In Ayurvedic medicine, taste is not only the delicious quality of a food, it also has a positive influence on health and general well-being. According to Ayurveda, there are several components to the phenomenon of taste. Rasa is the immediate experience of flavour in our mouths, having a direct effect on our senses and through them on the body as a whole. Virya is the influence of taste on digestion, and vipak is a more subtle and long-term effect that taste has on our metabolism. Each of the six tastes (sweet, sour, savoury, bitter, pungent and astringent) can be light or heavy, wet or dry. Depending on our individual constitution, our bodies need variations of particular taste combinations to remain in healthy balance. (For further reading see Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai, The Ayurvedic Cookbook: A personalized guide to good nutrition and health, Lotus Light, 1990)

This dish is designed to illustrate the intensity but also the harmony that all six tastes combined can produce in our mouths. To construct our own architecture of taste, we used the principle of flavour pairing, thereby marrying age-old traditions with the findings of contemporary molecular gastronomists. The dish is based on the Gol Gappa ball, a spicy Indian snack this time stuffed with a mushroom and apricot paste. The ball should be eaten in one bite, if possible.

  • 25 Gol Gappa balls
  • 8 handfuls chanterelles (we used Cantharellus lutescens: luminous chantarelles)
  • 1 handful garlic cloves
  • 2 handfuls shallots
  • 1 handful dried apricots
  • 3 finger pinch cumin to taste
  • 3 finger pinch salt to taste
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Splash of hot water
  • Harissa paste to taste
  • Mushroom soy sauce to taste

Note: In Ayurvedic recipes, the amounts of ingredients are often expressed relative to the size of hands, fingers and arms of the cook’s body.

Chop chanterelles, garlic and shallots in tiny cubes. Heat olive oil in a pan. On low heat, sweat the garlic and shallots until soft. Add chanterelles and sauté until soft. Dry roast cumin powder in a non-stick pan. Coat apricots with cumin. Mix in with the mushrooms and add a splash of water. Purée the mixture to the consistency of a thick, smooth paste. Add harissa, salt and pepper to taste. Make a small hole in the Gol Gappa balls using a skewer or small knife. Fill the balls with mushroom and apricot mixture using a thick syringe a few minutes before serving (the balls should not be too hard nor too soggy). Serve sprinkled with cumin powder.

Note: If harissa is not available, you can make it yourself – mix in a blender: 60 g dried chillies (soak in water before using), 2 tablespoons cumin seed (roast and powder), 3 tablespoons coriander seed (roast and powder), 4 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt and 5 tablespoons of olive oil.

Chanterelles are best picked fresh from a forest (in places where this is still permitted), but we bought them from Champigros (St. Katelijnestraat, 1000 Brussels). Gol Gappa balls are often stocked by Indian and Pakistani grocers (the shop we usually go to is on Gentse Steenweg, 1080 Brussels). We bought mushroom soy sauce at the Asian supermarket Kam Yuen (rue de la Vierge Noire 2, 1000 Brussels). Garlic, shallots, apricots, cumin and harissa came from our local Moroccan grocers in Molenbeek in Brussels.

(an sidebar recipe)