Award winning Chef Manish Sharma’s, first cooking lessons were at home with his father, an Air Force officer with a passion for food. It was by his father’s side in the kitchen that he picked up his first secret hack - eternally cook any dish as though you are making something new every time, even if it is scrambled eggs.
His appetite for fine-tuning, assuring quality dishes and focus on guest fulfilment is reflected in his menus and pioneering culinary concepts at the hotel. In late 2006, as Head Chef at The Oberoi Vanyavilas, he was instrumental in setting up the hotel’s very own herb garden. Growing fresh ingredients in-house led to working with organic farmers and resident suppliers who work at the grassroot level to promote local and seasonal produce. In 2015, he was involved in reviving regional Indian cuisine with very successful, themed food festivals, such as The Lost Recipes of Mughal Era (showcasing Rampur and Benaras cuisine) held as part of The Oberoi Culinary Conclave – Rivaayat at threesixtyone.
Chef Manish has now introduced a vegan menu at Oberoi Gurugram. Plant-based menus are after all, taking over restaurants around the world. For instance, earlier this year, players in the F&B industry were stunned when Eleven Madison Park, one of the most high-end, meat-laden restaurants in New York City, announced that it’s going vegan. Michelin-starred French chef Alexis Gauthier has also turned his London-based restaurant, Gauthier Soho, entirely vegan.
Naturally the vegan wave hit India too, though many will argue that several regional cuisines in the country are predominantly vegetarian.
For Chef Manish, the first source of inspiration came when he was gifted The Plant Lab by Chef Matthew Kenney. "I was amazed by the techniques used by them, the diversity of ingredients and sheer variety on the menu."
Sometime later, Chef Daniel Humm announced the re-opening of Eleven Madison Park as a vegan restaurant. "This was probably one of the boldest moves in recent culinary history.This made our belief firmer that we must do something different at The Oberoi, Gurgaon. If Eleven Madison Park can run a full restaurant on this concept, we can definitely run a part menu on the same”, he says.
On his menu, he uses a variety of ingredients - some are sourced from across the globe. "We import things like organic date syrup from Oman, Peruvian asparagus and shiitake mushrooms from China, berries from Holland, and vegan chocolate from France. Some of the ingredients are sourved from our specialty growers - like Vietnamese moong bean sprouts and King mushrooms."
Among the local ingredients he likes to use is kokum - “a souring agent, which makes the amazingly refreshing drink Sol Kadhi”. He also has a weak spot for King mushrooms - “they have a meaty taste and texture which is unmatched", and Jeerakasala rice - "a short grain and fragrant variety from Southern India.".
“We play with textures, temperature and different cooking methods to create a variety in taste and flavours”, he says..
He shared a recipe from the menu with us.
KING MUSHROOM CONFIT, BEAN SPROUT, MUSHROOM TEA
For the Mushroom confit
King oyster mushrooms 500 gms
Maldon salt 10 gms
Black pepper 05 gms
Extra virgin olive oil 10 ml
Season the mushrooms with sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and black pepper.
Vac pac in a plastic bag and cook in a sous vide machine at 80 degree Celsius for 4 hours.
After 4 hours, immerse the whole bag in chilled water and keep till completely cooled.
Take mushroom out from the plastic bag, pat dry on paper towels and shred into thin noodles with the help of a fork.
For the Mushroom tea
Button mushroom 50 gms
Shitake mushroom 50 gms
Morel mushroom 50 gms
Oyster mushroom 50 gms
Porcini mushroom (dry) 50 gms
Shallot, sliced 100 gms
White wine vinegar 10 ml
Fresh Almond milk 50 ml
Dark soya sauce 03 ml
Olive 25 ml
In a heavy bottom pan, add olive oil followed by shallots, season with salt.
Chop and add all the mushrooms, it is important to ensure that the pan is very hot, as we want to roast the mushrooms to release maximum flavour.
Cook the mushrooms on high heat till they slightly caramelise, de glace with white wine vinegar.
Add the mushroom stock (water in which the mushrooms were soaked).
Cook till soft, add soya sauce and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Strain through a fine strainer, add fresh almond milk and blend well.
Adjust seasoning, it should be served warm.
Bean sprouts – buy from specialised stores, it should be snow white.
Slightly warm the noodles and place them inside the cup.
Keep bean sprouts in a small bowl.
Serve mushroom tea in a glass kettle