Mumbai Food: French Fantasies In The City

French vegetarian food in Mumbai marries a great culinary tradition with vegetarian food, creates magic on a plate and brings the café and lounge culture to the city, finds MAITHILI CHAKRAVARTHY

Meat is staple to many French. Executive Chef of Sofitel Mumbai BKC Neeraj Rawoot says, “In French food, vegetables were always the non-hero. It’s the meat that is the hero of the dish. The vegetables are a side dish.” Therefore it may seem like vegetarian French food is perhaps non-existent. However, trials and errors and adaptations have resulted in the graduation of vegetarian French ‘side dishes’ into main dishes. Many a times, there have been fusions of French and other cuisines, to create recipes for a vegetarian.

The classic touch 

The Ratatouille Lasagne at Sofitel’s Artisan – French Bistro, is one where the ratatouille (made of zucchini, eggplant, bells peppers and tomato), made in a base sauce of tomatoes is piled on top of the pasta layers along with mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan cheese. To suit the Indian palate, in this dish, the classic French ratatouille meets the classic Italian lasagne. “The dish has a crunch. The flavour base of tomato sauce is accepted by the Indian guest. The dish has a good ratio of pasta and vegetables and it’s a good marriage (of two cuisines),” continues Rawoot.

The French bistro at Sofitel also serves a vegetarian version of the classic Salad Nicoise, mixing together french beans, potatoes, olives, mesclun, and tomatoes along with a French vinaigrette dressing, quiches of wild mushroom, leek and onion, and pumpkin and feta, and Egg En Cocotte which is a baked egg preparation where eggs are cooked in a ramekin along with tomatoes, chives, mushrooms and goat cheese, served to the hotel’s corporate guests, business travellers and groups that are relaxing in the restaurant’s open air area. At the entrance to the restaurant, one will find dainty pastries on display and even a pyramid of macarons that are gently balancing on top of each other, invitingly tempting admirers to risk taking one, resulting in the collapse of the macaron tower.

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