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Mumbai becomes gluten sensitive


From pastas made of spiralised zucchini to desserts that are prepared with walnut flour, gluten-free food options are now available at city restaurants like never before

About two months ago, Reine Sammut, a top chef from Provence, France, made headlines for transforming her restaurant, L’Auberge de la Feniere, into a gluten-free haven. Her daughter, Nadia, had developed an intolerance to gluten and lactose at a young age. This condition, which is also known as coeliac disease, stunted her growth. Nadia, who is a food enthusiast and a trained chemist, convinced her mum to stop using traditional ingredients in favour of gluten-free alternatives.

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. It gives elasticity to the dough, acting like the glue that holds the food together. Apart from pasta, bread and chapatti, gluten can also be found in salad dressings, sauces, cereals, soups and baked goods. “Gluten has gum-like properties. When it reaches the digestive tract, and is exposed to the cells of the immune system, they think it is coming from a virus, and the immune system starts attacking it. The intestinal wall gets affected. This causes the degeneration of the wall. Apart from coeliac disease, gluten can also cause anaemia, fatigue and other digestive issues,” says Kanchan Patwardhan, a clinical nutritionist consultant.

When the duo started out, converting every dish at the restaurant into its gluten-free version was a challenge. However, things started to take shape once they recreated the puff pastry with the help of chestnut and quinoa flour. Paris-Lourmarin, a signature dessert found at the eatery, was re-created with squash flour and almond extract, as substitutes for wheat flour. As it turns out, this trend is not only big internationally. Gluten-free food is slowly making its way into the menus of city restaurants too. The number of patrons asking for it is also on the rise. “A lot of customers crave for burgers, but are looking forf gluten-free options. Surprisingly, this kind of food is not only in demand because people are allergic to the protein, but also because following a gluten-free diet has become the next big thing,” says Lolita Sarkar, owner and creative chef, Desi Deli, Bandra (W). She adds that they are currently in the process of introducing gluten-freeg burgers. They already serve cupcakes that are made of walnut flour as opposed to wheat flour. Three months ago, The Playlist Pizzeria in Bandra (W), and Juno’s Pizza (a delivery service in Lower Parel, Kemps Corner and Borivali West, also introduced gluten-free pizzas.

While the former eatery uses ingredients like nachni, ragi and buckwheat for the pizza base, the latter uses jowar and rice flour. “I’ve been following a gluten-free diet for five years now, and I have never been happier. That’s when I decided to introduce healthy pizzas,” says chef and owner, Rakesh Talwar, The Playlist Pizzeria.

Indian food, in general, contains a lot of gluten, says Rishim Sachdeva, executive chef, Olive Bar & Kitchen, Khar (W) and Mahalaxmi. “And it is not the healthiest thing to have, since it has the ability to make one feel heavy and bloated,” he adds.

Chef Kelvin Cheung from One Street Over, Bandra (W), a restaurant that has been serving gluten-free food since its inception, seconds that thought. “Incorporating gluten-free food in the menu is a win-win situation for the customer as well as the restaurateur,” he says. While there are a few restaurants that have merely five to six gluten-free dishes, there are some eateries that are going the extra mile to introduce menus that are completely free of the protein. For instance, Smoke House Deli, Lower Parel and Bandra (W), recently launched a gluten-free and lactose-free menu. “The number of customers who are allergic to lactose and gluten has gone up. The awareness levels about these allergies as well as the side-effects have also increased,” says Glyston Gracias, chef, Smoke House Deli. Their menu comprises dishes that use substitutes like bajra, millet and quinoa. Here, the pasta is made from jowar, rice flour and cornflour, whereas the sauces are made of potato starch and arrowroot.

Fable, Juhu, serves a healthier option of the pasta, where refined flour is replaced with spiralised zucchini, while the crêpes at The Rolling Pin in Lower Parel are made of bajra flour.

The recently-launched, Peruvian restaurant, Lima, too, offers 22 gluten-free items on a menu that has 26 dishes in all. “We try to use products that are naturally free of the protein,” says Jerry Thomas, sous chef, Lima, Bandra (E). Thomas, however, points out that not every gluten-free option is healthy. “Some of the gluten-free flours are chemically enhanced, and have preservatives. We, therefore, try using ingredients that are naturally free of the protein,” he says.

Source: Hindustan Times
(Photo: Antonio’s)

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