Salads the Indian way

Posted on Analysis May 2010 - by Tandoori Magazine
Salads the Indian way

Want to revitalise your menu? We talk to chef Bhaskar Pillai of Myristica restaurant in Bristol about how salads are an exciting and healthy choice.

When a chef sits down to compose a menu salads are likely to be the last thing on his mind. But then we are talking about an Indian restaurant menu.

Then again, one should remember that as Indian restaurants have modernised, things have come a long way in the past decade or so. Today, most modern Indian restaurants will indeed make a habit of including a range of salads on their menus. Not only does this reflect well on the restaurant in that it’s offering something quite unique which is normally only associated with non-Indian restaurants, but it also reflects customer demand because the public is a lot more health-conscious now than it ever was.

For instance, take Myristica restaurant in Bristol, where its chef Bhaskar Pillai makes a point of offering a range of salads on its à la carte menu:

Marinated prawn salad (cooked prawns dressed with chef’s home-made tangy mayonnaise, served on a bed of crispy lettuce), smoked chicken salad (slices of smoked chicken tikka tossed with a julienne of peppers, carrot and onion, finished with olive oil and chaat masala), paneer and potato salad (cubes of paneer and baby potatoes mixed with chopped celery, dressed with chef’s home- made mayonnaise) and garden fresh salad (slices of carrot, tomatoes, cucumber and red onions, garnished with olives and served with house dressing).

“The public enjoys going to an Indian restaurant so they can have a nice Indian meal,” states Pillai, “but a menu also needs to be interesting and different. In addition, it also needs to have items which are light and healthy, particularly during the summertime. With the salads I’m offering at Myristica, I wanted to balance flavours which were familiar but just that little bit different too.

“What dictates the type of salads I come up with is ultimately dependent on seasonality and what’s available in the market. Summer is the perfect time to have salads on the menu because you really don’t want to give customers heavy, sauce-based curries then. On the whole though, there is no reason to offer salads the year round.”
Pillai adds that a good salad should have vibrant flavours and a crunchy texture.

“The subcontinent offers a host of ingredients,” he states, “that are just perfect for salads. Take mangoes for instance. It’s a fruit which is very versatile and can not only be used in desserts, and even some savoury dishes, its wonderful just on its own and superb as an addition to a salad. Also, we should use more papaya. A salad of diced papaya tossed with crushed cumin, chilli powder and a little caster sugar is lovely. For dressings, the tried and tested oil with lemon juice always works. Then we have honey, vinegar and juices of all kinds blended with black pepper and black salt, chopped ginger and chopped mint.

“What chefs need to do is do a little bit of research into what’s in season and then use their knowledge and instinct to see what works for a perfectly zingy Indian salad!”

Indian-Style Salads

Tomato Salad
Sesame oil, vinegar, green beans, coriander leaves, salt and pepper

Red Bean Salad
Red beans, lettuce, lemon juice and tomatoes

Mooli Lachha Salad
Mooli and a tangy taste of ginger

Wholesome Teen Bean Salad
Chickpeas, mung beans and rajma beans tossed in a traditional Indian dressing served with a slice of lime for some extra zing

Fruit Salad
A seasonal fruit salad sprinkled with chaat masala

Caesar Salad
Fresh lettuce tossed with succulent pieces of tandoori chicken drizzled with a traditional Caesar dressing and topped with shavings of parmesan cheese

Sprouted Mung Salad
With onion, tomato, spices, lemon juice sugar and fresh coriander leaves

Onion and Cumin Salad
With lemon juice, watercress and green chillies

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