‘A Taste of the Wild’ menu is available at The Bombay Canteen from July 1 to August 31, 2019. It will give guests the chance to experience wild and edible produce native to Maharashtra in a completely new avatar. By Pallavi Mehra
The diversity of fresh produce we have in India is abundant, and so much of it is still unexplored. The onset of the rains in Maharashtra brings numerous monsoon vegetables, unique to the forests of this region. Many of these have a very short season. We find out about The Bombay Canteen’s exciting new menu celebrating seasonal wild vegetables from Maharashtra from the restaurant’s Chef, Thomas Zacharias.
1. How did you come with the idea of using wild vegetables from Maharashtra’s forests for your limited-edition menu?
A few years ago, I stumbled upon Moras Bhaji, a wild vegetable, which grows in the mangroves of Vashi, Navi Mumbai. This made me curious about other such unexplored vegetables. About a year ago, I had another encounter at the Wild Food Festival organised by OOO Farms, when I was introduced to about 40 varieties of wild produce, which is when I came up with the idea of using these vegetables for a limited-edition menu at The Bombay Canteen. We had to wait for the onset of the rains, as a number of these vegetables are available only in monsoons.
2. You have used many unexplored Indian vegetables such as Mahua, Moras Bhaji, Phodshi and Shevla. Tell us about the vegetables you have used to curate ‘A Taste Of The Wild’ menu and how did you go about it?
With this menu, we wanted to go a layer deeper and highlight our indigenous wild produce. Our friends at OOO Farms introduced us to the Sahyadri tribals, Maharashtra’s veteran forest ‘farmers’ whose expansive knowledge and the wild produce they consume remain unrecognised. Featuring the sweet Mahua flower, the salty Moras Bhaji, the meaty Shevla and more, ‘A Taste of the Wild’ showcases unfamiliar flavours and textures. Mahua is a highly nutritious fruit that is used to make jaggery, porridge and fermented to make liqueur. One of the strangest amongst the vegetables is Shevla, a relative of yam, only available for a few weeks every year. Phodshi looks like greens from the onion family, but in fact is quite different in flavour. It has vegetal undertones with a slight bitterness and a lovely crunch to it, which makes it a fantastic option as a salad green.
3. There are two cocktails in this menu. Tell us about your inspiration behind the ‘Karavanda Bramble’ and ‘Wild Mahua Sour’.
When we created the ‘A Taste of the Wild’ menu, we wanted to introduce some cocktails, which celebrated these vegetables as well. A twist on the classic Bramble cocktail, the ‘Karvanda Bramble’ uses wild summer berries (Karvanda), which is preserved in the form of a liqueur. It is a delicious mix of gin, plum bitters, chopped plum, Karvanda liqueur, salt dust and limejuice. ‘Wild Mahua Sour’ is a sweet combination of whisky, orangecello, Mahua puree, apple juice, limejuice, topped with ginger-ale and is inspired by a Whisky Highball.
4. Describe a few of the Chhotas (small plates), Badas (large plates) and the dessert on this menu.
‘A Taste of the Wild’ is an a la carte food menu, which will change every two or three weeks. For the Chhotas, we have a Phodshi peanut salad with toasted sesame and red chili-kasundi dressing and a soft-shell crab tossed in dried shrimp masala with cherry tomatoes. Shevla is crusted with peanuts and served with caramelised kakad murabba. For the Badas, we have Kantola, which is the main ingredient for a bharta that pairs with Jharkhand’s Litti Chokha (whole-wheat dough balls stuffed with sattu). For dessert, a warm Mahua toffee pudding with brown butter ice-cream is served. Finally, ‘The Wild Food Experience’ comprises small sharing plates of the various wild food dishes, with a portion of Ambemohar rice, Kulith (horsegram) dal, Gharbandi saag and Khurasni (Niger seeds) chutney.
5. Tell us about the ‘Sunday Wild Food Market’.
At the ‘Sunday Wild Food Market’ guests can take home baskets brimming with ingredients from the Indian wilderness, to experiment with in their own kitchens. A display of wild produce will be available for guests to purchase. Also, we have created fun recipe cards, detailing the taste profile of the vegetables, their health benefits and how one can cook the produce.
6. Overall, what do you hope guests will discover through this menu?
We would love for our guests to look at Indian food differently and begin to cook with local ingredients. At The Bombay Canteen, we hope to celebrate these indigenous produce, to not only help create greater awareness of the rich and diverse culinary heritage of our forests but also provide our guests with a one of its kind experience at the restaurant.