While mango dominates every kitchen in Maharashtra during the summer, there is another fruit that is slowly getting its due – jamun. Referred by many as Indian blackberry, this sweet and sour fruit grows in abundance in various parts of the state, including areas closer to Mumbai such as Thane, Alibaug, Panvel, and Badlapur among others, which perhaps explains its entry to the kitchen of some restaurants, especially the ones that are ingredient-forward.
For chef Akash Deshpande, who helms the recently launched ingredient-driven restaurant Nava, this mouth-puckering fruit is very versatile in nature. “You can make a beautiful glaze (a shiny coating) out of it which you can add on to your meats or you can also make sauces because of its flavour,” says chef Deshpande, who uses it as a palette cleaner in his summer tasting menu.
While the main ingredient is a gel made by boiling the berry with Gondhoraj lemon and adding agar powder to it, he presents it in such a way that it looks nothing less than a piece of art.
“For plating, we use a flower-shaped ceramic plate, add this gel in the centre and top it with rice wafer paper brushed with some jamun glaze, and cut into the shape of a flower. We then add dehydrated jamun dust on top of it,” says the chef of the Bandra-based restaurant, adding, “Jamun has a mix of sweet and sour taste, which is what you need as a palate cleanser.”
Agrees chef Vikram Arora, culinary director and co-founder of Nksha. He too uses the fruit as a palate cleanser but in the form of kulfi that tastes similar to kala-khatta gola. “It is basically a sorbet made using jamun,” shares chef Arora, adding that it is served as a complementary dish at this newly launched restaurant opposite Churchgate station.
“We serve an amuse-bouche when our guests take their seats. Once they are done with their appetizers, we send them jamun kulfis. They cleanse their palate and make them ready to try new flavours,” he says, adding that some people prefer to have it as dessert. “This works well in case you don’t want to have something very sweet. We top these kulfis with some freshly shaved rock salt so it is good for digestion as well,” Arora notes, adding that he himself goes to the fruit because of its multiple medicinal benefits. For chef Arora, who has diabetes, jamun which has a low glycemic index helps keep his blood sugar levels in control.
Not restricted to kitchens, the flavourful purple fleshy berries have also made their way to the bars. At Noon in BKC, a fine-dining restaurant that reimagines Indian cuisine through ancient practices of fermentation, founder and chef Vanika Choudhary has turned wild jamun foraged from Palghar into a soda. Another fine-dining restaurant in Colaba, The Table, which was recently ranked 78 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list, has turned it into a cocktail.
“I was visiting our farm when I chanced upon the fruit so I put up a post asking what should be done with them when my team reached out, saying they would like to turn it into a cocktail,” recalls Gauri Devidayal, co-founder of The Table, adding that within hours the team was ready with the drink. Here the jamun was puréed and combined with gin, lemon juice, and egg white to make a purple-coloured shaken cocktail called Jamun Club. “It is our take on Clover Club, which is made with raspberry syrup,” shares bar manager Durgesh Singh about the sour drink, which would do well with less lemon. Coming up next, if all goes well, he says, is jamun cheesecake but in the form of a cocktail.
We surely are excited to see how this fruit is utilised in more ways by city-based culinary wizards.
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