Red and yellow cherry tomatoes (blanched and skin taken off), as required; Fresh parsley, 1 tbsp; Quinoa (cooked), 1/4 cup.
For the dressing: Almond oil, 4 tbsp; White wine vinegar, 2 tbsp; Garlic (minced), 1⁄2 tsp; Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp; Lychee honey, 1 tsp; Chopped tarragon, 1/2 tsp; Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
For the dressing: Combine the vinegar, garlic, mustard, honey and chopped tarragon. Slowly drizzle the oil while whisking.
For the salad: Lightly dress the quinoa, add parsley and arrange on the plate. Garnish the quinoa with sliced avocado, asparagus spears, tomatoes, crushed almonds and goat’s cheese. Further garnish with fresh asparagus, split quail eggs and raspberries. Finally, drizzle with more dressing and serve. Alternatively, the dish may be served with a well grilled piece of free-range chicken breast while the quail eggs can be omitted for a vegetarian version.