Across India, flowers mean and signify many things—from romance and abundance to wealth, beauty and purity, to even knowledge and enlightenment. We use them to decorate our living spaces and adorn our bodies. So it’s natural that they would make their presence and aroma felt in our food.
And being part of nature’s roster of nutrition, India’s rich and diverse culinary history features flowers from various plants.
Virender Singh Datta says, “Edible flowers were always part of our cuisine; it is we who forgot about them!” An iconic chef and hotelier, he has held important positions in some of the most well-known hotels in India and abroad in a career spanning 50 years.
In 2005, he retired to set up the International Institute of Culinary Arts in Delhi, to pass on his knowledge and groom the next generation of world-class Indian chefs. He tells us about banana, pea, onion and moringa flowers, which are extensively used in South Indian and Bengali food.
“Rose is one of the most versatile flowers widely available in the market today,” says Varun Bhatia. He describes himself as a ‘sustainable chef’; he had completed the culinary programme at the International Institute of Culinary Arts in Delhi, the one that Virender Singh Datta founded.
Varun’s culinary journey began very young, when he was just 16. Since then, he has grown as a chef, managing several food and beverages businesses in the country, including his own project, Pier 38, in Gurugram.
He also reminds us of flowers in tea. After all, are you considered a millennial if you haven’t gushed about the restorative properties of jasmine, hibiscus or chamomile tea?
We also catch up with Saptarshi Chakraborty, one of the brains behind the popular food channel, Bong Eats, as we recreate their dish mocha ghonto or banana blossom curry.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)
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