…Different foods for different moods!

Nutrition is one of THE pillars of Ayurvedic health education.

Taking a pulse diagnosis as the basis, diagnostician Dr Mishra can determine the three doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – then adapt our food intake to each constitution type so that possible imbalances can be evened out. The kitchen at the Hotel Engel offers guests just that: a personalised nutrition plan that ensures a healthy body and balanced mind during their stay. Good communication between the consulting physician and the chef is therefore indispensable – but communication is certainly not a weakness of the chef de cuisine at the Hotel Engel and in the Johannesstube: quite the opposite...

Organisation is everything

Theodor Falser comes beaming out of his kitchen and greets me warmly. “Hungry already?”, he laughs and invites me into his kitchen realm. You won’t get the chance to look over the shoulder of a Michelin award-winning chef every day, so I am all the more pleased that I of all people am the lucky one! :)
I am curious to see what awaits me in the kitchen of a large hotel and how Ayurvedic cuisine can be smoothly prepared alongside the “normal” kitchen routine. But I soon notice that Theodor’s team is well organised, and the boss has everything pretty well under control. Preparation is half the battle – that much is clear. Theodor is specially prepared for my visit too and has long since obtained all the ingredients required for lunch.
He explains to me exactly what the ingredients are and starts with the basis of every Ayurvedic dish, the “ghee”, a kind of butter that is first cooked and clarified. After the water has gone, only the fat remains. “Today we will first cook the rice, then the vegetables”, Theodor tells me. The basmati rice is already cooked, while chives, soy sauce, peas, red onion powder, pea powder, turmeric, mustard seeds, ginger and a homemade spice mix – chad masala – are already waiting to be cooked and served.

Risi pisi, Indian style – multitasking alla Theodor

So we start with the rice! Theodor adds the mustard seeds to the ghee and grates in fresh ginger, puts in some garam masala and the turmeric, then fries it all to bring out the taste of the ingredients. Then the peas and rice go into the pot. “Today we are making a bit more, specially for you – and Ms Kohler eats some every day”, the experienced chef tells us. Theodor introduces his kitchen assistant, standing next to us, with a wink: “This is Joel, the master of Ayurveda” and Joel laughs in turn.
Each touch is perfect and Theodor works like lightning. While I have to take care to follow every step, he quickly conjures up lunch, all the time while telling his kitchen team what needs to be done during the rest of the day. Multitasking at its finest!

To each his (or her) own…

I learn that the rice is always prepared in different ways according to the relevant Dosha: sometimes with onion, sometimes without; vegetables are added for some guests, while others must avoid certain ingredients like tomatoes or peppers. The chad masala is often omitted, with more turmeric perhaps used. Some cannot have carbohydrates, some cannot eat meat, yet others can only eat certain types. Dr Mishra gives the chef the necessary information for each individual dietary plan. This, Theodor tells me, rotates so that there are usually three dishes prepared for lunch and dinner. “The basis is always the same,” he explains, “and then it all depends on the Doshas. If we have ten Ayurvedic guests in the House, it might mean that we sometimes need to put together eight different menus. It is really interesting – and the most important thing is, nothing too fancy! You can cook it all quite easily at home: you just need the ingredients that we use here.”

As he explains everything to me, Theodor fries the basmati rice and a pleasant aroma spreads throughout the kitchen. I notice how my stomach reacts: hungrily! :)
By the way, no salt is used in Ayurvedic cuisine – instead soy sauce is used to flavour the rice and everything is then mixed well together. And then – it’s finished!

Vegetables – anything but boring!

The vegetable dish is prepared next. For this Theodor has again prepared the ghee, chad masala, along with sliced red onion, blanched celeriac and simply pre-blanched courgettes. Ayurvedic cookery only uses aromatic red onions – and in our vegetable dish he fries them in ghee, then grates in fresh ginger. He adds the courgettes and another form of chad masala and reveals that all the spice mixtures are made by the kitchen team. “That way we know exactly what’s in them”, says Theodor. He adds the pre-chopped celeriac to the other ingredients, stirs in the soy sauce and all is thoroughly cooked together.
Mmm, I can’t believe how delicious it all looks and smells – and how quickly the two dishes were prepared. And I am even more amazed by how Theodor managed, with just a few waves of his hand, plus some herbs, flowers, vegetable paste, onion and pea powder, to present the dishes in such an aesthetically pleasing and appetising way. Truly a master of his craft! :)
And me? I’m just inspired, hungry and looking forward to my Ayurvedic lunch!

The rice and vegetables taste just as good as the dishes with their tempting fragrances had seemed in the kitchen. It is really impressive how such a taste experience can be achieved with just a few simple ingredients and one or two moves. And it is also remarkable how all the personalised menu plans can be prepared just like that, yet with so much love and attention, all in the midst of the everyday hotel hubbub. And – it is all so delicious!
Are you feeling hungry too?
Here is a list of the ingredients used by Theodor for those who want to cook these really simple dishes at home.

Basmati rice with peas and turmeric
  • ghee
  • mustard seeds
  • grated ginger
  • chad masala
  • turmeric
  • pre-cooked basmati rice
  • peas
  • soy sauce

Celeriac-courgette vegetable dish
  • ghee
  • finely chopped red onion
  • grated ginger
  • chad masala
  • pre-sliced and pre-blanched celeriac
  • pre-sliced and pre-blanched courgettes
  • soy sauce

Put everything into the pan in the order above, stir well and cook gently until ready. ;)