The Story of ‘Tarkari’: Significance for Our Michelin-Star Chef
Whether you feel a close connection to – and interest in – the culinary traditions of the Indian subcontinent, or you would consider yourself relatively unknowledgeable about the gastronomic innovation and variety that have shaped this part of the world, it is worth educating yourself on a few relevant terms.
One such term might well be ‘tarkari’, which is of sufficient significance to our Michelin-starred chef, Rohit Ghai, to provide a title for his highly rated cookbook, Tarkari: Vegetarian and Vegan Indian Dishes with Heart and Soul.
But what precisely is tarkari, and what are the implications of the term’s associations for the dishes served at Kutir, the establishment helmed by Rohit and his business partner Abhishake Sangwan on Chelsea’s Lincoln Street?
The definition and traditions of ‘tarkari’
The term ‘tarkari’ itself simply means ‘vegetable’ in Urdu, although of course, there are many rich traditions bound up in that. The term is commonly used, for example, in reference to a spicy vegetable curry, which is strongly associated with such parts of the Indian subcontinent as Bangladesh, Nepal, and India.
Many gastronomically discerning natives of the aforementioned countries grew up being frequently served curries with mixed vegetables, and all manner of combinations of such curries have arisen down the years, ranging from mixed veggie sagu to Gujarati sambhariya shaak.
One of the key aspects of tarkari is its adaptability; one can use various different types of vegetables, encompassing the likes of potatoes, carrots, cabbage, green beans and/or peas.
This helps make it the ideal kind of dish to prepare for those occasions when one might need to
use up whatever veggies are left in the refrigerator, the formula typically being that one uses two or three of the aforementioned veggies in the production of the dish.
We’re all about tarkari, and the many things that make it special
Here at Kutir, our affection for the many fine things about tarkari is deeply held – as, indeed, is expressed in the colourful and flavour-rich curries for which our very own Rohit Ghai has attracted great renown.
As we touched on above, significant numbers of those who hail from the Indian subcontinent associate tarkari with all the charms and love of home – and those are strong associations for our chef, too. But as a category of dish, tarkari is also irrevocably linked to the best in Indian culinary variety and invention.
It is a world you can explore as a diner at Rohit and Abhishake’s first ‘solo’ London restaurant, Kutir, which continues to go from strength to strength after opening its doors to considerable acclaim in 2018. And while you are in our company, you would be very welcome to take the chance to purchase a copy of the Tarkari cookbook, too, for just £25.
Before you know it, you could be rustling up memorable and satisfying vegan and vegetarian dishes that Rohit himself would be proud of, ranging from Malabar Cauliflower and Jackfruit Masala to Lotus Root Kofta and rewarding breads, dips, rice, and pickles.
Tradition and homeliness don’t have to be incompatible with innovation and refinement – as you can be excellently placed to appreciate with the help of our Michelin-starred chef’s guiding hand, whether or not you reserve a table at Kutir to see what the fuss is all about for yourself.