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The secret to the perfect hummus – as claimed by several online essays dedicated to this Levantine wonder – might just be tiny, tiny pinch of soda bicarb, which gives it a fluffy lightness that best showcases its key ingredients. Besides, another must-follow to get the velvety Middle Eastern staple right is to ensure the freshness of its every element – usually comprising steamed chickpeas, garlic, tahini (liquid sesame paste), astringent lemon juice and a healthy drizzle of fine olive oil.
While the traditional avatar of this mezze component is enjoyed with a variety of recurring items – soft, warm pita breads, crisp lavash, brin-soaked green olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and lots more – a rising number of restaurants are taking the opportunity to play around with this versatile dish, employing a little flavour fusion to take it to the next level.
All-vegetarian, organic food-serving Santè Spa Cuisine, for instance, dishes out a sumptuous version that keeps the flavours clean and healthy. Here, two creamy dollops of hummus, infused with the colours and taste of beetroot and spinach respectively, come nestled in a rural wooden bowl topped with a temptingly fat olive and a long drizzle of warm extra virgin olive oil each. With them is a generous stack of perfectly round, crunchy wheat khakras (crisps) that could be used to scoop up the sweet, earthy hummus as an alternative to the wooden spatula they are served alongside.
Similarly, Moshes brings in a splash of colour into this starter, serving a trifecta of delicious flavours, each yummier than the one before. There is a verdant serve of spinach and broccoli hummus, packed to the brim with nutrients and topped off with some tiny, oily pine nuts; next in line is the beige cream cheese and sun-dried tomato hummus – sprinkled with some of the small, tangy, pickled tomatoes – that is the appropriate amount of luxe for the palate; last, but certainly not the least, is an almost fuchsia concoction of sweet beetroot and a devilish hint of red chillies, topped off with some whole cooked chickpeas. The entire platter comes served with some soft, fresh pitas and crisper char magaz lavash.
The new-on-the-block Elephant & Co. also pulls off a beetroot chilli hummus, pairing the classic contrasting flavours for a sweet-spicy tango on your taste buds. Here, the hummus itself is a paler pink hue, while the accompaniments include – besides triangles of warmed pita – a unique side of blanched cauliflowers roasted with a layer of fiery harissa. The soft crunch and starchy goodness of the latter is a brilliant offset to the richness of the hummus.
Cosy café VASATea has an eclectic little menu, focusing its offerings on beverages – hot and cold – and a diminutive but interesting selection of salads, sandwiches, wraps and munchies. Another tiny section, however, offers up a selection of dips that include a unique boiled peanut hummus, taking the favourite chakna of legions of desis and transforming it into a silky dip to scoop up with, say, their rather healthy puffed lotus seeds snacker. And, there is more – the establishment also offers an aromatic pumpkin hummus, a unique take on the dip that incorporates the sweetness of this vegetable into a creamy accompaniment that could be probably eaten with absolutely anything at all.
212 All Day Café and Bar, on the other hand, stays relatively true to tradition by offering a creamy relish combining the usual suspects, with the robust flavours of chickpeas headlining each spoonful. However, the extra roast on the garlic releases a formidable amount of its innate sweet and pungent fragrance into the proceedings. Plus, the hummus comes topped with a lavish drizzle of some richly umami, earthy truffle oil, taking the appetiser to a gourmet plane. There is also a sprinkling of that Middle East magic powder, za’atar, which combines the allure of thyme, oregano and sumac into a floral, herby gift. This is thrown generously over the lavash served with the hummus, not to mention on the generous skewers of olives that come with.
And if it is really no problem how your hummus comes packaged to you, here is a bonus round of three innovative ways in which the spread is used as a sauce in city establishments. At the terrace-perched Beetroot Bistro, this relish is packed into light, thin and sweet pancakes, making for a creamy, garlic-laden offset to the stir-fried side of veggies that add an extra savoury component to the filling dish. Similarly, The Little Door packs this hummus into bread again – this time into its traditional adjunct, mini pita breads, helped along with some crunchy green peas falafel, peanuts, potato hash cakes and tangy, tart pickled salad. Meanwhile, Le Plaisir takes two slices of its unique, airy home-made sourdough muffins and slathers on their own version of the hummus, studded with truly bountiful portions of soft roasted mushrooms and crumbly tempura crisps for a textural paradox.
Follow Shweta @ShwetaKapur
Shweta has been writing about food for a few years now and has dabbled in TV, print and online journalism for over almost a decade. She has written on and edited for topics ranging from the environment, culture and lifestyle to politics, business and, of course, food. She has written for publications under the Times Group, Fox Life India and NDTV. When she's not devouring a good book or spending vast swathes of time on the Interweb, she loves to set off on all manner of culinary explorations.