Quarantine cooking: How to cook without salt!

Ever thought Asian cuisine could be tossed up sans salt? More importantly, could you imagine that macaroni could be made in a mix of mustard and olive oil? Last weekend when we went on an Instagram live with chef Vikramjit Roy, who is touted as chef of the year, he gave out some the best-kept secrets from his personal pantry.  At his debut IG Live master class chef Vikramjit, who aces Southeast-Asian cuisine, in fact cooks without salt!

“I avoid using salt directly and I try and substitute salt in Indian food too with soy sauce and oyster sauce and I go for vegetarian oyster sauce in vegetarian food,” reveals the sprightly chef.  “At all my restaurants I make sure I always made three sauces and condiments: a black bean sauce, a flavoured chilli oil and seasoned vinegar. These are there in all my kitchens,” says chef Vikramjit.   So those who are die-hard fans of his Angry Potatoes or that perfectly done Steamed Sea Bass With Black Bean from Wasabi now know the secret ingredient! On our menu was his Asian take on the classic and comforting macaroni and meat dish that he made using chicken mince and a black bean sauce. 

Chef Vikramjit prefers to make his own sauces and condiments in bulk and stores them for use over time. “I make this very basic chilli oil  where you take any oil – peanut, olive or mustard and in it put  ginger, garlic, any whole spice. dry-roasted crushed red chillies and sesame seeds. Just boil these and store it!” says chef Vikramjit who seasons his soy sauce with dry aromatics, equal amounts of water, black pepper and heats it for 10 mins before straining and diluting it with half the quantity of vinegar and no salt.He says that every batch of soy has a different quantity of salt so you need to dilute and season it accordingly.His third ingredient or trade secret is fermented black beans. “I wash and dry the packaged ones to get rid of the extra salt and blend them very finely,” smiles Vikramjit and adding how he’s giving out his trade secrets. As for his time in quarantine he says he’s actually getting into starting his own restaurant and had kept aside this time for travel and R & D. “But my research work is on and probably the only positive thing I can take away from this is the time I can spend doing my research. I have also been able to connect with inner cook. As a professional chef you lose track of the cook in you with so many things that require your attention from supply chain to guests and infrastructure,” says chef Vikramjit who has been in the industry for 19 years and recently shaped the menu of Kimono club in the Capital.  Apart from experimenting with food and textures he is doing his bit by tying up with a friend in his locality to cook meals for 200 people once a week. “We go with  the police and distribute these and since I cook on the regular gas stove we cook in batches,” he explains.  And as the macaroni gets ready he shares how his sauces and condiments can be used in almost any thing from salad dressing to dal-chawal accompaniments. 

Here’s the full recipe!

Minced chicken & macaroni with homemade chilli oil & black bean

For the chicken

Minced Chicken – 180 gm
Sesame oil – 5 ml
Egg whole – 1 nos
Salt – to taste
White pepper powder – to taste
Corn flour – 1 tbsp

Method: Marinate the chicken with the rest of the ingredients overnight. Reserve for use later.

For the chilli oil

Minced garlic – 1 tbsp
Minced ginger – 1 tbsp
Blended dry red chilli – 4 tbsp
Peanut oil – 250 ml
Cloves – 8 nos
Cinnamon – 1 nos
Whole black pepper – 10 nos
Sichuan pepper corn – 1 tsp
Star anise – 2 nos
White sesame seeds – 2 tbsp

Method: Heat the oil toll 165 deg celcius and pour it ovee all the ingredients mixed together. Let it cool down. Remove the cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, Sichuan pepper corn & star anise. Store in an airtight container and reserve for use.

For the black bean sauce

Fermented black bean – 100 gm
Chopped onion – 2 tbsp
Chopped ginger – 1 tsp
Sesame oil – 1 tbsp
Refined vegetable oil – 2 tbsp

Method: Saute the ginger and onion till transparent in veg oil. Add the black beans and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the sesame oil and water. When cool, blend it to a fine paste. Reserve for use.

For the flavoured soy sauce

Kikkoman soy sauce – 100 ml
Water – 100 ml
Chinese vinegar – 50 ml
Black pepper powder – 1 tsp
Cloves – 4nos
Cinnamon – 1 nosWhole black pepper – 5nos
Sichuan pepper corn – 1/2 tsp
Star anise – 1nos

Method: Put all the ingredients in a pan and let it boil. Allow it to cool and then strain. Reserve for use.

Tomato sauce

Ripe tomatoes – 2 nos
Vegetable oil – 2 tsp
Tomato paste – 2 tbsp

Method: Chop the tomatoes roughly. Add oil to a pan and add the tomatoes. Cook it down gently till soft. Add the tomato paste and let it cook for some time. Cool and blend it to a rough paste.

Final cooking and assembly

Marinated minced chicken – 180 gm
Boiled Macaroni – 100 gm
Chopped onion – 2 tbsp
Sliced garlic – 1 tbsp
Diced cherry tomatoes – 5 nos
Tomato sauce – 2 tbsp
Chilli oil – 1 tbsp
Black bean sauce – 1 tbsp
Flavoured soy sauce –2 tbsp
Olive oil oil – 2 tbsp
Mustard oil – 1 tbsp
Cucumber – ½ nos
Carrot – ½ nos

Method: Heat the mustard & olive oil in a pan. Put in the minced chicken and cook for a minute. Add the onions and garlic till translucent. Add the chilli oil, black bean sauce, tomato sauce, diced cherry tomatoes, flavoured soy sauce and cook toll everything is blended properly. Add the macaroni & little water and cook for a few minutes. Top with sliced cucumber and carrots.

From HT Brunch, April 19, 2020

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