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Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra: Enhancing the Indian Cuisine Flavours with Molecular Gastronomy


Zorawar Kalra, Founder & Managing Director, Massive Restaurants, throws light on the concept of molecular gastronomy, a food science, being used at Masala Library to enhance the flavour, visual appeal, and surprise element of a dish. Kalra breaks the myth of molecular gastronomy being synthetic, unhealthy, and unnatural and unveils the biological origin of the concept that can transform the famous Gujarati snack Khandvi into a bubble that bursts in the mouth!

Q. How and why did you come up with the idea of incorporating molecular gastronomy as an integral part of the menu for Masala Library?

During many of our international journeys over the years, my father, Jiggs Kalra and I, realised the developments taking place in the international restaurant space, including the use of modern styles and techniques of cooking, like molecular gastronomy. After our successful exit from our previous venture, Punjab Grill, we wanted to create a unique Indian cuisine concept, which not just introduces a whole new dining experience for our guests but also takes Indian food and its related dining experience to the next level, which we call Indian Cuisine – Version 2.0. And that is how the concept of Masala Library came up. Further to this, I wanted to create my father’s magnum-opus and a signature restaurant brand which would incorporate his 40 plus years of research and revival of the cuisine, while introducing modern culinary elements and thus Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra was born.

Q. Please tell us about molecular gastronomy and the process of how it can be used for the menu innovation? What all science tools and techniques are used and how?

The credit for the evolution and introduction of molecular gastronomy to the world goes to two of the finest chef’s, Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal. Molecular Gastronomy, is food science, which studies the physical and chemical transformation of ingredients during the process of cooking. It uses various processes like spherification, gelification, powderising, deep freezing and much more, through various certified natural chemicals like maltodextrin. Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra uses elements of molecular gastronomy to add to the avant-garde menu served and an element of surprise into the fray.

Q. As molecular gastronomy uses science tools, does it add to the operating cost of the restaurant? If yes, by what percent does the cost increase?

As shared earlier, molecular gastronomy is food science and uses various processes as part of this science to create an exceptional dining experience. The equipments required for these molecular techniques aren’t easily available in India and have to be mostly imported, which adds to the operating cost by a certain degree.

Q. How is molecular gastronomy used for coming up with new dishes? Please support your answer with example.

At Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra we serve a Khandvi sphere, an amuse bouche at the beginning of the guests dining experience, compliments of the restaurant. The khandvi sphere is prepared using a molecular technique of reverse spherification, where by a bubble is developed incorporating all the flavours of the famous Gujarati snack, Khandvi for it to burst into your mouth.

Q. What all innovations have you done so far using molecular gastronomy?

Since its launch in October 2013, Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra has continuously endeavoured to take Indian cuisine to the next level, which we refer to as Indian Cuisine – Version 2.0. In the previous menu as well as the menu that we recently launched, we have innovated on many dishes from across the geographical landscape of India, retaining their traditional flavours while incorporating modern culinary techniques and presentations. Apart from the food menu, we have also created some signature cocktails using Indian spices and elements of molecular gastronomy like the Burnt Curry Leaf Martini and the Star Anise Martini to offer a wholistic dining experience to our guests.

Q. Are all types of food ingredients suitable for molecular gastronomy? Please explain.

It really depends on what is it that you would like to make. Any ingredient like Jaggery which contains impurities, aren’t suitable for this process.

Q. Why do you think people think of molecular cuisine as unsafe food or full of chemicals? Is this the right notion?

While that maybe a generic perception, it is largely owning to the fact that diners haven’t been exposed to the concept of molecular gastronomy; this notion doesn’t hold true in actuality. The elements used in molecular gastronomy are all natural and mostly plant extracts, which are globally accepted and now being very frequently used in India.

The focus at Masala Library is taste and authenticity, however, some aspects of molecular gastronomy are used to enhance the flavour, visual appeal, and surprise element of the dish. Several people think of the concept as synthetic, unhealthy and unnatural as it broadly relies on the techniques of fuming flasks of liquid nitrogen, led-blinking water baths, syringes, tabletop distilleries, etc. On the contrary, the “chemicals” and “processes” used in molecular gastronomy are biological in nature as the raw materials used  basically have a plant, microbial, animal or marine origin.  Not only this, miniscule quantities of additives are used  which are approved by EU standards.

At Masala Library, we use molecular elements such as agar agar, maltodextrin, lecithin and spheres ensuring that the authenticity of the cuisine remains intact.

Q. Is Masala Library only about molecular gastronomy?

No. As mentioned above, Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra uses elements of molecular gastronomy to add to the avant-garde menu and an element of surprise into the fray for the diners. While there are some dishes where we have used elements of molecular, the menu served offers traditional flavours, while incorporating modern culinary techniques and presentation styles. It forms a part of our vision of presenting the future of Indian cuisine – Indian Cuisine – Version 2.0

Masala Library’s menu can be divided into Progressive Indian Cuisine; The Kebab Trail, and the Iconic Curries of India.

Q. How many Masala Library outlets do you plan to open this fiscal and where?

We are in the process of launching Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra Dubai shortly. Apart from that we are exploring locations within India as well as internationally for further expansion of the brand.