Millionaire Asia

Exotic Plates

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The Good Life is not about expensive holidays, jewellery and accessories but also about good food that comes with rarest ingredients and a price to match.

On a balmy winter evening in the backdrop of Udaipur’s stunning City Palace, I headed to the in house restaurant Palki Khana. The restaurant here serves some of the most exotic food that actually uses pure gold. Well that could have come as a bit of a shocker so let me explain. The menu has 24 Carat Gold Pizza as well as a 24 Carat Gold Coffee! Love Mathur, Corporate Chef, HRH Group of Hotels, The City Palace explains, “our pizza has pure gold warq, ossetra caviar, parma ham, and Norwegian smoked salmon. For the best Parma Ham, the pigs are fed a special diet of maize, barley and the whey of Parmigiano Reggiano. They are a breed called Duroc or large white have to be nine months old and weigh 160kg before ham time hits them and you only get two prosciutto per pig. An authentic ham must be first cooled for 24 hours before it is trimmed into a leg before it enters a complicated and lengthy process of ageing. It is salted, washed, per-cured, greased and cellared to get to the point where experts smell it to check the quality which takes approximately 780 days for a 12 month-aged ham. Norwegian Salmon is considered the best salmon in the world and is had cold as its already smoked and cooked. Caviar one of the most expensive foods in the world is layered on the gold pizza after baking the pizza. Likewise our coffee has pure gold warq, Arabica coffee beans and is served with a golden Charlie of food which consists of macaroon, pastry, sandwiches, cup cakes and cookies.” Certainly gold that you can eat too and not just wear!

English Tea at Palki Khana
English Tea at Palki Khana

Caviar Cues

Incidentally there are several ingredients that compete with each other in terms of being the most exclusive for being rare and unique. Beluga Caviar for instance is the Roe or Eggs of a Sturgeon fish (scientific name Huso Huso) which are found mainly in the Caspian Sea. The taste of a typical Beluga is salty and fishy. Good caviar tastes less salty which means it must be very fresh as it spoils easily. The distinctive aspect of caviar is more about its texture. The eggs pop on your tongue, and the rich, slightly creamy texture burst into your mouth and you can smell the flavors right away. “Caviar is best enjoyed as a topping. I recommend pairing it with dishes like Scrambled eggs, Melba toast or on Poached fish. When added to a dish it enhances the flavour of the dish with its richness and superb texture. Beluga caviar usually comes from rare sturgeon species that can take many years to develop its Roe. The unavailability of this particular fish makes its Roe so expensive. Not only that, the growth rate of Beluga Caviar is extremely slow, around 1 to 1.5 inches per year. Also, Beluga sturgeon can take up to 20 years to reach its maturity. To add to it, the restrictions on production and firm control of imports and exports lead to further scarcity. The most expensive caviar is beluga-albino caviar, Almas that is produced from the eggs of a rare albino sturgeon between 60 and 100 years old, which swims in the Southern Caspian Sea. Very few of the albino variety are left in the wild. A kilogram of this almost white ‘black gold’ is priced at approximately INR 2500000,” says Chef Aungshuman Chakraborty, Executive Chef, The Leela Mumbai.

Courtesy The Leela Mumbai
Courtesy The Leela Mumbai

Mushroom Musings

Truffle, often termed as ‘Earth’s Gold’ is highly liked due its exotic qualities, aroma and distinctive taste. Truffles are held at high esteem in French and Northern Italian cooking as well as in the international haute cuisine; it was a discovery by accident. There was a stigma around truffles during the medieval ages due to its harvesting procedures (hunted by pigs and dogs). There are many varieties of truffle available but the most popular are black and white truffle. Porcini Mushroom is one of the world’s most widely consumed wild mushrooms. It is an integral part of many culinary traditions across the globe. Shiitake Mushroom is often referred as vegetarian steak because of its peculiar meaty tang. It enhances the flavour of most foods and is delicious in itself as well. Mostly available in dry forms, it has an earthy or woody zest. Morels or Morchella is a wild mushroom that sprouts naturally in meadows, pastures and orchards or in the spring following a summer’s forest fire. Not grown artificially or though cultivation, morels are hard to find and one has to venture into forests and other pastures to find this ingredient, hence making giving it its exclusivity. “Due to its reputation as an exotic wild ingredient, Morels are prized by gourmet cooks, particularly in French cuisine, usually prepared for meals paired with exclusive wine and meats. At Sofitel Mumbai BKC, we use morels in many events in different dishes such as Stuffed Tandoori Morel, Morel Pilaf Rice or a Morel Risotto to name a few. Morels are expensive as they are not easy to cultivate and it’s perishability. Because they are not farmed, morels have to be picked up from its natural environment, and due to their hard to find nature, and the efforts and dangers involved to get them back to the city, are another reason why the ingredient is so expensive,” says Chef Prakash Lopes, Executive Sous Chef, Sofitel Mumbai BKC.

