Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gaggan: Gourmet Molecular Indian Cuisine in Bangkok

Ranked the #1 ‘Best Restaurant in Asia' for 2015 and the only Indian restaurant in the Top 10 of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, Chef Gaggan Anand is a celebrity in the culinary world. “People never thought that Indian food could reach so far with a modern definition”, he explains referring to the deconstructed Indian street food he’s become so famous for, a style he learned at elBulli and one he’s carried with pride ever since Ferran Adrià told him to take his techniques and apply them to the food of his birthplace in Kolkata, India. Liquid nitrogen, smoke and dehydrated ingredients add theatre as well as texture and flavour to the chef’s creations. Mushrooms are given a molecular makeover with the humorously named Mushroom Magic which sees truffle and forest mushrooms candied into the shape of a log, filled with a truffle mousse and finished with 'edible soil and garden', all made with dehydrated mushrooms, green chilis and micro greens.

Tucked away in a small alley off Bangkok’s upscale Soi Lang Suan, Gaggan is housed in a charming colonial-style building, the interior surprisingly understated, with whitewashed wooden floors and cosy wicker chairs. Diners have two tasting menus to choose from, but to get the full experience, we order the 'Best of Gaggan' at $115 per person, with a staggering 27 items. The young staff present a seemingly unending stream of artful dishes over the course of several hours, including 'Yogurt Explosion', one of the signature dishes, which we're told should be eaten in one bite to experience the burst of mango chutney flavours in the spherified yogurt bomb. Dubbed by TIME magazine as the “Captain Kirk of cuisine”, Gaggan is quick to point out that he loves traditional Indian food and believes in retaining the authenticity of the cuisine. What Gaggan excels at is taking dishes typically eaten in India and finding new ways to prepare and present them so diners are curious, surprised, and delighted by the new combinations — and the food was creative and delicious. The sommelier was professional, and most of the staff well rehearsed, however it's a shame that one server was abrupt and arrogant, removing our plates while we were still chewing, sabotaging our full enjoyment of the evening. Having made the reservation six months before, we were full of expectations, but I feel the restaurants meteoric rise to fame has made some of the staff overconfident. As Oscar Wilde said, "confidence is good, but overconfidence can sink the ship." Gaggan needs to keep a more watchful eye on his crew.

The exterior of Gaggan

The colonial-style interior of Gaggan

Gaggan's encyclopedic wine list

Décote Augé Grand Cru Brut Rosé Champagne

A lovely way to start our evening of molecular Indian cuisine

Two tasting menus to choose from: a 23-course or 15-course 

The first of 11 appetizers listed as 'Small Bites from India',
this was 'Nacho's Mood Today' — Passionfruit and Mango Juice

Nestled in a box over fresh fragrant flower petals, the presentation was stunning

'Yogurt Explosion' served in flat bottomed spoons, looks like an egg yolk but is a cumin scented mango chutney flavoured yogurt spherically bound in a diaphanously thin gelatin that bursts in the mouth

'Edible Plastic Spiced Nuts,' a homemade blend of nuts and spices with wasabi undertones in ultra thin 'edible plastic' made of potato starch and soy lecithin which dissolves in the mouth — made famous by Chef Ferran Adria of el Bulli, with whom Gaggan apprenticed

'Chocolate Chili Bombs' - white chocolate spheres crowned in edible silver foil explodes with a burst of pain puri chilli flavoured water

2011 Domaine des Anges Côtes du Ventoux Blanc

 A medium-bodied, clean and nicely balanced white

2014 Two Paddocks Picnic Pinot Noir from Central Otago, New Zealand, is a vibrant ruby wine with a fragrant bouquet of cherry and plum embellished by a touch of spicy oak

Owned by actor Sam Neil, Two Paddocks is a small family owned winery in the prestigous Central Otago Region of New Zealand

'Bird's Nest' - potato rösti-style nests topped with an "egg" of spiced date chutney and potato mousse nestled in a pickled red onion

'Onion Pakoda' - Bengali Mustard and Nori Pakoda coated in seaweed dust

'Papadam with Tomato Chutney' - unlike traditional papadam, 
Gaggan creates this dish with dehydrated tapioca pearls

'Lamb Samosas' 

'CTM Burger' - Chicken Tikka Masala nestled in tomato infused 'meringues' that collapses and dissolves into nothingness in the mouth — interesting but the texture made us cough 

'Idli Sambar' - Soft Dhokla-Style Airy Idli with Sambar Foam, Ghee, Mulgapodi Spice and Kari Leaves

'Egg Bhurjee' - Sitting on a bed of tomato chutney and coriander leaves, the sweet 'egg' fondant shell is cracked to reveal a silky smooth curried egg and cheese centre

'Charcoal' - Arriving on a sheet of polished slate under a glass dome capturing a light smoke, 
the dome is lifted to reveal a black crusty nugget topped with a white powdery ash

