Smoking food can unlock a world of new flavours. Not surprising therefore, many are turning to this technique to impart a smoldering flavour to their dishes
The process of smoking imparts a distinct flavour to the dish. It elevates and enhances both the aroma, as well as the flavour.
Smoking is being incorporated to impart aromatic flavours to traditionally prepared dishes. After all, there’s something universally appealing about a whiff of fire in our food. And so, today smoking is not restricted to meats only- but cheese, vegetables, fruits, yogurt, butter and even desserts, are being smoked.
Gone are the days when smoking was perceived and used as a method of preservation only. After having made its way into bars for smoking cocktails to create heady flavours and aromas, it is now a must-have technique in kitchens for chefs.
Indian dishes are often cooked in the tandoor and hence already have a smoky flavour. However, chefs can still enhance other dishes, using the smoking technique. This can be done with Indian curries and gravies, with a combination of utilizing ingredients like clarified butter, desired aromatic spices and a hot piece of charcoal in a small bowl. The same is then placed inside the cooking vessel and covered to incorporate the desired smoky flavour.
Maas Ke Sooley, prepared in a Rajasthani style, with cinnamon stick, being used to impart flavour to the Kababs and Dum ka Murgh -Mughlai Style Chicken Gravy, where mace is skilfully made use of to give an aromatic smoke to the finished product, are some typical examples.
Meat, dairy and eggs are naturally suited for smoking, but interestingly, vegetables too can be smoked. Broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, are some of the vegetables which can be smoked to perfection. Some chefs are even adding fruits to their repertoire.
It’s not as if smoking is used to enhance the flavours of Indian food alone. Some exciting flavours can be added to international foods too, with smoking. Smoked Chicken Pizzas, Fresh vegetables and smoked sea bass, Honey glazed lamb with smoked yogurt and vegetables, Wood-smoked cauliflower and carrots with pistachio crunch, are some inimitable dishes.
When the surface of the meat is softer, smoke is able to penetrate the meat more deeply and effect a stronger smoky flavour. Thus, sometimes the marinade becomes crucial, even before the meat is smoked.
Flavourful woods like apple wood chips, cedar wood chips, which are the latest cooking trends, lend their taste, aroma, body and texture to the food that are cooked together.
It is recommended that the wood chips being used for smoking food, should be soaked for about 30-40 minutes and drip-dried before being added to the fire.
The smoke generated by hot smoking has a different flavour than the one generated by cold smoking, even though both are used by chefs. Cold smoking, flavours the food without actually cooking it. Smoked Salmon and Bacon are typical meats that are cold smoked.
Smoke adds a dimension of flavour all its own, something sweet and rich, but also pungent, which is being maximized in innovative desserts.
Some prefer using an open flame to smoke while others rely on the blowtorch or charcoal. Instead of smoking the whole dessert, one can try smoking one component of the dessert. Smoked vanilla ice cream made with muscavado sugar is a unique dessert, where, smoke acts as an incredible flavour enhancer. Smoked coconut cheesecake, is another example, where the coconut is first smoked. Fruits are a hugely popular choice when it comes to smoking.
Smoking is clearly witnessing a resurgence in kitchens. The textured feel of smoke works on all senses of the diners. It is beautiful to see, vivacious to taste, raw and rustic in smell and the texture feels incredible in the mouth.