Chef Vanika Choudhary Hunts Kadu Kand, Maharashtrian Wild Foods
Image Credit: Instagram/Chef Vanika Choudhary

India has a vast culinary heritage, and while you might know about many aspects of its various cuisines, knowledge about hyperlocal cuisines and wild foods is still scarce. Chef Vanika Choudhary is one of the Indian chefs who is trying to change all that. In case you didn’t know, Chef Vanika Choudhary is the creative culinary genius behind Mumbai’s Sequel and Noon restaurants. And, in a recent post on social media, she gave us a glimpse of her recent research into Maharashtrian wild foods

Chef Vanika Choudhary shared a series of videos and images on her Instagram, describing her experience of exploring lesser-known Maharashtrian foods in the state’s Neral region. “I have always been intrigued by the wild foods of India and the vast traditional knowledge about wild foods we as a nation inherit only gives way to my curiosity and explorations,” she wrote in the post. 

She also went on to describe a particular ingredient that has caught her fancy and she hopes to soon introduce to people visiting Noon Mumbai: Kadu Kand or Wild Yam. With a brown exterior and pale white flesh, Kadu Kand is a vegetable that is found not only in Maharashtra, but also the Konkan region and Gujarat. Its culinary use has been, however, very limited like other wild foods of Maharashtra and India. These and other wild ingredients are also quickly disappearing from India’s culinary tapestry, which is why Chef Vanika Choudhary says preserving them is vital. 

In her post, Chef Vanika Choudhary explained how she learnt the proper way to treat Kadu Kand. “The correct technique to cook Kadu Kand, a wild tuber involves skill and ancient wisdom which is one of the reasons why this ingredient is speedily disappearing from the culinary repertoire of India,” she explains in the post, adding that this yam variety is bitter and needs to be treated properly for culinary usage. “Ambi Bai who has spent all her life in the Neral region always surprises us with her exhaustive knowledge about wild foods. She showed us how they treat Kadu Kand with wild ash to remove it's characteristic bitterness and to make it palatable.” 

Gaining knowledge about local foods from experienced people like Ambi Bai, Chef Vanika Choudhary reveals, has its benefits because it also comes with recipes that are quickly going out of vogue. She explains how Ambi Bai “shared an ancient recipe of Kadu Kand wadi which her community has been cooking and eating since a very long time. Foraged during the end of the spring season, these wadis are sun-dried and used throughout the year.” 

But if you though Kadu Kand was the only ingredient Chef Vanika Choudhary and her team explored in Neral, then you’d be wrong. The team also explored wild greens that grown in the region during monsoon. “Currently, we're busy in the kitchen developing our menu that sheds light on monsoon greens and the age-old preservation techniques that come to life to sustain the wet months,” she explained, while also adding that she will be documenting all these lesser-known ingredients and recipes in her upcoming book on preservation of culinary heritage.