Every Ingredient Is The Hero In A Dish At BKC’s Noon

Noon

As I sipped on a saffron-infused gin while appreciating the stunning, chic interiors at at one of BKC’s newest restaurants Noon, I was served a small plate of Crisp Buckwheat Tartlets filled with Black Garlic-infused Goat Cream, topped with slow-roasted Chioggia beets. Most of us would instantly ignore the green lettuce with the black garlic on the side but at Noon, there’s a way of eating each dish. You begin with the black garlic and lettuce combo, and introduce your palate to a molasses-like flavour, which is a result of ageing the garlic bulbs for 90 days. Then head straight to the tartlets (made from black buckwheat sourced from a farmer collective in Ladakh) and taste every little detail. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when it all comes together beautifully but at the same time, you will actually get the taste of each ingredient–a flavour fest on your tastebuds, if I may say so. 

Noon
Crisp Buckwheat Tartlets filled with Black Garlic-infused Goat Cream, topped with slow-roasted Chioggia beets

Any regular meal is a blend of various ingredients and flavours that pair well together. Since it’s all a mix, you can’t tell what are the secret ingredients behind it (though most moms would want to dissect it). But at Noon, you get to experience an ingredient-forward cuisine, a dining experience that allows you to take it slow and savour every element of your dish. And Noon is the latest restaurant to helm this concept.

An extension of Sequel (known for its healthy, organic meals that stays true to its produce), Noon is a new chapter in this journey but with the use of regional ingredients and a chic dining spirit. Noon refers to the Kashmiri word for salt–an ingredient that makes everything better. “The idea of Noon is to celebrate indigenous produce from across the country and use a range of cooking techniques to elevate the flavour profile,” shares founder & chef Vanika Choudhary.

At the core of this ingredient-based cuisine is the selection of indigenous produce, subjecting food grains to various processes, fermentation, cooking on charcoal and infusion of Kashmiri flavours–an ode to Vanika’s place of birth.

It’s All In-Grained

Another dish that blew me away was the Sprouted Finger Millet Tortillas with Avocado and Cape Gooseberry, Salsa, Starfruit, Kanji, Spiced Shallots, Charred Tiger Prawns. It showcases lovely textures and flavours, while honouring Vanika’s ancestral cooking style. The tortilla is made of karun (black) ragi, which is grown by the tribals in Dhatrmapuri in Tamil Nadu. While ragi has now become a rage worldwide, this specific variety is an indigenous one, grown by a farmer collective. “In keeping with all our age-old philosophies and beliefs about cooking techniques, one of them includes the grains going through various processes before you eat them. And this comes from how I’ve seen my mom and grandmom cook. All the grains go through a stage of soaking and fermenting or soaking, sprouting and fermenting. Once it is harvested, it is soaked overnight, sprouted for three days, then sun-dried, and converted into flour. This process makes it easier for your gut to digest,” Vanika shares.

Noon
Sprouted Finger Millet Tortillas with Avocado and Cape Gooseberry, Salsa, Starfruit, Kanji, Spiced Shallots, Charred Tiger Prawns

Different kinds of ferments elevate the flavour profile of these tortillas. Shallots are fermented in black carrot kanji for a week and the charcoal-grilled prawns are glazed with Amsol kefir–the ingredient responsible for this dish’s taste. Taking a cue from Ayurveda on digestive concoctions, the kefir is fermented with Amsol, Gondhraj lemon and ginger. Black carrot kanji is made in the traditional way–in an earthen pot, using Kashmiri red chillies and black salt, fermented in the winter sun for 7-10 days. All this is served on a bed of kodai avocado and cape gooseberry salsa, which is ground in a mortar pestle. The finishing touch is the sweet and sour taste of Carambola/Star fruit. So what you eat is healthy and delicious!

 

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Sourcing, Curing, Innovating

Vanika’s love for fermentation stemmed from what she observed and absorbed while growing up. “I would watch my nani ferment kanji in the winter sun in an earthen pot for 7-10 days. I would see her sun-dry vegetables and watch her make so many different types of achaar–everything from dandelion greens to karunda to shalgam. The traditional method includes fermenting vegetables in the sun for about 6-8 weeks in cold press mustard oil and heirloom spices. But of course, I’ve taken it in a different direction. Currently we have 30 ferments going on. We’re making everything from our own miso to shoyu but revisiting each classic condiment and technique using indigenous ingredients. For instance, we don’t use soybean or chickpea to make our own miso but we make it using green peas and butternut squash, and we make our own rice koji with Ambemohar rice.

 

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“Even finger millets are substituted by kodo, proso and barnyard millets. We get proso that is indigenous to Belgaum and ferment it with peanuts and habanero for three months to make our own millet miso,” Vanika shares. You can taste this if you opt for the clay pot-cooked Shiitake Mushrooms & HMT Rice with Kimchi, Shimeji Mushroom, Millet Miso and Edamame XO–another delicious meal that is light but satisfies your belly. Again, there’s way of eating the rice and mushroom meal. The kimchi is cured and hence quite spicy. You can either avoid it or mix it with the rice and sauces. My spice tolerance is quite low, I preferred leaving it out and enjoying the flavours of the freshly prepared rice and sauces. For me, this was the clear winner from the menu.

Noon
Clay pot cooked Shiitake Mushrooms & HMT Rice with Kimchi, Shimeji Mushroom, Millet Miso and Edamame XO

“The mushroom XO is basically a millet miso and the hot sauce has ghost peppers coming from a greenhouse at one of our farms, fermented with raw turmeric, jaggery, Himalayan garlic and baby carrots for a month. This way, we are revisiting all these traditional condiments using indigenous ingredients. We are making shoyu not out of soybeans or wheat but from a foraged variety of mushrooms,” Vanika says.

“We also make our shio koji reinterpreting the classical marinade but not using it as a marinade. It is fermented with unsulphured apricots from Hanu village of Ladakh and gucchi kesar from Kishtawar (highland valley located in the Northeast corner of Jammu), and served with sour dough. So a lot of emphasis has gone into sourcing these ingredients from different parts of India,” she adds.

Other Recommendations

Besides the three dishes that are a must-try, you must also get your hands on the Tiger Prawns with Kaffir Lime, Galangal and Lemongrass. The char-grilled flavour of the prawns is the best part about it! Hummus fans will love the Smoked Hara Chana & Baby Beet Hummus with Beet Kraut, Duqqa, Buckwheat & Coconut Kefir Roti.

 

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You cannot leave Noon without digging into the dessert–Raw Cacao & Sea Salt Ice Cream, Black Raspberry & Strawberry Granita, Cacao Bark, Lacto fermented black berries. I kid you not, you could taste every bit of this complex dessert right from the sea salt in the chocolate to the sourness in the berries, making it the perfect sweet ending.

Noon
Raw Cacao & Sea Salt Ice Cream, Black Raspberry & Strawberry Granita, Cacao Bark, Lacto fermented black berries

Noon’s cocktail menu is not to miss either. As a fan of gin, I opted for the Saffron Kehwa, a velvety mixture of Kashmiri kehwa with G&T. Saffron has a subtle flavour but in this drink, the flavour is quite prominent as the gin and tonic both are infused with the ingredient.

Seasonal food that is fermented and cooked with age-old techniques whilst honouring our country’s local produce–I never thought nutritious food would make me salivate so much but eating healthy is so effortless at Noon, my mum would be proud!

If you’re on the hunt for more new restaurants in your city, check out this story here

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