Thank You for Smoking


How about a smoked five-course meal? Move over the tandoori mains, chefs are playing with hickory for salads and desserts too.

There was a time when the term "smoked duck" would elicit only a mental image of Daffy Duck smoking a cigar, quacking away in indignation. However, as today's culinary cognoscenti can vouch for, the formerly Disney copyright now refers to distinctly delicious duck dishes, each with their own characteristic flavour.

Chef Manish Mehrota of Indian Accent says, "While earlier, the word 'smoked' applied almost exclusively to items such as poultry and bacon, smoking has taken on a whole new dynamic today. Not only is it an individual fully-fledged flavour factor, it is also a presentation gimmick used by several restaurants." Agrees Chef Shamsul Wahid of Smoke House Deli, where 60 percent of the menu comprises smoked dishes. He says, "Smoking adds an earthy twist to different foods and a whole new dimension of flavour. We use woods from trees such as cherry, apple and hickory, which impart their own character to dishes."

Smoking as a cooking technique is not wholly revolutionary in a nation where tandoor has always held a hallowed status, but the various manners in which it can be applied to different courses of meal is a recent development. In this regard, Chef Saby of Olive Bar and Kitchen says, "Earlier, one of the most popular smoking techniques in the country, popularised by stalwarts like Chef Qureshi, was dhua dalna. In this, large metal bearings were heated to a red-hot temperature and then thrown into the pot with the uncooked meat and marination. Today, you have high-tech smoking chambers for large amounts of food and handheld smoking guns, which can be used live while presenting a salad or a soup. This adds visual appeal to the dining experience."

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