The Department of Culinary Arts, Manipal, participated in the COMETZ 2017, a national level intercollegiate competition conducted by Sri Krishna Institution of Hotel Management and we were selected to compete against the other colleges in a number of events ranging from hot kitchen to solo dance and our college bagged the overall prize.
My teammate Venkatesh Lella and I were selected to participate in the Chef Competition wherein we had to prepare a 3 course menu in 3 hours.
We decided to prepare a menu based on the theme ‘India: a culinary masterpiece’. Using the recipes given to us by our Indian cuisine professor, Mr. Manoj Belwal, we tried to prepare a menu that encompassed the traditional regional recipes from all parts of India.
The Emperor’s Obsession
Shah Jahan, the famous Mughal emperor was intrigued with the colour white which is clearly seen in his construction of the Taj Mahal.
We prepared Dahi ke Kebabs which consisted of fresh white hung curd stuffed with a tomato and onion seed paste and then deep fried.
Unity in diversity
This dish has components hailing from all parts of India.
The coconut dish you see there is called ‘Daab Chingri’ which is a traditional dish of Bengal. This uses all parts of the tender coconut. Instead of using water in the gravy, tender coconut water is used. The gravy is thickened with coconut milk and cashew nut paste and even though the gravy is already quite rich in flavour at this stage, we’re not done with it yet. We transfer the gravy to the empty tender coconut shell, cover it and heat it directly over an open flame.
Now is when the beautiful aroma of the burning coconut shell is slowly released while the tender coconut cream (malai) that lines the inside melts into the gravy making it super rich and velvety smooth.
Accompanied with this is an aubergine stuffed with a toasted peanut, seasame and fennel paste along with Makni Gravy.
The cones attached to the sides of the coconut are filled with rice of three different flavours: lemon, tomato and coriander. These rice dishes are typically seen in the south of India. Finally paired off with a bundle of Papads, this dish captures the essence of all the flavours of the various regions of India complementing each other beautifully.
CROWN OF JEWELS
This dessert consists of rasmalai (again, a traditional Bengali sweet meat) flavoured with rose water and saffron and accompanied with flaked pistachios.
The rasmalai is created by curdling milk with diluted vinegar and then only using the curdled milk solids while draining away the whey. You need to be careful about the kind of milk you use, the temperature of the hot milk, the fat content and even the concentration of acetic acid in the vinegar you use! After a lot of trial and error we finally cracked the code and achieved soft cloud-like rasmalai.
The honeycomb-like disk below the rasmalai is called ‘Ghevar’ which is a traditional sweet dish hailing from Rajasthan. This unique structure is created by slowly dropping a thin batter into extremely hot ghee. As soon as the batter hits the hot ghee, the water in the batter immediately turns to steam while the rest solidifies around it creating many air pockets. The batter is slowly poured layer by layer creating a thick disk.
We drizzled some strawberry flavoured syrup over it to fill in the air pockets which beautifully complimented the flavour of the reduced milk sauce we served along with it. The soft, spongey texture of the rasmalai was contrasted with the crumbly melt-in-your-mouth texture of the rich Ghevar.
The judges loved the menu so much that we won first place!