Express News Service

The saying “some of the world’s greatest discoveries occur by accident” couldn’t be more apt for how burrata came to become one of Chef Vicky Ratnani’s favourite cheeses. Having run out of white butter to top his chicken makhani at one of his pop-up meals at a Delhi five-star hotel, the TV chef quickly improvised with some burrata that he found in the hotel’s cold pantry. And voila! A new fusion-style dish was born. Ratnani is all praise for the mild-tasting cheese’s versatility, “It works so well with anything needing butter and cream. The possibilities are endless.” So, what exactly is burrata and what makes it segue into the current Indian food milieu so effortlessly?

Getting Cheesy
A derivative of the more famous and ubiquitous mozzarella cheese, burrata—meaning “buttery” in Italian—is a fresh Italian cheese, generally made with cow’s milk, and occasionally, buffalo’s milk. Made since the early 1900s—after it was first produced at brothers, Lorenzo and Vincenzo Bianchino’s farm in the town of Andria in Italy’s Puglia region—burrata is usually served fresh and at room temperature. And thus perfect to slather over a flaky paratha in lieu of butter.

Burrata salad

Fashioned into a round ball, roughly the size of an orange, the outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside core contains stracciatella (pulled mozzarella curds mixed with fresh cream), giving it an unusual, soft, pillow-y texture. 

Indian Ideal
Taking a mighty shine to burrata are a number of Indian restaurants across the country. Take, for example, the paneer burrata lababdar at Mumbai’s Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, or perhaps Chef Manish Mehrotra’s iconic burrata papdi chaat at the fine-dining Indian Accent in Delhi. Speaking of chaat, Farzi Cafe, Bengaluru, does its bit with the burrata tokri chaat with dhokla.

Another restaurant that has always heroed burrata on its menu is Mumbai’s The Bombay Canteen. “In our earlier seasonal menus, we used both burrata and stracciatella in different versions of kulchas and chaats—the roasted pumpkin kulcha topped with burrata, the nimona kulcha, and the Benarasi tamatar chaat with creamy burrata,” says executive chef Hussain Shahzad. On the current menu, he has his baingan bharta kulcha generously smeared with creamy stracciatella and served with a tangy heirloom cherry tomato salad drizzled with mint oil. “Stracciatella is added to enhance a dish and impart richness. Traditionally, kulchas come slathered with white butter or ghee. Here, we reimagine this and add a generous slather of decadence with stracciatella instead, making it altogether more delicious,” he adds.

It’s not just savoury dishes that are seeing the presence of burrata. One of the most beautiful looking and tasting items at Tresind, Mumbai, is malai burrata and Yakult ice cream. “Burrata has a more savoury note than malai and natural tartness that uplifts the flavour of a dish,” says head chef Sarfaraz Ahmed. “Using it opens the door to explore more and create different dishes with global impact and yet keeping traditional flavour and texture intact. For the diner, it is very easily accepted as they are familiar with malai or paneer.”

Chef Vicky Ratnani (right) and his butter chicken
burrata pizza

Down to Business
Recognising this burgeoning demand is a whole host of Indian cheese-making brands that are producing both burrata and its mini, bite-sized cocktail iteration, burratina. Brands such as Cremeitalia, Eleftheria, The Spotted Cow Fromagerie, Highland Farms, Vallombrosa Cheese Shop and Begum Victoria are doing their best to help burrata maintain its presence on restaurant and cafe menus.

“Burrata has experienced a significant surge in demand,” agrees Prateek Mittal, co-founder of Cremeitalia, which has been producing the cheese locally for the last few years. “Its creamy texture, delicate flavour, and versatility have made it a sought-after ingredient in both traditional Indian and modern culinary settings,” he adds. Safe to say then, that this Italian culinary interloper is here to stay.
 

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