Before you actually order any of the recently introduced Ayurvedic specials at Threesixty°, the buzzing world-cuisine restaurant at The Oberoi, New Delhi, you have to take a little test. It’s an objective-type test on a little piece of paper to ascertain what “dosha” (body type or constitution) you are according to Ayurveda, based on which you can order your food.
If you are “light body weight, with high levels of energy”, or a Vata body type (Vata meaning air and space), try something like the Oat-crusted Tuna, Potato and Beans Salad; but if you’re “heavily built with a stable temperament”, your Kapha constitution (governed by water and earth) won’t work well with the starch-meat combination. Instead, go for the Edamame Pak Choi Chilli Ginger Coconut Broth, the greens and ginger being a better fit for you. For those governed by Pitta (meaning fire and water), the mildly cooked Warm Aubergine, Quinoa and Tofu Salad with Ginger Dressing is the best way to deal with that heat-prone constitution, according to the menu prepared by chef Surendra Singh, executive sous chef, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts. Of course, the best way to begin the meal is with pomegranate juice with mint and fennel, a refreshing drink that works for all three body types.
Singh’s menu evolved during his stint at The Oberoi Cecil in Shimla when long-stay guests, mostly European or American, asked for Ayurvedic food. “Five thousand years after it was written, Indians are finally waking up to the importance of Ayurvedic principles in cooking,” Singh says. This mainstreaming of Ayurveda into fine-dining is coming full circle, he adds, given that when fine-dining first began in India, Indian food was looked down upon. “Now with an increasing number of Europeans and Americans adopting yoga and Ayurveda, the trend has come to India as well,” he says. Along with The Oberoi, other hotels are also joining the league in designing special Ayurveda-based menus.
All the talk of “wellness” today is something Ayurveda discovered all those years ago, says Shikha Sharma, a New Delhi-based medical doctor and wellness consultant who makes extensive use of Ayurvedic principles in the diets she prescribes. Ayurveda not only tells us the nutritional value of food, it also tells us certain things that modern medicine misses out, like the post-digestive effect, or how foods react with the body after they are digested, and food combinations (see box),” she says. Also, just like the three elements of Vata, Pitta and Kapha are applicable to body types, they are also applicable to food, and to seasons, she adds.
“Ayurveda in Sanskrit means the science of life (Ayu is life and Veda is science),” says Rujuta Diwekar, Mumbai-based nutritionist and author, whose diet plans draw heavily from Ayurveda. “Ayurveda celebrates the uniqueness of every individual and frees us from the pressure of complying to a standard body size or weight. It is a living tradition in our country and it allows us to eat according to our local customs, cuisines and seasons. In fact today its teachings are more relevant than ever because instead of celebrating our individuality we are all in a mad rush to achieve a certain size or weight; imagine from Kashmir to Kanyakumari everyone wants to eat cereal for breakfast in the hope of losing weight,” she says in an email interview.
The body types
This is why what you eat should be determined by your body type, and not a standardized notion of what is good or bad for your body, says Vishal Atreya, executive sous chef, The Imperial, New Delhi. According to Ayurveda, our bodies comprise five elements: air, fire, water, earth and ether. An imbalance of any of these can cause ailments. There are three doshas (bodily humours) you can have: Vata (air), Pitta (fire), Kapha (earth). So imbalance of Vata means Vata dosha or that you are a Vata body type, says Atreya, whose Ayurvedic menu has been served at the hotel since 2011.
When you are a Vata type, your body will behave like air—cool, light, with gaseous tendencies. “Vata body types are generally lean, energetic and feel cold easily. The food they consume should be warming (such as spices like clove and cinnamon, for instance) and they can eat fatty substances like dairy.
“But they must avoid gas-forming substances like lentils, if you must consume lentils, consume those of the split variety,” says Singh. The Oberoi’s lentil soup, one of the items that caters to all body types, is therefore made with split lentils.
Pitta body types, driven by fire, are bright, energetic, short-tempered people, generally with a toned build and speedy metabolism, says Singh. “Pitta refers to the acid in the body, an excess of acid leads to problems in their system, and the idea should be to reduce the energy and food in them. Give them cooling drinks, cooling herbs like oregano, coriander. Avoid all forms of acidic food, the only exception to this being lemon juice, which they can have,” he says.
Meanwhile, Kapha body types, just like the earth, are big, round, solid and steady people, says Atreya. They are great thinkers, but lazy, and this lack of activity can cause a lot of ailments, such as heart disease. “Take off the dairy, the full-fat cream milk, the red meat from their diet. Give them strong, acidic and bitter things which cut off the fat. Include plenty of bitter gourd, acidic fresh salads with citrus dressings in their diet,” says Atreya.
