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Proud moment for chef Vikas Khanna in New York

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

New Delhi: Michelin Star chef Vikas Khanna had an emotional moment on September 24th as he served a seven course culinary treat to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top CEOs of global companies in New York.

“We wanted to tell a story not just of food and this was the best way of telling the story of India. I thought that was the most important part… I got an opportunity to showcase so much of India through this,” Khanna told IANS on the phone from New York.

Talking about the table which had a cumulative worth of approximately $4 trillion, Khanna says that he feels very “proud” as this dinner would help the “economy and the future generation of the country”

“I do not understand money… But what I do understand is that these people will help in giving an impact to the economy of India and the future generation and I feel very proud,” he said.

The meal included Indian delicacies with a modern twist. Some of the delicacies included Poha at Ganesh Chaturthi, Khandavi from Uttaryan, Sali Boti sauce at Navroj, Sol Kadhi from Shigmoutsav, the Coconut chutney mousse from Pongal, beetroot Poriyal served at Onam and the Bisi Bili bath from Ugadi.

At the same time, the scale and grandeur around festivals like Diwali, Eid, Holi, Shivratri, Baisakhi, Teej, Christmas got accentuated with the fifth dessert course and other select dishes such as Corn Dhokla and Peda as a part of the overall menu.

Khanna, who was also invited to the White House to host a dinner, says that the only thing he found “difficult” for the dinner was “choosing the dishes” .

“The difficult part was ‘which dish to choose?’ because all these dishes are close to my heart. I wanted to choose something which was great in combination as it was a pre-plated dinner… and in such a kind of dinner (events) you need to think about 10,000 flavours that are combined together,” he added.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Scientist Turned Chef Yunan Yang Ditches Lab to Experiment with Food

Yunan Yang never intended to open a restaurant when she first arrived in the United States from China 10 years ago

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Chefs work with peppercorns shipped overnight from the owner's hometown of Chongqing, China, said Yunan Yang, the owner. VOA

Yunan Yang never intended to open a restaurant when she first arrived in the United States from China 10 years ago. Her plan was to study cancer. As a post-doctorate cancer researcher, she spent six years in Madison, Wisconsin, and worked to publish her findings in scientific journals.

She used radiation and chemicals in her research, which took a toll on her body. She said her job affected her platelet count, which made her bleed easily.

“After I (lost) two babies when (I was) pregnant, I had to make a big decision. My doctor told me, ‘Yunan, you have to write your last words (will) because we don’t have time to save you. Your body, whole body (at any) moment could be bleeding,’” Yang recounted.

For her health, and to prevent future miscarriages, Yang chose a second career as a restaurateur, moving in the opposition direction of many immigrants in the United States. Instead of entering the restaurant business first in hopes of sending her kids to college, Yang began working in the restaurant business after her life in research.

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Pepper Twins owner Yunan Yang left her career in cancer research and started her first restaurant four years ago in 2015. She now has six Sichuan Chinese restaurants throughout Houston. VOA

Her inspiration for opening a restaurant came during a trip to a conference in California, where she saw an hour-long line of hungry patrons waiting to get into a Chinese restaurant.

In Madison, the small city where her lab was located, she said “We don’t have a good Chinese restaurant.”

Yang did not start a restaurant in Chinese enclaves like many other immigrants across the U.S. She opened restaurants outside of Chinese communities, in affluent neighborhoods. In Houston, the most diverse city in America, she said its residents’ tastes in Chinese food have become quite discerning.

“American guests, they can find out which one is authentic Chinese restaurant.” Yang continued, “They travel a lot around the world. They know (what) original Chinese food looks like.”

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Ravi Chawda is a diner who loves spicy food. He has never been to China but knows the difference between the so-called American Chinese food and something more like what he would get in China.

“I’ve done a lot of business with the Chinese, so I’ve been to some pretty authentic places. This is by far one of the most authentic,” Chawda said.

Yang said one key ingredient in her restaurant is fresh peppercorns from her hometown of Chongqing, China near Sichuan, a province known for its spicy dishes. The peppercorns are shipped overnight to Houston and create a flavor called “mala” in Mandarin meaning numbing, tingly, and spicy.

The hometown flavors are also drawing loyal Chinese guests, such as Yan Xiang Yu, who attended university in Chengdu, a city in Sichuan.

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Some of the popular dishes at the Pepper Twins restaurant, clockwise from the upper left: Golden Eggplant (top), Spicy Persian Cucumber (right), Crystal Pudding (left). VOA

“I think the biggest highlight is they can really deliver well the ‘ma’ (numbing/tingling) feeling. The peppercorns are very flavorful,” said Yu who would eat at Pepper Twins when he craves the “mala” feeling in his mouth.

Yang started her first restaurant four years ago, since then, she’s expanded to six locations throughout Houston.

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Not only does Yang have a successful restaurant business, she also now has two children who inspired the logo for Pepper Twins. (VOA)