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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

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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“Regionality is What Sets Indian Food Apart” from the Cuisines Across the World, says MasterChef Australia Judge Gary Mehigan

Gary Mehigan carries back inspiration from India to his kitchen from his each visit

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MasterChef Australia Judge Gary Mehigan
MasterChef Australia Judge Gary Mehigan. Twitter
  • Gary Mehigan said that Indian food is gaining deserved attention globally
  • We have many Indian chefs like Manish Mehrotra, Sanjeev Kapoor
  • The Chef expressed that food the world over has seen enormous changes driven by social media

August 27, 2017: Globally renowned English-Australian chef, television show host and restaurateur Gary Mehigan says he believes that “regionality is what sets Indian food apart” from the cuisines across the world.

In an email interview with IANS from Melbourne, Mehigan said that Indian food is gaining deserved attention globally. “We’re close to seeing India explore its intellectual property, namely food, properly. We have many Indian chefs like Manish Mehrotra, Sanjeev Kapoor and many other names from all over the world infiltrating the food scene in a big way.”

 “People still sometimes see Indian food as a homogeneous chicken tikka, rogan josh, chicken vindaloo cuisine, when we know it is far from the truth. Regionality is what sets Indian food apart. Regionality is what the world is going to appreciate when it starts to learn about Indian food,” Mehigan explained.

“I hope I’m a part of those who bring great Indian food to Australia,” said the chef, who is now the face of Fox Life’s “Food @ 9: India Special with Gary Mehigan”.

“There’s quite a bit of Australian talent we’re trying to showcase through the series. These shows get addictive and help us travel vicariously through our television sets,” he stated.

ALSO READ: Indulge in Gluttony: 14 Surprising Facts that you never knew about Indian Food!

Mehigan, who will be setting foot in India for the seventh time this November, said he carries back inspiration from the country to his kitchen from each visit.

“I love the country – something about the color, the chaos, the diversity and the originality of the food, it all gets under your skin. I carry home a few recipes and ideas each time I visit. It’s certainly changed the way I cook at home,” he said.

Known popularly for shows like “Far Flung with Gary Mehigan”, and for his presence as a judge on “MasterChef Australia”, the Chef expressed that food the world over has seen enormous changes driven by social media.

“I’m loving where food is at the moment. Ideas are being shared so quickly through social media — whether it’s Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I can browse through my Instagram and look at what some of my most favorite restaurants in the world are serving for lunch.

“The frame of reference for younger cooks is much bigger. They are able to browse through how a matcha ice-cream is made in Tokyo, or how funky desserts are made in Parisian cafes,” Mehigan said.

All in all, it’s a great thing for food with awareness growing, he opined. “This global club of foodies is only expanding. It’s a great thing for food, our health, and our planet too if we care about where our food comes from.”

Social media is also one of his ways to keep reinventing his food, said the chef, who has been in the industry for nearly three decades.

“Social media is there to keep my imagination going. I’m food obsessed. I go on holidays because of food. I think I’ve never been in love with food more than I am now,” Mehigan said, signing off. (IANS)

 

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Pool for good luck? Vets extract 915 coins From 25-year-old green Sea Turtle in Bangkok

The coins and other objects removed from the turtle named Omsin — piggy bank in Thai — weighed 5 kg (11 lb)

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Screen show Thai veterinarians operate Omsin, a 25 year old female green sea turtle, during a surgical operation to remove coins from her stomach, during a news conference at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, March 6, 2017. VOA

Thai veterinarians on Monday removed 915 coins from a 25-year-old sea turtle which had been swallowing items thrown into her pool for good luck, eventually limiting her ability to swim.

The coins and other objects removed from the turtle named Omsin — piggy bank in Thai — weighed 5 kg (11 lb). The turtle itself weighed 59 kg (130 lb).

The green sea turtle, living at a conservation center in Sriracha, Chonburi, east of the Thai capital of Bangkok, had been finding it hard to swim normally because of the weight.

The vets said they believed the seven-hour-long operation was the world’s first such surgery.

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“We think it will take about a month to ensure she will fully recover,” said Nantarika Chansue, of Chulalongkorn University’s veterinary science faculty, adding that the turtle would need six more months of physical therapy.

There was no immediate estimate of the value of the coins, some of them foreign and many corroded. (VOA)

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‘Charcoal’ cheers up Indian foodies in Bangkok

Enjoy Delhi and Mumbai'f famous street food in Bangkok too!

