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Masterclass: We went shopping with a chef, and came back with a basketful of hacks

Masterchef here we come! OK, a girl can dream

Nivi Shrivastava @msjunebug_nivi 23 May 2018, 6:18 PM
T2 Online shops with chef Harangad Singh

T2 Online shops with chef Harangad Singh Image: RAJESH KASHYAP

On a hot May afternoon when Delhi recorded a burning 46 degrees Celsius, we decided to step out in the sizzling sun for some grocery shopping with a chef.  A food walk with a professional is nowhere as fancy as you think, and one has to brave all kinds of weather and a variety of odours that might just disgust you.

Anyone who is someone in Delhi NCR's food business would tell you about a little market in INA, which is basically gourmet heaven. So we decided to raid the INA market with chef Harangad Singh, corporate chef at Prankster and Pra Pra Prank.

Chef Harangad cheekily tells us that INA market is like his "second home." He started his career in food business with the Taj group almost 12 years ago and was introduced to this market as part of his training programme. Now we know that if you are supposed to cook and shop so much every day, chances are you'll start calling it your home.   

Let's start with the basics

Let's start with the basics Image: RAJESH KASHYAP

Our first stop was a shop named Jain & Sons, one of the oldest shops in the establishment. The shop was overflowing with exotic sauces, jams, spreads, imported oil cans, cheese bricks and a lot of colourful items from different countries.     

Spicy sauce anyone?

Spicy sauce anyone? Image: RAJESH KASHYAP

Chef Harangad took out a few bottles of spicy sauces and told us, "We get the best variety of imported sauces in this shop. You'll find something like Sriracha sauce only in this shop. We also source imported olive oil and truffle oil for our restaurant from here, almost one litre of each oil is consumed on daily basis. From readymade spreads to different kinds of cheese like feta, mozzarella, cheddar, goat cheese and many more — you can find almost every exotic ingredient in this shop for reasonable rates." 

Shop where there is ample variety

Shop where there is ample variety Image: RAJESH KASHYAP

The shopkeeper handed a special variety of black rice from Manipur to the chef. He also told us that they sell some exclusive spices and ingredients from North-East, which you might not find anywhere else. One can also find nori sheets (kind of an edible seaweed), sake, sticky rice, Thai seasoning mix and other things here. Basically, you need to head here if you have sushi on your mind.

Black rice from Manipur

Black rice from Manipur Image: RAJESH KASHYAP

Next, we headed to shop number 176, Evergreen Vegetables, and saw a variety of fruits and vegetables stacked in different sections. If you are planning to create rainbow-inspired dishes, this is where you'll find the colours. 

Time to pick mangoes

Time to pick mangoes Image: RAJESH KASHYAP

Chef Harangad took us to the fruits department and showed us how he buys fresh fruits for his restaurant. He picked a mango, and explained, "If you are buying a mango or any seasonal fruit, do a visual check thoroughly. Smell the fruit, and see that it's not patchy. Avoid the spotty fruits."

Quick, make a note

Quick, make a note Image: RAJESH KASHYAP

In this shop, we get most of the exotic fruits and vegetables. One can find avocados, dragon fruits, passion fruit, apples from Washington and green apples from New Zealand here. Also for cocktails, one can find the bigger variety of lime and oranges. 

Happy to help, being a chef's shopping assistant is no child's play

Happy to help, being a chef's shopping assistant is no child's play Image: RAJESH KASHYAP

One can also find shitake mushrooms, dried gucchi mushrooms, micro greens, Thai ginger, asparagus, all kinds of bell peppers etc, at the shop. During the food walk, chef Harangad told us how to identify between a male and a female bell pepper -- the one with three partitions is a female fruit, whereas the one with four partitions is a male one. 

"Always check that the vegetable shouldn't be wrinkled or spotty. While buying something enclosed, like a corn cob, make sure it has no moisture. Store your veggies and fruits in a cool, dry place so they don't get spoiled," the chef added.

Pick the fresh ones, check twice

Pick the fresh ones, check twice Image: RAJESH KASHYAP

For buying red and white meats, the chef took us to a stinky lane with a good number of butcheries around. There were different shops for different animals, and it wasn't a pleasant sight to watch them being killed. Chef Harangad said, "In Delhi, most of the meat for restaurants and hotels are supplied from here. You get fresh chicken, pork, mutton and a variety of fish like sea bass, red snapper, Hilsa, Ilish and other kinds of seafood here. To pick the right variety of fish, always check the gills — if it's translucent it's not good as the fresh catch will always have transparent gills."

Fish, yes please!

Fish, yes please! Image: RAJESH KASHYAP

Within two hours, were able to source most of the items for a lavish meal. So, we decided to wrap the food tour and head to the kitchen and stock these essentials for a grand feast.    

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