Break Your Food Down

 , Mumbai  |  Updated: March 18, 2013 10:46 IST

Break Your Food Down
We'd heard about history being deconstructed. But food? That's precisely what a few executive chefs in the city are doing: separating the core ingredients of a classic dish and giving it a contemporary form of its own.

It's warm outside but safely ensconced and sufficiently cool inside the air-conditioned Sanchos restaurant in Khar, we are waiting for Chef Vikas Seth to bring us a special serving of Quesadilla with Deconstructed Guocomole. We like our food to be in one piece, and the idea of a dish broken down to the smallest molecule, sounds weird to say the least. So we are obviously curious.

The kitchen door opens and he walks out carrying an empty Molcajete, (a serving bowl) and a plate of quesadilas. "I'll show you how we deconstruct our Guocomole, a Mexican avocado sauce," he announces.  He spreads a layer of the chunky avocado mixture, which has hints of lemon, salt, olive oil, on the Molcajete. On top of it, he places a small serving of Pico De Gallo -- a mix of Jalepenos, cilantro, tomatoes and onions.

              The Deconstructed Greek Salad at Otto Infinito in Bandra Kurla Complex. Pic/Neha Parekh
"When the two are mixed, they make your Guocomole sauce, but individually, they make for independent dips -- avocado and salsa," he says, urging us to dig in. I cut a piece of quesadilla and dip it into the avocado mixture. The fresh, overpowering taste of avocado, followed by hints of olive oil, goes well with the quesadilla stuffed with bell peppers and cheese. Next, I try it with the known flavour of the salsa dip. The tanginess of the tomatoes and lemon juice replace the green of the avacado. Finally, I mix the two, and hey presto! We have a classic, unedited, fully constructed and perfectly edible!

It's not just Seth who is deconstructing yummy dishes and creating new delights.

  Chef Vikas Seth of Sanchos, Khar serves the Deconstructed Guacamole with Quesadillas. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, managing director, APB Cook Studio in Powai, compares the deconstruction of a dish to a game of Lego blocks. "With the same tiny pieces, one can create a castle, a car or even a skyscraper. Deconstruction of a dish follows a similar technique," she explains, adding: "We break down a known dish, made of classic ingredients and test the taste memories of the eater. For example, a dal can be served as a clear soup or can be transformed into a kebab."

For chef Manish Mehrotra, it is the element of surprise that inspires him to place deconstructed forms of an Indian dish on a guest's table. "We serve Malai Kofta in a deconstructed fashion. The koftas are turned into potato rings and we pour the aromatic curry over it on the table. Though Indian food is tough to deconstruct, it is fun to play with the core ingredients," says Mehrotra, head chef of New Delhi-based Indian Accent.


Sweet Molecules

It's not just the main courses that have come under the deconstruction assault. At the newly opened Sassy Spoon at Nariman Point, it is the Tiramisu that has been broken down into its core elements -- mascarpone, biscuit and of course, bitter coffee. Chef Rachel Goenka remembers how when she was 12, she had forced a chef in a hotel in Italy to give her the recipe of authentic Italian tiramisu. "But at Sassy Spoon, we have opened up the tiramisu. We want people to relish the individual flavours of this dish which are so humble, but when combined, become divine. The mascarpone is slightly sweetened to cut the bitterness of the espresso and the lady fingers are crisp and light yet absorb the coffee brilliantly," says Goenka.

And no, unlike breaking a glass or a bottle, taking apart a dish takes time. "Each sub-set element has to taste beautiful and stand complete on its own," says Seth, adding that the main idea behind deconstructing an item is to elevate the experience of a classic dish. "It plays with the diner's taste buds to trigger a happy memory," he concludes. 

Deconstructed Guacamole

Ingredients for avocado mix

>> 200 gm ripe avocado
>> 2 ml lemon juice
>> 2 ml olive oil
>> Salt to taste

Ingredients for Pico De Gallo

>> 50 gm tomatoes, seeds & pulp removed, chopped
>> 20 gm onion, chopped
>> 2 to 4 gm cilantro or coriander leaves, chopped
>> 2 gm jalapeno, chopped
>> 2 ml lemon juice
>> 2 ml olive oil
>> Salt to taste


>> For the avocado mix, cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out avocado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl.

>> Using a fork, mash the avocado, but keep it chunky. Add rest of the ingredients and mix.

>> Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it.

>> Refrigerate until ready to served.

>> For the Pico De Gallo, mix all the ingredients and refrigerate for 20 minutes before using.

Deconstruct a 'Vada Pav' at home


>> 2 pao
>> 1 tbsp butter
>> I boiled potato
>> 1 pinch of cumin seeds
>> Green chillies, finely chopped
>> 1 pinch of mustard seeds
>> 5-6 cury leaves
>> 1/3 tsp ginger garlic paste
>> 1 tbsp chopped onion paste
>> 1 pinch turmeric powder
>> Coriander leaves, finely chopped
>> 1 tsp oil
>> 5 tbsp coconut oil
>> 2 red chillies, crushed
>> 4 garlic pods, finely chopped
>> 3 tbsp rock salt
>> 2 cloves garlic
>> 2-3 green chillies
>> Salt to taste


>> Butter pavs, slice and grill on low heat in oven till hard and crisp like rusk. Grind to a powder

>> For the vada, heat oil, add mustard seeds and jeera, allow it to crackle.

>> Add green chillies, ginger garlic paste and saute for a few minutes.

>> Add onions and saute till it turns lightly browned.

>> Add mashed potatoes, turmeric powder, required salt and mix well Allow it to cool and
mash into a smooth paste with a little oil.

>> Add chopped coriander leaves, mix well.

>> For the red garlic chutney oil, heat the coconut oil and add red chillies, garlic and salt.

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>> Stir fry, strain and reserve.

>> For the Thencha Salt, heat a pan and dry roast salt with garlic and chillies on a low flame until dry and crisp.

Comments>> In four shot glasses, add 1 tbsp breadcrumbs, pipe in a large swirl of vada mash, pour a little chilli garlic oil, top with a little boondi, sprinkle in a pinch of thencha salt. Serve.

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