Chef Sandip Narang, executive chef, Taj West End, Bengaluru believes the most convincing way a chef can be vocal about local is using a wide variety of local/regional ingredients in their respective menus
Your insights on Vocal About Local
As a chef, there is no greater joy than playing with your menus with ingredients that are fresh – may be just fresh from the garden or sourcing it from a farmer in the closest vicinity. I believe the most convincing way a chef can be vocal about local is using a wide variety of local/regional ingredients in their respective menus; and creating awareness and promoting the same through means of communication with their guests and audience. Also, if we delve back to our roots, using ingredients that are accessible – local in nature, in our food and drinks was a form of life. And, the same is celebrated even today in countless ways.
Curating menus at Taj West End, Bengaluru using local ingredients
At Taj West End, we have three restaurants – Mynt, Masala Klub and Blue Ginger and a bar – Blue Bar. Each has a distinctive menu that comprises of the use of local ingredients in various forms or the other. For instance, in Masala Klub we have Kathal Biryani as part of our a la carte menu. The kathal is sourced from our garden, which leads to absolutely zero carbon-footprint. We make a halwa with aloe vera, basis special requests from guests. We also grow a lot of other ingredients such as coconut, cherry tomatoes, chilies, lemongrass and betel leaves to name a few.
As we are blessed to have our own herb garden, we curate our individualistic Farm to Fork concept. Our horticulturist takes the guests for a garden tour, and they handpick the herbs and vegetables and once they are back we cook for them using the chosen ingredients.
Our endeavor remains to continuously promote locally sourced ingredients, and the cuisine of Karnataka and India by using ingredients and incorporating flavours that are specific to the culture in our menu.
The one local ingredient your kitchen cannot do without
It is certainly difficult to answer that question, especially when you have access to an abundance of fresh ingredients at arm’s length. However, both personally and also basis guests’ recommendations and feedback, I would definitely say that it would be tamarind/imli, if we have to choose one local ingredient. We have a Tamarind Sorbet on offer, where we cherry pick the tamarind and use it for our guests. Just as many will have their childhood memories reminiscing about tamarind and its flavours, our patrons too have their collective memories with this ingredient at our hotel.
We also do a pop-up menu of about three-four courses featuring tamarind as the focus called Under the Tamarind Tree, which is immensely popular amongst our guests.