A dash of wine, a burst of flames, an angry sizzle, and Sumit Cariappa pulls a rack of ribs off his new grill with more panache than a MasterChef contestant as friends crowding his balcony in a south Delhi apartment on a mellow winter evening raise a toast.
There’s something of a performance about the whole affair— precisely the reason Cariappa, a foodie but no kitchen wizard, loves barbecues. “It’s a cheerful, casual way of hosting a party,” he says. “After the first couple of times, anyone can turn out a tolerably decent barbecue. As long as you remember to take it off the grill,” laughs the software developer who first tried his hands at grilling while living in the US.
DIY:: Manu Chandra demonstrates grilling techniques. Photographs by Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Despite a long history of kebabs, and the ubiquitous tandoor, India is not traditionally a barbecue nation. But that seems to be changing. Live grills and Japanese teppanyaki counters have become fixtures at five-star hotels and stand-alone restaurants. From pork, beef, chicken and lamb to vegetables, fruits and even polenta—everything is being put on the grill these days.
While the generic term “grilling” refers to the process of cooking by applying direct, radiant heat to the surface of the food, the texture and taste varies greatly depending on the type of grill and technique. On a teppanyaki, a large, flat iron griddle heated by gas from below, the meat or vegetable is lightly singed, and left juicy, not chargrilled, unlike in a tandoor or a barbecue grill. On the other hand, the temperature in the enclosed clay tandoors can go as high as 450 degrees Celsius, and the meat is cooked fast. At such high temperatures, the meat becomes dry and loses flavour fast as it cools. A charcoal grill is somewhere in between. The cooking takes longer than a tandoor and is more uniform.
Italia’s Polenta & Vegetable Skewers.
The growing interest in barbecues drew popular US grill brand Weber to the country three years ago. The company set up shop in Bangalore and collaborated with chefs as it set about wooing and educating the Indian epicure. “It was not about just selling the boxes. We got chef Manu Chandra of Olive on board. We designed menus, we came up with vegetarian preparations, experimented with Indian spices,” says Weber Grills India chief operating officer Aslam Gafoor. At the Weber Experience Centre in Bangalore, Chandra takes classes for barbecue enthusiasts. Periodically, classes are held in other cities too.
Experiment with any meat or vegetable for your barbecue.
According to Weber India managing director Sivakumar Kandaswamy, the India arm has sold around 9,500 charcoal and gas grills and grilling accessories so far. Weber’s domestic range of grills is priced at Rs 4,500-30,000.
Restaurants too are dedicating a large section of their winter menus to grills and barbecues from across the world. Last month, The Park hotel, Delhi, introduced a Lebanese grills section at Aqua, its poolside restaurant, and a barbecue grill at Italia, its Italian cuisine restaurant at the DLF Promenade mall in Vasant Kunj. On weekends, chefs even set up the grills in the open. “At Italia, we use a double grill, charcoal and gas fired, for our modern European grills. We do a lot of grilled fish, chicken frittata, lamb chops and T-bones. The marinades, of course, depend on the meat and cut. For a simple fish fillet, it’s enough to have some fresh herb, lemon juice and olive oil. For meats, we use red wines, tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce to make heavier marinades,” says Anuruddh Khanna, executive chef at The Park. It’s not quite the backyard party, but watching the glowing coals work their magic on your dinner whips up quite an appetite.
At the Brazilian “churrascaria”-style Wildfire restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Gurgaon hotel, chunks of meat rotate on a horizontal axle 4 inches above a charcoal fire. As the outer layer cooks and the fat drips into the fire, it flares up and singes the meat, lending it the characteristic smokiness of a good steak. “It’s a technique that is a cross between roasting and grilling,” says Vikas Oswal, executive chef of the Crowne Plaza.
TK’s Oriental Grill at Hyatt Regency Delhi has evolved its recipes over the years, keeping in mind the local palate. But for its teppanyaki, it adheres to the original Japanese philosophy of subtlety and balance. “You need good fresh fish for a good teppanyaki. Lightly cooked and no marination. Only a little lime, salt and pepper to season,” says Dirk Holscher, executive chef. “The difference between Indian kebabs and grills are the marinades. Kebabs and tandoor are marinated for a long time in various spices. But a steak or teppanyaki is about enjoying the meat,” adds the German chef. He even serves vegetable grills with little sauce. “If you have to have some spice, serve a spicy chutney on the side,” he suggests.
Chef Dirk’s Barbecue Sauce
25g garlic, chopped
5g each salt and pepper (crushed)
1 bay leaf
200ml lemon juice, fresh
100ml white vinegar
200ml dark sweet soy sauce
3g oregano, dried
Mix all ingredients well. Refrigerate in a tightly sealed jar (the sauce keeps for at least a week).
Polenta & Vegetable Skewers
50g each of zucchini and bell pepper (diced) and broccoli florets
10ml extra virgin olive oil
5g Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat water in a pan. Add butter, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Add polenta, stirring constantly. Once it absorbs all the water, set it in a mould and cool. Marinate the zucchini and bell pepper with salt and pepper. Blanch broccoli florets. Take the polenta out of the mould and cut it into dices of roughly same size as the vegetables. Skewer the polenta cubes and vegetables. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and grill over low fire for 2 minutes on each side. Serve hot.
Courtesy Italia, DLF Promenade mall, New Delhi.
How to choose the cuts, and what kind of fire makes them the perfect bite
• Chicken breasts are drier than legs. Don’t marinate them in yogurt—it’ll make them even drier.
• Know your cuts. Marbled ones are best for grilling and the grilling time depends on the type of cut. Pork goes on first, and needs about 15 minutes, sirloin about 10 minutes, tenderloin about 5 minutes. Vegetables need only a few minutes.
• Start on a low fire. Finish off on high heat for a minute.
•To flip steaks, use tongs, not forks. Forks will puncture the surface and let all the juices out.
Courtesy chef Jerome Cousin, P’tit Bar, Defence Colony, Delhi.
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