Pule cheese
Pule cheese

Say Cheese

Cheese is another exotic ingredient and before you wonder why, think of Pule cheese that is made in Serbia and prepared from the milk of Balkan donkeys. It is white and crumbly like feta while being similar to but richer than Manchego. Pule, a precious and rare cheese, handmade by just one farm in Serbia that manually draws its milk from donkeys. The cheese made out of this milk is then smoked to add to its unique flavor that makes it superior to the other varieties. Pule cheese is produced at Zasavica donkey reserve. Each pound of Pule cheese costs $700. Chef Sumit Sharma, Exec. Sous Chef, Hotel Park inn by Radisson, IP Extension, Patparganj, New Delhi, “Pule cheese is hand-milked and the milk drawn is known to contain less fat and is rich in protein and vitamin C.  The important fact is the milk contains 60 times more Vitamin C than cow milk. The milk has anti-allergen properties that improve immunity in humans. Few dishes that are made from Pule cheese are Serbian meat Gibanica is a Serbian Strudel which uses Pule cheese for its unique taste and high salt content.”

Sofitel Mumbai BKC - Morel Mushrooms & Chevre Cheese Ravioli with Peach Butter Sauce
Sofitel Mumbai BKC – Morel Mushrooms & Chevre Cheese Ravioli with Peach Butter Sauce

World on your Plate

Saffron is one of the most expensive food ingredients used in the culinary world. It has a very interesting history from Egyptian Royals taking bath in saffron milk to saffron being used as a commodity in barter system. The famous saffron of the world come from Iran, Spain and India. “Saffron is a very expensive ingredient majorly because of the way it is grown. It is actually a part of the saffron flower that is used and it takes many flowers to make just one pound of the element. The stigmata which is the flower is very delicate. Therefore reaping them is more of a labour intensive technique that makes it costly,” says Sumiet Raghuvanshi, Executive Chef, White Castle Hospitality. Likewise the Kobe beef is one of the most cherished beef in the culinary world due to its texture and ultimate taste. What makes it so different from the regular beef is the way the cattle is treated, fed and regular massages which results in the unparalleled level of marbling in meat. The fat also melts at low temperature giving a rich and buttery relish. New Zealand Lamb Chops is special because it is 100% grass fed. It grazes where rivers and streams are fresh and clean, the air is pure. It is raised in perfect harmony that gives the meat a very elusive taste. Probably when Virginia Woolf said, “one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”, she was talking of food that was as exotic.   

Most expensive ingredients

  • Guchhi (Morel Mushroom)      
  • Black Truffles            
  • Beluga Caviar  
  • White Truffle
  • Osetra Caviar 
  • Wajyu Beef     
  • Kobe   
  • Pule Cheese                 
  • Porcini Mushroom
  • Shitake Mushroom
  • New Zealand Lamb Chops       
  • Kapi Luwak Coffee
  • Chutoro           
  • Unni    
  • Moose House Cheese  
  • Saffron

World’s Most Expensive Coffee

Kopi Luwak traces its origins to the Dutch Colonial rule in Indonesia and the coffee beans are collected from the feces of the Civet Cat. It is said the coffee tastes much better after being passed on by the Civet Cat as it is mixed with its digestive juices.

World’s Most Expensive Ice Cream

Scoopi Café in Dubai serves the world’s most expensive ice cream ‘Black Diamond’ has a Madagascar vanilla bean ice-cream base and is crowned with Italian truffles, rare ambrosial Iranian saffron, 23-kt edible gold flakes and is served in a keepsake Versace bowl with a matching spoon.

This story first appeared in the Nov-Dec 2019 issue of Millionaire Asia here:

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