On Sustainable Gastronomy Day, we look at some new age restaurants in India which are helping revitalise the restaurant scene via food diversity, resurrecting forgotten grains, and supporting the local economy through their sustainable gastronomy practices
When Thinlay Zangmo, owner of Solpon restaurant in Gangtok (Sikkim) wanted to use some of the produce from her friend’s organic farm in Rhenock to make salads, he sent her over 10 varieties of lettuce alone. “It was a huge surprise,” said Zangmo, “I was not even aware that so many varieties were being grown right here in my state.”
“It is not the cuisine,” said Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar, owner of Edible Archives restaurant in Anjuna, Goa, “but the ingredients.” According to her, in many cases, it is possible to replace imported ingredients with local produce to make an international dish. “One can try using India’s indigenous rice varieties to make say, sushi or risotto,” she said talking of her own experience of using the 'dadshal' rice variety grown in West Bengal. Drawing on her experience of working abroad, she said, “In countries like Japan, the chefs take immense pride in the ingredients available locally and crafting dishes out of them.”
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[HAPPY WORLD SUSTAINABLE GASTRONOMY DAY!] . Every June 18th, the world celebrates World Sustainable Gastronomy Day. It was intended to increase the awareness of people towards what a sustainable practice of choosing and cooking, and also eating good food all around the world could positively affect the community, especially to help us reach SDGs number 2 (Zero Hunger) and number 3 (Good Health and Well-Being). . Be grateful for our food and the culture surrounding it also can be one of the ways for us to promote the sustainable gastronomy in our community. To know more about gastronomy and other things surrounding it in Asia Pacific, check out our info posters! . Let's be a better foodie with a better understanding towards sustainable gastronomy! . #WorldSustainableGastronomyDay #SustainableGastronomy #ZeroHunger #GoodHealth&Well-being #IAASAsiaPacific #AsiaPacific
Zangmo and Ghosh Dastidar are part of a growing band of chefs and restaurateurs who have been practising sustainable gastronomy by preparing dishes using ingredients that are locally produced or which travel the least distance from the farm to the table, without compromising on the quality of the dish. They focus on seasonal vegetables and most keep changing their menu accordingly. And as the pandemic-battered world tries to get back on its feet and gastronomy tourism is looked upon as a key step to restart the beleaguered tourism sector, sustainable practices become even more important as a tool to rebuild the local economy.
“The pandemic induced lockdown has also taught us how important it is to treat local produce with respect,” said Prahlad Sukhtankar, owner of Black Sheep Bistro and Black Market Goa, located in Panjim. With the borders closed and supply chains disrupted, it was the local produce that catered to the food requirements of people, he pointed out.
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@theblacksheepbistro was one of the first few restaurants I’d reviewed in #Goa on the blog and I paid another visit to this stylish space in Panjim a couple of days ago with a bunch of friends. Still impressed by the way they nail their ‘Inspired Globally, Created Locally’ philosophy. One is spoilt for choice when it comes to picking from their contemporary fare made with local ingredients. I tried the Iranian Lamb Abgoosht on Toast (a fave dish of mine from here), Inspired Chorizo Pav (with dark chocolate shavings!), Crispy Vellyo (which could have been crispier), Goan Pesto Crusted fish and Chicken and Chorizo (can’t decide which of these I liked more) & Crudo Nouveau, which was thinly sliced raw fish served with green herbs, cherry tomatoes and red onion - so good!! #blacksheepbistrogoa #goafood #chorizo #smallplates #dinnerdate #dinner_time #bestchefs #inspiremyinstagram #foodoftheday #eatthisnotthat #foodpicsdaily #foodblogfeed #thenewhealthy #foodstyleguide #frommykitchen #foodgasmic #foodiechats #indianfoodbloggers #seriouseats #panjim #merces #porvorim #snackcity #fatpplproblems #swagfoodphilly
Sukhtankar is known for championing local produce and his restaurants are known for their ‘globally inspired, locally created’ dishes. “When we opened Black Sheep in 2013, our aim was to present dishes that were different yet made with local produce,” he said. “You will not find many restaurants offering raw fish. But we do, using the locally harvested fish.”