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Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology Restaurant, Bangkok Image: charcoalbkk.com

A ‘Spice Library’ with traditional condiments from all corners of India, Mumbai’s famous ‘Dabbawalas’, an Indian mixology concept at the bar to fire up your drinks and a restroom where you can hear the lively noises of Delhi’s famous Chandini Chowk area – all of this and more are on offer at the most unlikely of places, Bangkok.

In the Thai capital’s ever-busy Sukhumvit area, the Charcoal Tandoor Grill and Mixology has raised the bar for authentic Indian cuisine and that is evident from it being a runaway success, especially among foreigners. Located on the fifth floor of Fraser Suites in Sukhumvit’s Soi 11, Charcoal is not only about Indian food but also the tradition that is behind the popularity of this food.

“Charcoal offers authentic tandoori kebabs, char-grilled over glowing embers in our copper-clad ovens. People can enjoy the delicacies that come from the house of the Royal Moghuls,” Derrick Gooch, the general manager of Fraser Suites, told IANS as he excitedly took me through a brief journey about Charcoal’s existence, its food and the idea behind the effort.

“We wanted our food to be real, authentic Indian. We spent considerable time in India to pick the best chefs and cooks, raw materials and equipment. All our spices for the restaurant and other raw material still comes from India to ensure that authentic taste,” Gooch, who once worked with a leading resort near Gurgaon and has been settled in Thailand for the past nearly 14 years, pointed out.

The popular celebration dishes, made from centuries-old recipies, at Charcoal include murg angaar (charcoal), murg malai kebab, tandoori malai broccoli, sikandar ki raan (tender lamb), the softest possible paneer tikka and dum biryani.

“Our DNA is kebabs. We offer only two types of gravies in Indian food. We get a lot of foreign guests and they really relish the char-grilled food here,” restaurant manager Vijay Kamble, who worked in a leading hotel chain in Mumbai before moving to Bangkok, told IANS.

The Sunday brunch buffet (@ 999++ THB (Thai baht)/almost Rs,2000 per person) offers vegetarian and non-vegetarian kebabs with Indian breads.

“We lay a lot on stress on retaining the original flavour of the spices that we use. The idea is to ensure that our clients should be happy having Indian food here,” chef Manzoor, who hails from the City of Nawabs, Lucknow, told IANS.

There’s a unique about Charcoal.

The restaurant boasts of a whole wall that is a Spice Library. Spices are kept here in a traditional way while sharing information about them. Another wall depicts the Mumbai Dabbawalas concept in all its colours.

Related article: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate

Even the restroom in the restaurant is inimitable. “The moment you enter it, you will hear the real-time sounds of Delhi’s famous (and chaotic) Chandini Chowk area. The sound of vendors and honking of horns does not let you miss out on Delhi’s life,” Gooch pointed out.

The restaurant also offers the best variety of ‘paan’ (betel leaf) – straight from the popular Prince Paan Shop in New Delhi’s GK market. It is priced at THB 100.

“Our paans are the most authentic and fresh ones. We use Kolkata and Banarsi betel leaves. To suit the convenience of our foreign guests, we have smaller sized paans too,” Dev Singh, who hails originally from Nepal but has settled in Delhi for over three decades, said.

But what takes the cake is the Charcoal bar where lies the Mixology Studio. Signature cocktail creations come alive in a sophisticated industrial setting here.

“The cocktails here are combined with Indian spices to fire them up. We have a unique style of presentation too,” Kamble pointed out.

Cocktails like New Delhi Duty Free, comprising spices, honey, Bacardi, watermelon juice and mango, are served in a bottle-jar which is packed in a transparent plastic bag (like the ones in which liquor bottles are packed at duty-free shops at airports) along with a dummy Indian passport.

Other spiced up cocktails include Horn Ok Please (betel leaf, basil and gin), Mufftey Mai (gin and cucumber in a glass laced with chaat masala), 1947: Independence, Sialkot’s Gun Powder, Kolkata Rickshaw Fuel and many more.

At Charcoal, one will have to cook up excuses to explain over-eating!!

Here are some details of Charcoal:

Where: Charcoal Tandoor Grill and Mixology; 5/F, Fraser Suites, Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok, Thailand. Timings: 6 p.m. till 12 a.m.

A meal for Two: THB 1,200 upwards (IANS)

2 responses to “‘Charcoal’ cheers up Indian foodies in Bangkok”

  1. This gives the Thai people an idea of how the Indian food is made and served. Just like how we enjoy Thai curry, they enjoy our dal fry