ALSO KNOWN AS DAGARFUL, IT IS THE MOST UNUSUAL FLAVOUR CONTRIBUTOR WE’VE SEEN IN YEARS!
What would you think if we told you we’d come across a lichen traditionally used in the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu in South India, and that we simply love it?
What we are referring to is the lichen known as Dagar Phool, or Dagarful (Parmotrema perlatum) which has an incredible flavour enhancing effect when added to dishes during cooking. It is also referred to as Black Stone Flower (phool is Hindi for flower) and Kalpasi.
Our interest in Dagar Phool was first roused when a chef from an Indian restaurant in Sydney asked us if we knew where we could get it. To spike our intrigue, he said it contributed a flavour like nothing else.
Then, not long ago Rick Stein used Dagar Phool in a Chicken Chettinad recipe on his Indian TV series. On a recent trip to India we harassed our suppliers until we found a reliable supply, and then the good folks at Australian Quarantine told us what hoops we had to jump through, to import it into Australia.
We then made Chicken Chettinad and were immediately blown away by the extraordinary taste and aroma contributed by the Dagar Phool. Further experimenting showed us just how much it compliments most curries, and surprisingly how well it went with fried mushrooms!
Dagar Phool has very little aroma, and if you taste a little piece it is slightly woody, bitter and cinnamon-like. However it is as a flavour enhancer that it really comes into its own. The only, and terribly unscientific, explanation we have for this, is that it is relatively high in Stictic Acid, an organic compound found in some lichens. Besides research conducted into the anti-cancer effect of stictic acid we have not come across any data that explains this amazing flavour effect when combined with savoury ingredients.
Our favourite way to use Dagar Phool is in this simple Marathi Mushrooms recipe:
8-10 medium size mushrooms
12 green beans cut to 2cm lengths
1 Tbs ghee or oil
1 clove garlic chopped
1 tsp Herbie’s Spices Garam Masala
1 tsp Dagar Phool finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs plain yoghurt
Heat ghee in pan, add garlic, stir 1 minute.
Add garam masala, dagar phool, salt, mushrooms, beans, salt and water.
Cover and cook over low heat approx 8 minutes until beans are cooked.
Stir in yoghurt and reheat before serving.