In steaks, stews & soup: chocolate like you've never had it before!
May I have some chocolate? It’s a simple enough question. But with the number of chocolate-in-savoury choices out there, your waiter might be asking you in the future whether you want it in your meal or dessert. Ahead of World Chocolate Day, we spoke to some of the city’s top chefs who dish out everything from a Cocoa-rubbed rack of lamb to Chocolate Bourbon Bacon Ice Cream. As it turns out, most of these dishes are on request. “But people enjoying a mix of chocolate in their main course goes back to a little over a decade,” says Chef Koushik Shankar, better known as the Mad Chef for his outlandish experiments. Currently working on a new menu for a soon-to-open café in town, he shares that he's working on a South-American inspired steak with molé sauce (comprising 70 per cent dark chocolate imported from Australia, browned onions, red wine and red chilli).
Slipping in a dose of history on our side plate, he adds, “That’s where chocolate was first used in savoury dishes, you know, within South America and Spain. Later it became a beverage and eventually, much later, it began being used for desserts.” If you aren’t up for too many experiments, but still find yourself curious, Chef Koushik suggests one surefire way to make sure you order a delicious combination. “It’s called a colour wheel,” he offers simply. “Foods of the same colour often go well together, like chocolate and cinnamon — both brown, and extremely good.”
That, or let a fleet of chefs curate a special menu, so you don’t have to do the thinking. The Park Hyatt Chennai has become quite popular for their on-request orders for special occasions like Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and themed banquet menus.
“Chocolate, whether in a dessert or a bowl of sauce with bird eye chilli — is considered romantic either way,” says Balaji Natarajan, the Executive Sous Chef-Culinary, Park Hyatt, with a smile. The latter goes with Asia-style wok-tossed chicken, and he also speaks highly of their Edamame and chocolate dim sums. If you are wondering how the sweetness quotient is kept in check, the chef explains, “We usually use dark chocolate when we combine it with a savoury option like chicken or ravioli, so that we don’t have that worry.”
You’ve probably noticed by now that most of these combinations feature western cuisines, save for the occasional Asian dish. This is what sets Tirunelveli food blogger Hazeena Seyad apart from the crowd. When she ran out of jaggery while making Vatha Kuzhambu two years ago, she decided to improvise and throw in some cooking chocolate instead. “I was amazed that it turned out better than my dish with jaggery!” she recalls. Later, inspired by an episode of MasterChef, she decided to try adding white choco-late to her vegetable stew. Suffice to say, her readers are curious to see what is coming up next.
Four-course chocolate menu
The Park Chennai has a four-course chocolate menu for lunch today in celebration of World Chocolate Day. Expect Butternut and coconut soup, pistachio slivers topped with organic Ecuadorian lemongrass chocolate shavings, Homemade chocolate fettuccine, crunchy edamame, wilted spinach, ricotta and Rose chocolate for dessert.
A chocolate workshop going through cocoa bean processing and tasting chocolate from eight different origins like Madagascar and San Dominique will be held by chocolate taster Nitin Chordia, prior to lunch. Time: Noon. Price: Rs 1,500. Details: 9840485991
No advance notice
While most restaurants and five-star hotels offer chocolate-savoury options only on request, Sandy’s Chocolate Laboratory has two dishes you can walk in and get right off their menu — a Steak with a Demi Chocolate Glace and Poached Pear Salad with White Chocolate Curls. As for the kind of chocolate they use, owner Sandhesh Reddy says, “That depends on the dish. We use everything from Morde 54 to Amedei.”