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Award-winning Chef Gaggan Anand Wants to Take Indian Food Beyond its Stereotyped Curry Prism

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Chef Gaggan Anand
Dal Curry. Wikimedia
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Bengaluru, Sep 24, 2017: Ranked as Asia’s best restaurant for three years in a row for his eponymous “Gaggan” in Bangkok, Kolkata-born Chef Gaggan Anand is all about taking Indian food to the world beyond its stereotyped curry prism. He’s on a mission to prove to the world that the concept of curry doesn’t exist in Indian cuisine.

“I want to show the world that there’s no such thing as a curry. There’s only a curry leaf that gives the taste. Curry is a very British idea. With just a curry leaf oil, I can make anything taste like curry,” the award-winning Anand said in a conversation with IANS at the Taj West End here.

The owner and executive chef of the Bangkok restaurant, which has won the top spot in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, ranked by theworlds50best.com, for three consecutive years since 2015, was on a four-city tour to present his food through pop-ups at Taj Hotels in the country, from where he had started his culinary career.

Anand’s food is all about elevating humble Indian street-food-inspired-dishes through innovation and plating in a fine-dining fashion — from chocolate paani puri to keema pav.

And he’s managed to do so by eliminating knives and forks and letting global diners eat Indian food the way it’s traditionally eaten — using the hands. Thereby, he managed to place Indian food on the world map in a much larger way.

Also Read: Chef Sanjeev Kapoor Brand Ambassador for Food Street at World Food India event 

Served through 25 courses, he presents the tasting menu through emojis, eliminating the long descriptions of dishes that usually feature on a restaurant menu. And it’s certainly not an easy task to guess what’s going to be served by reading the ideograms.

“My idea is to bring all of people’s senses to life. I use food to seduce people and agitate their minds by surprising them without any pretensions. Everybody would have made jalebis into various sweet versions but no one would have thought of a savoury version,” an exuberant Anand explained.

“I have created my own philosophy of food, which is what sets me apart and has got me where I am now,” said Anand, whose restaurant is also the only Indian eatery to grab a spot among the World’s top 10 restaurants, ranked by theworlds50best.com.

Unlike many other kitchens across the world, Anand’s is always blaring out rock music and most often he’s seen in his favourite band’s T-shirt when he’s out of the kitchen. Music is one of the key elements of his food-making process.

He even created a dish named “Lick it up”, inspired by the American rock band “Kiss”, which diners need to lick off the plate, and treats his service like a concert, filled with surprises and theatrics.

And for constant renovation of his food, Anand has dedicated a total of six teams for research and development in his “food laboratory”.

As the Netflix Emmy-nominated “Chef’s Table” show describes in an episode on his restaurant, “his kitchen is a virtual United Nations with people from across the world working in it”.

Anand had started off his restaurant in 2010 majorly using the molecular gastronomy principles, wherein ingredients undergo physical and chemical transformations, and later adopted a “minimalist” approach to food, he shared.

“Most often, Indian chefs give glory to quinoa, zucchini and goji berries while ignoring our own ingredients like drumsticks and colocasia root. We should create from our ingredients rather than seeking to the West for ideas,” Anand asserted.

“So, my food is all about honesty in using seasonal produce, while keeping the plate as minimalist as possible. Only the elements that belong on the plate stay on it”.

This simplistic approach is perhaps what late President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam loved the most about Anand’s food. “I used to travel along with Kalam sir when he was the President. He used to eat the rice and rasam I used to make for him at 6 a.m. each morning,” the chef reminisced.

But restaurants come with an expiry date, Anand believes. “Gaggan will close by 2020. It’s the end of an era. For a decade I cooked at Gaggan, and now I want something else.”

The celebrated chef will be heading to Japan’s Fukuoka city in 2021 to do a 10-seater restaurant.

“It’ll be an inaccessible place. I really want to control the crowd and reduce the volume. Now the volume is too high and I want to do food that pleases my soul now,” he said.

With the Michelin announcing the launch of their prestigious Michelin Guide in Bangkok by the end of 2017, Anand said if he gets three Michelin stars, he would claim the fame of being the first such Indian to be so recognised.

“Even if I don’t get it, I don’t have much to lose; they’ll have to answer to the people who have loved my food,” he said with a nonchalant shrug.

