The Exotic Asparagus Makes Its Debut

It's summertime....the ideal time for the exotic asparagus in Europe.In Germany,it's a big festive event....there are loads of street side stalls cooking asparagus and selling them.People also head in large groups to restaurants to feast on this delicacy.They call it Spargo.Inspired by this and its popularity all over Europe,Chef Oberoi has launched the Asparagus Festival at the Taj,Mumbai where he shows how the vegetable can be used in drinks,soups,appetizers,main course and desserts! First time I have seen a vegetable taking centre stage in a food festival in Mumbai and it makes me happy.When I was in the USA,there was a Garlic Festival on in Gilroy,CA which served everything garlic.In LA,there is a restaurant called The Stinking Rose which also serves everything garlic!



Asparagus comes in three colors:green,white and purple.In India,the green variety is grown and we see it in every locality today.The festival has incorporated both green and white (Spargo) and will soon include the purple.These come from Europe.The green one is highest in nutrients and fibre whereas the purple one has more sugar and is low in fibre.The white one is grown underground and looks majestic.The sort of thing that would be served to royals and I believe it was.
Asparagus is low in calories and salt.It is high on vitamin C,potassium and folic acid.It has diuretic properties and aids digestion.In fact Ayurveda uses the asparagus (shatavari) in medication
At the fest,the chefs use simple techniques to cook the asparagus such as steaming and grilling,rendering the vegetable sweet,juicy and tender and pair it with tangy reductions such as passion fruit and mango.The white one tastes more like a water chestnut and slices off easily with a knife.



The main course includes Fish Carpaccio in which thin slices of Red Snapper are combined with the winsome summer vegetable,yellow and green peppers.This was covered with asparagus foam




The vegetarian version too had Asparagus Foam.Foaming is a technique by which food is made frothy by focussing on protein content...the same way our mothers taught us to make a soufflé using egg whites only,discarding the yolk. For vegetarians, a gel of agar or lecithin is used as the base,flavors are infused and air bubbles incorporated to make it light and fluffy





Wild Rice was an accompaniment to the main course...now this is not really rice but the husk of a grass available in North America and has a nutty taste.Glutinous Rice was another accompaniment which comes from the South East and lacks gluten.






The dessert was striking... Asparagus Creme Brûlée....torched to perfection with the asparagus blending in beautifully.At the end of the meal which involved half a field of asparagus (just kidding :))........I did not feel heavy or sleepy.



 Chef Hemant Oberoi has presented wonderful ways to cook this exotic vegetable both for vegetarians and nonvegetarians.I have cooked asparagus before and it was nowhere as tender.He has glamorized this healthy produce,making it appealing to people with varied tastes.Be it as an accompaniment to Oven Roasted Halibut, as a part of Sushi or even in Indian cuisine as Bhatti or Tava Ka Asparagus with mild spices and minimal oil so as not to overpower the taste of the vegetable and keep it nutritious.He is launching his cooking classes soon that will cover a variety of cuisines sand help you cook great food at home.He is unassuming,extremely hardworking and exceedingly creative.Sometime ago I had talked of the need for chefs to make healthy food more attractive to people...and Chef Oberoi has done just that!






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