Black Jaggery as the Dark Horse

The mild sweetness, caramelised flavour, and slight nuttiness of black jaggery makes it the perfect silent hero in Chef Dane Fernandes' dishes.

There is only one umami in India. It’s called chatpata—a lip-curling mix of khatta, meetha and teekha,” grins Dane Fernandes, Executive Chef, JW Sahar Mumbai. The sovereign of Goan flavours, Dane celebrates his childhood food memories marinated in Chorao island here. His flavour atlas brings in a multi-sensorial experience, garnished with foraging trips during his early years on the island, and his love for hyper-regional cuisines. He brings with him a treasured repertoire of culinary finesse, honed in the kitchens of St. Regis Mumbai, Grand Hyatt, The Oberoi and Hilton Towers, Mumbai.

Madachem godd lazes as Dane’s prized secret culinary weaponry. “Using this natural sugar brings in unparalleled flavours. The mild sweetness, caramelised flavour, and slight nuttiness of black jaggery make it the perfect silent hero in my dishes. Native to Goa, black jaggery is of many kinds. Since it is prepared in home kitchens, and local farms, no two batches of black jaggery ever taste exactly the same.

The flavour profile changes with each harvest. That’s the beauty and the challenge in playing with this ingredient,” he shares. Dane prefers to grind black jaggery using mortar and pestle for a finer texture. “I make use of it as a topping for the (toddy fermented Goan bread) sanna; combine it with coconut as delicious stuffing for the traditional alle belle (a tea time crepe-like pancake) and even play out the delicate flavours in the ragi sheera I make with my four-year-old son at home.”

The inclusion elevates the flavour profile of every dish.  From lacing the spicy sorpotel with the brooding complexioned jaggery to sliding it into the recipe for the Kerala dessert in elaneer payasam, the kala gur wins the sweet sweepstakes hands down.

Shilpi Madan for Sunday Standard

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