A WARQ IN GOLD
From the famous Indian warq to flakes and the recent dust, gold’s journey in the culinary world has been a fascinating one. Pastry specialist, Chef Varun Inamdar talks about the aesthetic side of the yellow metal that has held chefs – and royal diners- in awe for eons!
Using gold leaves has been literally ‘done to death’ by pastry chefs worldwide. Pastry garnished with gold leaf has been as commonplace as the use of warq in Indian sweets. It is however recently that gold has made a crossover to the main courses.
History has it, that Alchemists in the 15th century used gold for medicinal purposes. Indian Vedas are replete with antidotes where gold features prominently, if not dominatingly. Elsewhere, Italian Dukes and Earls used it to decorate their risotto with edible gold leaves in the 16th century. Elizabethans created sumptuous banquets by adding edible gold dust to the freshly cut fruits. Japanese took the fad a step ahead by incorporating edible gold to foods, especially in Sake for centuries.
So what is this gold? Edible gold sheets are, usually 22k yellow gold, hammered into paper thin sheets between swaths of leather. Why gold, you might ask, when other gourmet delicacies are probably a lot more flavorful? The answer to what led gold became the ultimate in gourmet luxury is perhaps the novelty. Gold was, and still remains, a precious metal.
This brings us to the second query: Has gold graduated from the sweet corners of desserts? While I was waiting for a time for a server to come upto me and ask, “Sir, in how many leaves of gold would you want your steak wrapped?” Sane souls would think I have lost my beans, but someone planning a food truck in 2012, New York City, actually heeded to this wishful thinking, and introduced a Douche Burger made of foie gras-stuffed Kobe beef patty with Gruyere cheese (melted with Champagne steam),topped with caviar, truffles and lobster. The burger is presented wrapped in six gold leaf sheets.
Magic Oven, a pizzeria in Toronto, has a 24k gold leaf-garnished pizza on their menu for several years now.
When it comes to gourmet sushi, Filipino Chef Angelito Araneta Jr. gold creations are well renowned, and envied.
DeLafée International not only sells strawberry flavored, heart-shaped lollypop with flakes of edible gold but also hand-rolled Dominican luxury cigars wrapped in gold leaf.
Following suit was The Mocca Art Cafe in Downtown Dubai introduced ‘gold tea ‘and cake package in September 2013. The tea is sourced from Ceylon, gold plated in Germany, flavoured in Morocco, finally steeped in Dubai.
Mariage frères, a French gourmet tea company, recently introduced its jasmine tea pearls in gold. My tryst with gold, a few years back, came with the Gold Cage (picture in the left).
One of the most expensive dessert of 2009, it used some of the most priced ingredients like Japanese yubari melon, Spanish saffron from la mancha, Venezualan chocolate named Amedei Porcelana and a diamond finger ring in its making. However the highlight was the gold jelly made with Goldschläger – a limited edition Swiss cinnamon schnapps – that gave the chocolate cage its golden hue and shine.
There is no doubt that gold remains one of the biggest glamouriser in food, just like in jewellery. But on a practical note, where there have been attempts on taking the ‘bling factor’ to main courses with mixed results, the shine of gold will still remain the privy of the pastry world … at least for the next few years in India!
This article originally featured in Way2Hotels – A travel and Hospitality magazine in India ; January 2014
By Chef Varun Inamdar