By Chef Japvir Vohra, Culinary Consultant, Panchshil Realty
Culinary dictionaries often describe herbs as leaves of plants used in cooking to impart flavour and nutritional value. While that’s true, in the context of food, the importance of herbs cannot be overstated. Imagine a Thai Green Curry without kaffir lime leaves, or a Hyderabadi Gosht Biryani without the freshness of mint… Incomplete! Isn’t it? Our food without herbs would be so plain vanilla!
A chef’s closet isn’t complete without an elaborate spice and herb tray. Personally, it’s my firm belief that if starch or proteins constitute the main body of a dish, the soul lingers in the bay leaf you tie in the bouquet garni, the rosemary you rub onto the steak, the shrub of thyme you infuse into your sauce, or the coriander you sprinkle over your curry.
Besides being aromatic, herbs have always held a tremendous reputation for their medicinal value. Ayurveda, naturopathy, homeopathy and bath flower remedies rely on natural extracts from plants and shrubs. Going back to nature is thus the new mantra for all marketing gurus.
In my observation, one herb that has taken off in a big way is Ashwagandha. Being a natural adaptogen, ashwagandha has a proven rejuvenating effect on the body. With a good story built around it, niche nutrition brands have sold the homeostasis saga well though ashwagandha energy bars, ashwagandha infused honey and ashwagandha filled chocolates. Being a great natural stress buster, ashwagandha is a great inclusion in a business hotel’s turn-down offerings, be it through moon milk sleep tonics, or when used creatively in goodnight amenities.
Over the past decade, there has been a perceptible transition in the accessibility and acceptability of traditional Indian medicine which has made aloe vera, brahmi, giloy, etc. as common remedies beyond the usual neem, tulsi and mint. In my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before we dine in classy Ayurvedic restaurants offering Instagram-worthy modern food seasoned with traditional Indian herbs that blend lifestyle with healthy eating. Say, would you like to try a triphala marinated Peruvian asparagus with brahmi butter sauce?
It is only understandable that post Covid-19, there has been a marked spike in people’s interest in self-care, particularly home-bred wellness solutions. Don’t be surprised if the next internet trend is an early morning chlorophyll shot made with balcony grown seasonal greens. After all, your well-being is in eating right, particularly those wonderful greens you see around. That’s where nature has put in all the magic.
Eat well folks!