The interior was a soft, flaky mixture of sea bass and potato mousse with the ‘ash’ composed of dehydrated onion and black salt powder sprinkled with dehydrated onion chutney powder

'Mushroom Magic' - truffle and forest mushrooms candied into the shape of a log, with a 
truffle mousse, edible soil and garden, all made with dehydrated mushrooms, green chili and micro-greens

'Red Matcha' - a bowl of peeled grape tomatoes and star fruit with a drizzle of cilantro oil

A pot of warm spicy-sour tomato bouillon arrives with a Japanese tea ceremony bowl and whisk

The tomato bouillon, made from tomatoes hung-dried for 24 hours, is whisked with dried tomato purée powder, then poured over the sliced tomato and starfruit 

The finished result — 'Red Matcha' with the tomato bouillon

Paneer Tikka with herb foam was quickly created in the kitchen for my husband 
who refuses to eat raw tomatoes

''Patrani' - Herb marinated fish wrapped in bible leaves with tender coconut dashi

'Pig & Pickle' - 72 hour prepared Iberian pork loin in sweet and sour Punjabi pickle mixture

'Dhokla' - Lentil cake snow with crisp fried kari leaves and mustard seeds on top of coconut cream

'Who Killed the Goat?' - Free-Range lamb chops cooked sous-vide and finished in a tandoor,
and accompanied by an almond saffron oil that's been splashed across the plate to look like streaks of blood

'I Want My Curry!' - a tiffin box with Blue Swimmer Crab Coastal Curry and Steamed Rice

The trio of dishes

'Gajar Halwa' - Black Carrot Ice Cream in a Crispy Carrot Flower with Cardamom Oil,
served in a flower pot of actual growing carrot leaves

'Fall Season' - Leaves from the Royal Farm with Basil Ice Cream and 70% chocolate

'Bombay Cassatta' - Pistachio, mango , rose milk, cardamom, pan leaves and popping candy

'Digestive Tamarind Leather' - sour and chewy

Pork Vindaloo
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy Chef Gaggan Arnand

1kg veal sweetbread
1 ltr white chicken stock
1 stick celery
2 shallots
1 stick cinnamon
1 star anis
1 sprig rosemary, thyme & bay leaf
1 carrot
1 leek, white part only
1 bulb garlic
50g butter
pomace oil
1 garlic clove
1 sprig rosemary
salt and pepper

Fermented Black Garlic:
200g fermented black garlic
500ml white chicken stock
5g agar-agar
salt and pepper

Baby Gem Lettuce:
2 Baby gem lettuce
25ml extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
2 breakfast radish, sliced fine and placed in iced water until crisp
1 granny smith apple, sliced fine
1 lemon, juiced
Herbs & cresses: nasturtium leaves, pea shoots, viola flower, wild pansy, red veined sorrel, pak choi flower, borage flower, bronze fennel herb, French tarragon leaves, marjoram

Parsley Juice:
200g curly parsley
10ml extra virgin olive oil
100ml water
10g ultratex

De-gorge the veal sweetbreads under cold running water, until clear. Cover with white chicken stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring slowly to the boil, skim, add vegetables and herbs and aromas. Poach the veal sweetbreads at a gentle simmer until firm in texture, about 6-8 minutes. Leave to cool in aromatic stock. Once cool, peel outer membrane and any excess fats and dry on a clean towel, and divide into four even-sized pieces.

To roast, heat a heavy based sauté pan, add pomace oil and colour evenly on all sides. To finish, add fresh butter, crushed clove of garlic, salt, pepper and sprig of rosemary and bast till golden brown.

Peel the fermented black garlic cloves and simmer in a saucepan with white chicken stock until tender. Add the agar-agar and bring to175°F. Leave to chill in the fridge. When cold, blend the mixture in a thermomix until smooth. Adjust the seasoning and consistency with a drop or two of boiling hot water and place in a small squeeze bottle.

Prepare the baby gem lettuces by removing the outer leaves and splitting the heart into two, lengthways. remove any excess core and place in sous-vide bag with olive oil, salt and pepper. Compress the baby gem on full. Remove from the bag and grill the cut face of the lettuce with a blowtorch until blackened. Season with salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Build the herbs and cresses on top of baby gem lettuce. Use the radishes and apple for height and appearance. Finish with flowers and drizzle with olive oil and a few grains of salt.

Juice the curly parsley with water in a juicer and extract the green parsley juice. When cold, thicken with ultratex and let down with olive oil.

To serve: Using a squeeze bottle, pipe a line of fermented garlic purée onto a serving plate. Carefully place the baby gem salad onto the plate. Drain the sweetbread on a clean dry cloth to remove any excess butter and place next to salad. Using as small spoon, drop some parsley oil onto the plate and serve.