Even if he did not win, Chef Sandip Narang, Executive Chef at the Taj West End, had a great time flying the Bangalore flag high at the recently-concluded World Championship of Tapas and Pinchos held at Vallodolid, near Madrid, Spain. The competition saw 48 chefs from Spain and 16 from other countries across the globe participate. Chef Narang was the only chef from India.
“This competition has been going on for more than 12 years,” Chef Narang told Explocity, “and this is the first time that chefs from other countries were invited to participate.” Our conversation centered around Spain and inescapably, tapas. Are there Indian tapas? Narang said any type of short eats or food that is essentially one bite food, qualifies as tapas. “A lot of our Indian snacks, for example Alu Tiki, would come under tapas,” he said.
The competition had tapas as a competition, and Narang ‘s entry was the Kolkata Puchka. The competition had some strictures, including that 60 percent of the ingredients had to be local to Spain, the recipe could not cost more than 1.5 Euros and every dish had to use extra virgin olive oil. To comply, the chef eschewed the traditional tangy tamarind water for two varieties of gazpacho – strawberry and feta cheese, and mango and chillies. Narang spoke of a “staggering variety of tapas” at show.
The competition was won by a Norwegian chef, who recreated an artichoke using molecular techniques, with a base of the Japanese watami leaf. Another interesting tapas was one prepared by a Moroccan chef: her version of the pastilla that she had stuffed with pigeon meat.
Narang was happy for the exposure the chef he had the local cuisines. “ I was attached to one of the restaurants there for a week, for all my prep and so much learning was happening in just the tasting and eating of the food,” he explained. He was particularly intrigued by one organized tour to a buffalo factory, where the meat was air-dried for over two years.
“Instead of a three-course of a meal, one can eat a 16-course tapas and get a broader spectrum to taste,” Chef Narang said,” It’s value for money, you get so much satisfaction, there are so many textures and this is a trend that will grow.” He further added that there are usually upto 17 tapas as part of a meal.
“We are planning to start a tapas menu at the Taj West End, with 5, 7, 11 and 17 options,” he says. They already have a kabab tasting menu at Masala Klub, where the guests can feast upon samples of the various types of kabab.