This Nose-To-Tail Dinner In Mumbai Was The Stuff Legends Are Made Of
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when two or more like-minded people come together, amazing things happen.
This cannot be more true than it is of Aditya Raghavan and Anandita Kamani. To call them foodies is an understatement. I know this only because I have had the pleasure of being around them even before they decided to undertake this pet project of hosting a meal for like-minded strangers with one common interest – food.
The way their eyes light up when they discover new ingredients, or come up with ideas about how they’d like to use them, is nothing short of exciting to watch. And so, Addie, an artisan cheese consultant, food writer and kitchen experimenter joined hands with Ana, a woman of many talents and accomplishments, the most recent of which was running a male-dominated kitchen in one of Havelock’s (in the Andamans) loveliest hotels, to host the mother of all experiments.
A nose-to-tail dinner honouring the pig is a concept that might shock conservatives’ socks off, but it’s one they believed in, and upon further inspection, so do a lot of communities around India.
Called The Pandi Degustation, pandi being the Coorgi word for Pork and degustation being the culinary term that refers to the sampling of small portions of signature dishes, this was already shaping up to be the best kind of meal that Mumbai had seen in this format, in the recent past.
It was simple really, while travelling the length and breadth of India, and being a food geek in general, Addie realised that the country was filled with regional pork fiends that paid homage to the animal by using every part and minimising wastage. So, inspired by dishes that he had tasted and sampled and learnt to cook further fuelled the thought of bringing it to the tables of swanky city dwellers who might be of a more conservative view, only because of lack of knowledge and first-hand experience.
On the day of the event, the living room was swiftly and tastefully transformed into a space that could accommodate 12 guests and soon, the food began pouring in.
But first, enter: Abhishek Chinchalkar or Chinsi as we were introduced. The bearded beer brewing brain behind Bombay Duck Brewing Co. who delightfully added some excellent beer pairings to the meal.
The first course was Naga Liver Pâté, with galangal, fermented fish or ngari, rosella-jolokia syrup and raw onion jus, plated to perfection. I’m a sucker for pâté and I devoured this with a passion reserved only for my favourite things. Little did I know there was much more in store for me, but in that moment, I was too excited to get started and I happily washed it down with a glass of BDBC’s Saison.
A little chit-chat later, the Pig’s Head Sorpotel arrived using the ears, jowels, and cheeks, and served with a potato cake (YES carbs!). Now, being Goan, I believe that the bloodier, the better when it comes to sorpotel, but this portion was true in every form.
Next up, was one of my favourites of the night, Jasnam, a dish consisting of blood, rice, crackling and ginger onion chilli thetcha jus. Every last grain was wiped out, but what made this course a trillion times better was the Witbier it was paired with. Talk about a match made in heaven.
In quick succession, a plate so pretty came out, that I hesitated to eat it, if only for a second. The momo was filled with pork mince, served over a dollop of ghee confit’d churrpi, a Sikkimese cheese that is another reason to kick myself in the butt for not travelling more through India. The crowning glory of the dish though were the fermented dale chillies, native to the region, that provided a hit of heat that was quickly mellowed out with a spoon from sea of ghee. And for this one, Chinsi made a killer Witbier and Dalle Chilli beer cocktail that was to die for.
As we sipped on our next course that was a Tiruchirappali soup made from trotters and blistered tomatoes, the silence was almost eerie. That’s how much our senses had taken in already. I snapped out of my daze just in time to appreciate just how well the soup acted like a light refreshing cleanser and prepared me for the next 3 courses that were to follow.
The guests had now reached a comfort level that you do when you share a deep experience with someone and chatter resumed, this time more open. (This could also be due to Chinsi’s devilishly good brew, but no one was complaining).
Then, just when we were primed for another hit of awesomeness, out came the Awoshi Kipki Ngo Axone – cold smoked belly with Bhoot Jolokia, Sichuan peppers, Sichuan pepper leaves, fermented soybeans, kale powder, Naga Daal, Yam and greens. I know it sounds like a lot to take in, but one bite and you suddenly understand that some flavours and textures are just meant to work together. BDBC’s IPA with its hoppy taste was the perfect counterpoint for this meld of flavours too.
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Throwback: You can't do a Pandi Degustation without the iconic Pandi Curry. From last Friday's dinner, the black and white plate: Dry rubbed and braised leg as well as spare rib, chicharrones (not seen in pic), kadambuttus (steamed rice balls). This was the seventh and last course before dessert. Paired with @bombayduckbrewing's phenomenal IPA. #PandiDegustation #PandiCurry #CraftBeer #Twitter #pandi #Pork
An 8-course meal named Pandi without the Coorgi Pandi cCurry? No chance. Out came the shoulder and short rib goodness with chicaronnes (crispy crackling) and kadambuttus (steamed rice balls) perfect to soak up the spiced gravy. Mmmmm!
And just when I thought my heart legitimately could take no more happiness, in came a Bacon Dubbal Ka Meetha, paired with the creamiest pistachio ice cream, bourbon and barrel-aged maple syrup, the nicest tasting mead ever. Buh-bye dessert wine.
Basic psychology dictates that you will remember the peak of an experience and the end, and that puts a lot of pressure on dessert. So one that delivers should be held in the highest regard in my opinion. Like this one.
You want to know the best part? This dynamic threesome is hosting a 10- course Italian “From Aperitivo to Digestivo” meal on January 21 and miraculously, tickets are still available. Click here to sign up and we just might meet each other there!
Hey there, handmade pasta, I’m coming for you.