“I still haven’t given my Indian passport away though. I’ll always remain very much Indian at heart, even though nobody in Kolkata really knows me and that I’ve made the region and its food so famous,” Anand concluded. (IANS)

 

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Mustard oil benefits revealed by Indian chefs

Mustard oil is one of the best-suited for Indian homes because of its versatility.

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Mustard Oil. Image source: www.boldsky.com

Mustard oil has been used for centuries as a food additive and remains a staple in a majority of Indian homes. Incorporating mustard oil into your daily diet is known to protect against heart disease. The oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, both of which help lower bad cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol hence maintaining one’s cholesterol balance, which in turn leads to healthy cardiac functioning.

“Mustard oil also works well as an antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agent and can help fight bacterial infections in the digestive system,” Executive Chef Arun Sundararaj told IANS. “From the taste point of view, mustard oil is an acquired taste for most people. Although pungent in character, mustard oil brings tremendous flavours to any dish. I believe that there is no ingredient that comes close to it — mustard oil has a unique texture to it. At the Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, we use mustard oil in dishes such as Mustard Prawns and Bhatti Murgh,” he said.

At the same time, Sundararaj adds, “It is recommended that one does not use mustard oil as the sole medium for cooking and instead uses a combination of different oils depending on the dish you are cooking. Mustard oil has a high smoking point and as a result, is ideal for deep frying.”

Executive Chef Sonu Koithara had a similar take on the benefits from the health and palate point of view of cooking in mustard oil. Noting that mustard oil has culinary as well as therapeutic uses, Koithara told IANS: “It has an edge over other oils due to the optimum ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and its low content of saturated fats. It contains about 60 per cent monounsaturated fats (MUFA), as well as polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), and saturated fats. These fatty acids are considered ‘good fats’.”

Mustard oil benefits
Benefits of Mustard oil revealed by Indian Chefs. Pixabay

He also pointed to research which suggests that mustard oil has strong cancer-fighting properties and that it contains ample amounts of linolenic acid, which when converted to omega-3 fatty acid, helps prevent cancers. “Mustard oil also benefits the heart as it contains rich amounts of MUFA and PUFA as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These good fats lower the risk of developing heart diseases and is also a very powerful natural stimulant and improves digestion and appetite by stimulating digestive juices,” Koithara explained.

Umesh Verma, DGM (Corporate Communications) at Puri Oil Mills Ltd, the makers of P Mark mustard oil, said: “Mustard oil is the preferred choice of generations of chefs across traditional Indian cuisine spanning Kashmir, Punjab and West Bengal as it brings alive the flavour of food.

“Indians like to carry the taste of India to whichever country they move to — and find ingenious ways to track down their favourite brands in those countries. We keep hearing of our mustard oil being available in the US and in various European cities. It’s a great feeling.”

Are there any foods that particularly lend themselves to being cooked in mustard oil? The oil is one of the best-suited for Indian homes because of its versatility, Sundararaj said, adding it complements Indian spices and beautifully brings out the flavours of our food.

“While mustard oil complements both vegetarian and non-vegetarian ingredients, dishes such as pickles of all kinds taste best when made in mustard oil. In addition, mustard oil can be used as a salad dressing along with lemon and honey. “Also there are many Bengali fish preparations like sarson bata maach, paturi fish and other dishes like mangsho (mutton), murgir jhol (chicken) are best enjoyed when cooked in mustard oil,” he said. For, Koithara, the use of mustard oil in Bengali food “is immense and it absolutely complements the Bengali palate. Foods like Shorshe bata ilish and Chingri bhapa are delicacies that cannot do without the generous use of mustard oil”.

Any other thoughts they’d like to share on the subject? “There are some ingredients that can never be replaced in the Indian kitchen and mustard oil is one such essential because of its unique and pungent flavour,” Sundararaj said.

Pointing to mustard oil’s immense health benefits, Koithara said it is very good during winter as it produces body heat and protects the body from cold. “For this reason, people in Rajasthan use mustard oil on their bodies during winter to keep the skin supple and themselves healthy. Additionally, mustard oil has been used extensively as a cure for cold and cough for decades,” he added. IANS