Latin American and Indian cuisines share many common ingredients, says chef Dominic Joseph
Fusion food for most chefs is where their creativity can be put to best use. Where their non-conformist, radical ideas can transform into absolute wonders on the plate. Merging two (or more) culinary cultures brings with it a clamour of emotions too—“a good kind of pressure”, as Dominic Joseph of the Casino group, puts it. “Because, one has to create an effortless blend. It has to be a smooth culinary journey for the guest,” says Chef Joseph, who showcased his Latin-Indian fusion cuisine at Casino Hotel recently.
Blending Latin American and Indian cuisines is a delight, as the two culinary cultures have a lot in common—including ingredients and produce. The spices, for instance, are common. Cumin is extremely popular in Latin American dishes as it is in the Indian kitchen. So is chilli. Bananas, plantains, coconut, and papaya grow in plenty in both the countries and their cuisines include a lot of these.
Joseph, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America, in New York, recently took over as the General Manager, Food and Beverage at the CGH experience hotels. His three-and-a-half-year stint at the institute and his work experience in Chicago instilled in him a true passion for cooking.
Joseph's interpretation of the very Kerala ‘kappa meen curry' in a rather unique way, was well appreciated. He used the Gaijo, Anaheim and Habanero chillies in the traditional accompaniment to kappa, the red-chilli fish curry. The flavours fused really well and the staple dish received a contemporary twist. “The tapioca, cassava, as it is known in Latin American countries, is a staple in their diet, too,” he says. The dish received rave responses at the U.S., he says. While the technique remains Indian, Joseph, in this dish relies on the different flavour of the chillies.
However, fusion does not always follow the same pattern. Technique, ingredients, style, presentation, everything is mixed and matched when a new dish is created. The Calderaida De Peixe, or the Portuguese/Brazilian fish stew, Joseph's signature dish, brings several elements together. Methi leaves, garam masala powder, Kashmiri red chillies giving a distinctly Indian touch to a typically South American broth. The stew is also commonly made in Europe.
The Tresleche cake, a famous Mexican dessert got its crossover time, too. Joseph substituted Indian pumpkin, which tastes very different from the South American pumpkin, for the puree. He also added a dash of cinnamon and cloves.
Joseph's fusion ensemble includes delicious fare such as Jibarito (a traditional Peurto Rican dish) with green tomato, pork, testones and cauliflower ceviche. The flavours of the braised meat and the vegetables mix perfectly. The Caldo (soup) of fish fumet, coconut, tomato and anchovy would be a revelation for seafood lovers. The salads, too, brought the two countries closer with a careful selection of veggies—lotus and avocado garnished with Peruvian sauce and lime vinaigrette.
Vegetarians haven't been left out. The Pablano, with cashew, walnut, mushroom and chilli pepper, is the ideal choice.
Though he would not be putting his fusion expertise to use every day, he assures patrons that festivals would be held often.
Keywords: Mexican cuisine