He works with Triple O Farms, an organisation that is helping the tribes from the Sahyadri valley go back to their traditional agricultural practices, revive the lost varieties of crops, and market the produce. Lost varieties of grains revived by Triple O Farms have found their way into the restaurants’ menu. The vegetables used in his restaurants are mostly procured from his cousin’s organic farm. People have to be aware of the local products around them and it is important to diversify the food people intake, believes Sukhtankar.
At the moment, Sukhtankar has moved Black Sheep Bistro to the more spacious Black Market Goa. And if you happen to be in the area, do not forget to try their gourmet burgers, an example of how tasty and flavourful dishes can be made out of local produce, at a pocket-friendly price. As he rightly pointed out, this is not the time when people will look at high-priced exotic dishes. The need of the hour is to create interesting dishes that will satiate the palate at an affordable price.
Also ingredient driven, Ghosh Dastidar (who won accolades for her research into rice varieties and agro-ecology) said, “We source only the freshest and most flavourful seasonal produce, seafood, meats and grains.” Many of the vegetables used in their restaurant (started in 2019) comes from their own organic garden. The organic waste is composted and used in the garden. The restaurant is located in an old Portuguese villa. “We believe in diversity,” she said, be it seed diversity or the food on the plate. “For example, we grow five kinds of chillies, two varieties of potato among others,” she said. “Or I may prepare Indonesian Sambal but use the local dried tisreo (clam).”
Little-known traditional ingredients across cultures are frequently used here. “We exclusively serve indigenous rice varieties from across India, pairing each dish with a variety that complements it in taste, scent and texture,” explained Ghosh Dastidar.
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Zangmo looks upon the location of her restaurant (started in 2017) as a blessing as it helps her to focus on local food and experiment by varying on the techniques to draw the best taste and flavour from the local produce. Situated away from the touristy paths, mostly local people flock to her restaurant for comfort food. A large market nearby helps her to ensure that the ingredients reach her fresh. Incidentally, Sikkim is India’s first fully organic state. She also reiterated Sukhtankar’s view that people must be aware about diversifying their food intake. She is willing to experiment but doubts how far it will be acceptable among the larger community. Currently, she is working on ways to use local grains as sprinklers on sandwiches and other food as well as introduce pickled dishes. At the moment, Sikkim is closed to tourists. But when it opens and you happen to be there, do not forget to try her most popular dish, pork ribs with honey.
Sulagna (Shuli) Ghosh, founder and creative director of Kolkata’s Sienna Store & Café, began her venture riding on her mother’s creativity. The Kolkata store was set up to retail the products made at her mother’s workshop in Shantiniketan. A small café was set up to cater to the patrons who might be looking for some comfort food at the end of the shopping. Rooted in supporting local arts and crafts, the menu focused on using ingredients sourced from local organic farms. Slowly, the simple yet tasty menu found favours with diners. Before the pandemic struck, Ghosh was already into expansion mode for the café. “Our menu is shaped around seasonal and local produce and therefore changes every week,” said Ghosh. “We try to remain sustainable by working with local farms, Tona Organics and Kopaipaar. We also have a zero waste policy as we use peels and bones for stock, gravy, paste and sauce.”
She has roped in Chef Auroni Mookerjee, known for his innovative takes on regular ingredients, to helm the kitchen. In his typical fashion, Mookerjee elaborates, "At the Sienna store kitchen, we have a special place in our palates and bellies for coriander root (think coriander stem but on some serious steroids). It really is the deepest and most pure expression of dhaniya that we’ve managed to discover while nerding out in the kitchen. It has all the fresh herbal brightness that you would associate with coriander leaves but rounded off with this spicy almost galangal like intensity. Best ground-up or pounded to a paste, though works equally well whole or chopped in broths and stocks. We use it in Pestos, Gremolata, Southeast Asian curry pastes, regional Indian masala pastes.” So don’t be surprised to find it making an appearance as dhonepata kanchalanka bata murgi tacos or a chicken cafreal.
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Deep in northeastern India, the North-East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS), which emerged from a collaboration between between the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty (TIP) and Slow Food International, is working to spread awareness among people regarding the importance of locally produced wholesome food. One of the major activities includes the Mei-Ramew Café. These indigenous cafes not only serve local food but also encourage the formulation of ‘local recipes with maximum use of locally available ingredients’. According to the website, there are two cafés in Khweng village and one in Darechikgre, all in Meghalaya, while several are in the pipeline.