Monday, March 12, 2012

Grill me pink!

When it comes to cooking, a simple stove will no longer do. While on the higher end of technology, convection cooking is making inroads into home kitchens; a chef at a five star hotel has gone back to the stone ages.

Chef Arzooman Irani has managed to get a humungous hunk of Pink Himalayan salt all the way from the Potwar plateau of the Punjab region of northern Pakistan to Whitefield in Bangalore. This enterprising young chef at Vivanta By Taj was intrigued by a reference to this stone in his culinary research and determinedly pursued ways to get a section of a boulder of Himalayan salt that now lies snug in the industrial-sized cold storage deep in the innards of this trendy hotel in the campus of a technology park.

About 600 million years ago, in the Pre-Cambrian era, a great inland sea apparently evaporated leading to the formation of the Pink Himalayan salt. Some of the salt boulders weigh over 225 kilos and are hand cut by local masons into a variety of shapes. While the stone slabs are used to cook, they are also made into bowls and plates.

Salad Caprice at Latitude, Vivanta By Taj
In the luxurious outdoor section of the stylish restaurant Latitude, the pink salt grill sits sweating slightly and self-consciously under the attention being bestowed upon its glistening self.

Our experiential dining started off with sashimi of watermelon and arugula, with feta ginger sheet and balsamic pearls served on tablet of pink salt. Next came Oriental Vegetable skewers with wasabi froth and Thai chicken skewers with coconut and cilantro relish. There was also cherrywood-smoked tuna Carpaccio with radish, fennel and gremolata foam. The dishes were so beautiful that we sat in delighted contemplation for a while before tucking into them.

Grilled to perfection on the pink salt stone, along came a choice of polenta with morels and asparagus and black garlic cream, lobster medallions with citrus basil, sesame crusted yellow fin tuna with teriyaki balsamic and tenderloin with a bloody mary glaze. In for a penny, in for several pounds, we thought and recklessly dipped into the grilled and flambéed chocolate brownie steak and frozen mascarpone.

Sake Soya Chicken Breast at Latitude, Vivanta by Taj 
The Chef has not tried to cook Indian cuisine on the salt stone, as these dishes need more oil and masalas that might affect the stone.

One of the unique features of the pink Himalayan salt is that it lacks porosity or moisture, thus enabling the salt plates to be safely heated or chilled to extreme temperatures. The salt slabs are frozen to 0° C to serve cold or chilled foods such as sashimi of watermelon or a Carpaccio. They are also slow heated to around 300°C to grill meats or fish.

The salt’s crystal lattice has a fairly high specific energy; once it is heated, it will hold onto the temperature for quite some time. Voila, it becomes an innovative stir-fry counter.

A dining experience of The Pink Salt Stone Grills will tickle your fancy with red roses and wine, and a personal butler and chef to get the sizzle going in a romantic lounge. Now who will fish out the expense account card?

By Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)

Read the column on Goa Herald on the link below:

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