What you need to know about delicacies that take their time on the burner, before arriving on your plate
Jewish food historian, Gil Marks, believes that slow cooking has its origins in a dish called cholent (a Jewish stew of meat, potato and beans cooked overnight) that dates back to the 12th century. Similar dishes can be found across cultures, such as the French cassoulet (featuring pork, mutton, goose or duck), Afghan mashawa (a meatball soup) and the popular Middle Eastern haleem, among others. And it’s not just about boiling ingredients for hours in a pot. Slow cooking techniques like sous vide, confit, braising and barbacoa are used to make even the toughest cut of meat (think brisket, etc) slide off the bone. But it’s time to look beyond the pork belly and dal cooked overnight, and see what our local chefs can whip up, with a little notice.
Salt baked fish The kitchen
When a dish is slow cooked, it relies on its own juices, and hence requires less oil, making it healthy, explains executive chef Hushmoin Patell. You can indulge in slow cooked raan and nalli gosht at The Raintree Anna Salai’s Up North and a slow cooked Singaporean fish head curry at Madras. But if you want the best they offer, place your order for their salt baked fish at The Kitchen. “This is an old-school Mediterranean dish and a 1.5 to four kilo snapper or trout works best for it,” Patell begins. Gutted and scales left intact, the fish is stuffed with orange, lemon, thyme and coated with a little olive oil. It is then encased in a mixture of rock salt and egg whites, and baked for two hours. Once cooled, you crack open the salt layer, peel away the skin and dive in. Served with grilled vegetables and sauce vierge.The salt baked fish requires a day’s notice and is priced from Rs.2,000 onwards, depending on the size of the fish. Details: 43939999
Beef stew 601
“Personally, I love slow cooked stews and casseroles. They are no-fuss dishes and the results are delicious,” offers Rajesh Radhakrishnan, area director food production at The Park. “Slow cooking also develops the ‘umami’ flavour better,” adds the chef, who offers braised lamb shoulder, sous vide chicken and crisp pork belly at 601. But for a real treat, ask for his beef stew that is done the French way, using carrots, garlic, onions, celery and mushrooms. “We use the head of the undercut and the stew can be made with any root vegetable,” he says about the dish that is cooked for two-and-a half to three hours, till the beef is tender enough. Place your orders by noon, for dinner. At Rs.950 plus tax a portion. Details: 42676000
Did you know that the dal makhni served at Above Sea Level, Raintree St Mary’s, is pre-cooked overnight (eight hours)? That said, Peter Tseng, executive chef of the hotel, shares that slow cooking techniques (think clay baking) are prevalent in the northern parts of China. “Mostly in the villages where people consume off-cuts of meat, like joints. They braise them,” he points out. At his signature stir fry restaurant, Chap Chay, the dim sum menu features a char siu pork bun (or pulled pork bun). A Belgian pork belly is seared, marinated with the char siu marinade for at least an hour and then seasoned before going into the oven for four-and-a-half hours. It is then pulled apart, mixed with oyster sauce and five-spice powder and stuffed into the steamed buns made with leavened dough. Only limited quantities of this dish are made every day, so order yours a day in advance. At Rs.575 plus tax. Details: 42252525
Though there’s plenty of dum biryanis and slow cooked lamb currys doing the rounds at several restaurants, the following dishes are not to be missed.
Osso Buco: Made popular by the former executive chef of the hotel, the Milanese special of braised shanks with risotto, is a signature at Ottimo, the Italian restaurant at ITC Grand Chola.
Berkshire pork belly: Take a break from all the Belgian pork and try executive chef Dharmen Makawana’s Berkshire pork belly, that can be done braised or crispy, at China XO, The Leela Palace.
At Hilton, Ayna offers a slow cooked dum ki nalli, while at Vascos you get lamb shanks in red wine jus. But executive chef Yogender Pal’s recommendation is a Hyderabadi saalim raan. “Saalim means whole, and this dish uses the whole leg of lamb. The base gravy is made of cashew and fried onions, and the leg is added to the pot along with a potli of homemade masala,” he explains. Cooked in a lagan (flat copper utensil) for eight hours, the gravy is strained four times for a finer finish, before being served. Pal suggests a platter of Indian breads to go with the raan. The Hyderabadi saalim raan requires a day’s notice. From Rs.1,200 plus tax onwards. One portion serves four. Details: 22255555
For executive chef Alok Anand, this is a technique that extracts the maximum flavour. “Our own dum cooking is a slow cooking process,” he says, citing the example of Awadhi dum gosht that originally used to be cooked for at least six to eight hours. Stating a popular misconception — that “people think Chinese food has to be ready in a jiffy” — he reveals that at Golden Dragon, you can order a slow cooked duck with sweet potato and Chinese wine. “The duck is marinated in wine for 12 to 18 hours. This tenderises the meat,” he explains, adding that it is then slow roasted for at least three to four hours, depending on the size of the bird. This dish ideally requires two days’ notice. At Rs.5,500 plus tax for the whole bird. Details: 66002827
Quail tortellini the flying elephant
Grzegorz Odolak, the executive chef at Park Hyatt, swears by sous vide. His Belgian pork belly — cooked sous vide for 12 hours — is a dish the chef is extremely proud of. “The skin is crispy and the meat is buttery,” beams the chef. But if you want something unusual, ask for his quail tortellini. Marinated with herbs and cooked sous vide for two hours, the meat is then stuffed into the ring-shaped pasta. In his signature style, he finishes it with mushrooms and fresh herbs from the garden. The quail tortellini requires a day’s notice and is priced at Rs.1,200 plus tax. Details: 71771234
— Ryan Peppin