July marches on, and so does Mushroom Mania – with frightening speed, and quite suddenly I find myself in week three of my mushroom munching month. Mushrooms have been a part of the human diet since man (although it was probably, actually women) began foraging in the forests and the early days of mushroom eating no doubt had a frisson of danger to them as identification of toxic species would have been something of a “hit or miss” affair. Fortunately for us, we are at the other end of edible mushroom history and can safely enjoy the taste and health benefits of of this remarkable funghi with many species now being extensively farmed, making them accessible to us for most of the year. Mushrooms are used in many different international culinary traditions and this week I took the opportunity to enjoy an Indian take on our funghal favourites at Dhaba at the Spice Kitchen, in Leabrook.
Chef Ragini Dey’s Spice Kitchen has been an Adelaide institution for more years than I can remember, although I do recall eating there close to 20 years ago. Using her not inconsiderable talents as a chef and continually diversifying and adapting her menu, Ragini has managed to weather the capriciousness of Adelaide restaurant goers and remains a respected player on the local food scene. Aside from being known for innovative and seasonal modern Indian cuisine, Dey also runs cooking classes, a take-away outlet, offers catering, has a commercial range of spices available for sale, conducts masterclasses at Tasting Australia and – most pertinent for me – is participating in Mushroom Mania. Finding ourselves in the vicinity and with a couple of hours to kill, The Husband and I were very happy to check out Dhaba’s ‘shroomy offerings.
Dhaba was offering a mushroom entree and main course as part of the promotion and these will vary. Last night the entree was a dish called Mushroom Uthapam. This consisted of three fermented lentil pancakes generously covered with chopped mushroom, red onion, parsley and red chilli with a drizzle of coconut dressing. The pancakes were deliciously tangy and added a complimentary extra layer of flavour to the dish, as did the streak of creamy coconut dressing – an extra touch that I was particularly grateful for as I am mortally afraid of chilli (there – I’ve said it!). All in all, an interesting, novel and very tasty take on a mushroom pancake.
The mushroom main for last night was called Mushroom Tatakak (lordy, I hope I’ve spelled that right) and was a delicious medley of chunky mushrooms, peas, tomatoes and onions, slightly warmed with spices and black pepper. The mushroom flavour really shone through on this one and it’s earthiness went brilliantly with the beef, caramelised onion and chocolate dish which The Husband ordered. While the Tatakak would have sufficed as a stand alone dish (with some rice) I couldn’t resist the rich, slightly sweet, brown beef dish which sat in front of my spouse so, in a sharing, caring kind of way, we ended up with the best of both dishes.
The wine list offers plenty of excellent choices, both by the glass as well as by the bottle. Being a Monday night, the restaurant was relatively quiet, but the kitchen is clearly a well-oiled machine and service was efficient and smooth. If Indian food is what you crave, Dhaba offers not only the traditional dishes and old favourites, but also a fresh look at the culinary tradition and a deft use of spice that gives new insight to a much loved cuisine.
Lambs’ Ears and Honey dined with the compliments of Mushroom Growers Australia and Mushroom Mania.