But often the body type itself is simply not one dosha, 99.9% people are combination doshas, either Vata-Pitta; or Pitta-Kapha; or Vata-Kapha. There is also one type which is a combination of all three, the Vata-Pitta-Kapha type. “This just means that you alternate your diet according to your doshas. For instance, if you are a Vata-Kapha type, you alternate between foods that suit your Vata element and food that suits your Kapha element,” says Atreya. “The thing to remember is that Ayurveda is a science of moderation, not restriction,” he adds.
Apart from body type, the other rule in Ayurveda is seasons (since our body’s needs change with the seasons), and cooking method. “The main role of food is helping the body to maintain its normal temperature. With the change of season, you need food that balances your body temperature,” says Atreya. For instance, summer is a Pitta season and needs cooling foods, winter is a Vata season, so it’s best to stick to warm, oily and hearty meals like beans, wholegrains and meats to lubricate the system against the dryness of the season. In spring, which is a Kapha season, your body is prone to bronchial ailments and common colds, and foods such as honey, millet and greens are advised to keep away the mucus, he adds. Dr Sharma says: “When you hear old adages like don’t consume yogurt at night or winter, those are harking back to Ayurvedic principles.”
For Pitta and Kapha
Pearl Barley Risotto With Broccoli, Mushroom and Asparagus
2 tbsp clarified butter
1tbsp onion, chopped
1tsp garlic, chopped
2 cups pearl barley
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp pepper, pounded
8 asparagus shoots
1/2 cup broccoli, small florets
1/2 cup button mushrooms
For the stock
1 carrot, small
1 onion, small
1-inch piece galangal
2-inch piece lemon grass
4 kafir lime leaves
Wash and soak the barley for 3 hours. To prepare the vegetables, peel, wash and chop the onion and the garlic. Wash and cut the asparagus into small pieces and blanch. Wash and blanch the broccoli florets. Wash and cut mushrooms into quarters and keep aside.
To prepare the stock, peel, wash and roughly chop galangal, carrot and onion. Crush the lemon grass. Add kafir lime leaves and water. Boil and simmer for 30 minutes, strain and keep aside.
Now heat clarified butter in a pan. Add the garlic and sauté without changing its colour; add the onion, sauté for 30 seconds without changing its colour; add the soaked barley, mix and stir for 2 minutes on slow fire. Add enough stock to cook the risotto. Add the vegetables, mix with a light hand and cook for 1 minute. Season to taste. Serve warm.
Ginger Tossed Tofu And Vegetables Soup With Brown Rice
10g each broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, pak choi, babycorn, carrots, zucchini and onion
10g brown rice (cooked)
Salt and pepper to taste
10ml lemon juice
5g fresh coriander
20g silken tofu
10ml light soy sauce (Kikkoman)
Wash and finely chop the ginger and coriander and keep aside. Dice all the vegetables and tofu into equal sizes and shapes. Cook the brown rice and keep aside.
In a pan, put the water to boil. Add the carrots first, and the ginger and onions. Add the tofu and the rest of the veggies, except for the greens. When it comes to a boil, add the green vegetables and bring to another boil quickly. Remove from the fire and adjust the seasoning to taste. Add the soy sauce and lemon juice.
Garnish with the fresh chopped coriander and serve hot.
(The recipe is a part of the spa menu at 1911, the all-day dining, multi-cuisine restaurant at The Imperial.)
Rice Paper Wrapped Vegetable Rolls, Lemon and Coriander Sauce, Minted Fruit Salsa
For the stuffing
60g zucchini, finely chopped
50g each carrot and cauliflower, finely chopped
60g spinach, blanched and chopped
50g mushroom, sliced
5g garlic, chopped
5ml sesame oil
5g ginger, finely chopped
4 sheets of rice paper
Salt and pepper
For the sauce
20g each spring onion and coriander leaves, chopped
20ml lemon juice
200ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp corn starch
Salt and pepper to taste
For the salsa
80g any citrus fruit, peeled and chopped
5g mint leaves, finely chopped
5ml lemon juice
2g salt and pepper
For the rice rolls, first heat oil in a wok, add ginger and half the garlic. Now add the remaining vegetables, with spinach the last. Season with salt and pepper and keep aside to cool. Now soak the rice sheets in water and then pat dry using a towelling cloth. Place the vegetable mixture in the centre and roll the sides of the rice sheet away from you. Ensure you roll tightly. In a steamer allow the parcels to cook for 6-7 minutes and keep aside. To make the sauce, heat a wok and sauté the remaining garlic, add vegetable stock and cook for a while. Dilute corn starch and add to the stock to thicken.
Remove from heat, add spring onions, coriander and lemon juice and keep aside. Now to make the salsa, finely chop the fruit and add lemon juice, mint leaves, salt and black pepper to it. Place rice paper rolls in the serving dish, one above the other.
Pour the sauce and top it up with the salsa.
—Ashish Rout, executive chef, Ananda in the Himalayas, Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand.