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With René Redzepi’s Noma Australia restaurant set to serve its final dinner on April 2nd we caught up with the famous chef to discuss some of the interesting ingredients he has encountered while researching, foraging and creating new dishes for what has been one of the most talked about dining experiences of the year.
“There’s so much it’s difficult to choose”, explained Redzepi, “choosing five is almost impossible... I could have picked 50 different things. When you’ve tasted so many thing that you’ve never even seen before it’s difficult to decide.”
Here’s just a handful of the ingredients the chef and his team encountered and you can see many, many more on the chef's Instagram page.
"It’s the weirdest fruit ever that tastes like a mix of ripe bananas and pineapple but it looks like corn. It’s a mix of all the exotic fruits you can imagine with the same texture as custard. When it’s unripe, it’s very dangerous for you and it can blister up your whole mouth up but it’s a very exciting ingredient that I think you could genuinely have a lot of fun with... It used to be a very common house plant, more or less all Aussie homes had one in the 80s and kids would break of the fruit and use it as a way of fencing."
"Salty little pops that taste like Japanese kelp but the aged variety, to me this is the best seaweed I’ve ever tasted, lots of umami. We actually tried to cut them into individual little pearls, they’re very good in ceviche. Just think of it as something you can add to a broth, a marinade, ramen - it’s one of those things that only now we’ve started working with. I’ve never seen it before, it’s very rare to get it, even here in Australia and the taste is like ‘wow’."
"Finger lime is the new Yuzu. It’s just a perfect ingredient, I’ve had them before in Denmark but nothing like the ones you can get here, so many varieties and so flavoursome. Imagine using them on a vanilla ice cream or in a chicken, ceviche would be amazing."
Tasmanian Pepper Berry
"The wood itself is spicy, if you chew on the stick you taste a little spiciness - a bit like sichuan pepper. If you nibble on the leaves it gets a little spicier, then you have to taste the fresh berry. The leaves have so much use and then you have this berry that turns into a dry peppercorn eventually. The spice of the berry just comes and it just stays there. It’s such an exciting ingredient and I think this could be on the shelves everywhere, it could be an integral part of the cuisine here. We cook the berries in a celery broth and it’s amazing. The flowers of the plant are also amazing, less spicy, more floral."
"In the mangroves near the water when it’s low tied, between the edge of the mangrove forrest and the water it becomes very muddy. When you go in it your feet just fall down 30 centimetre into this stinky mud and there’s all sorts of animals crawling around. We were walking there with a spear to catch mud crabs and at one point one of the aboriginals stepped on something, started digging and pulls this clam out of the 40 degree stinking mud and I was thinking to myself, no way, there’s no way I’m eating that thing - all my alarm bells were going off. He eventually puts it on this fire and says ‘when it whistles it’s ready’ - I love stuff like that. It starts to steam a bit, the shell opens a little and the steam makes this whistling sound. He opened it up and this big bulging clam was staring at me and I was really not happy to go for it but I had to, I didn’t want to be that fancy chef. I dunked it down and it was the sweetest shell fish that I’ve ever tried in my life. The mud clam was something very, very exciting."
Those who want to have a taste of the ingredients Redzepi speaks about still have a chance to get a table at Noma Australia thanks to a charity auction being held to raise funds for Oz Harvest. The dinners will take place on April 2nd and are being auctioned on Ebay.