As celebrity Australian chef Gary Mehigan visited Delhi on his collaboration with Conosh for a Masterclass session, Firstpost caught up with the Chef to discuss food, his love for Indian cinema and Aamir Khan. For him India is a colourful chaos. He belives that Indians have a brilliant sense of humour and warmth which is admirable.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
How much do you love India?
I simply love India. I have been coming since 2010, mostly to nine cities, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Chennai, Kochi, Kohima, Nagaland.
What is it that you like about all the different places having different cultures and food?
India is a colourful chaos. A complete opposite as compared to life in Australia which is quiet. Australia is very different. When I come to India, I try to always absorb the diverse culture that is very striking for anybody coming from outside. The first visit was like a cultural wave, the chaos, the food. We come from a city of 3.6 million people and when I touched base at Kolkata itself has 22 million people. It was a fascinating shock for me because even when I am filming, it’s completely unnecessary to stage anything. It just happens naturally. Your views of India are also so addictive and fascinating. People of India have such a good sense of humour and the warmth is admirable. People are more than happy to help you and I find it so easy to be with the people here. Indians love to argue about food more than any other place on this planet. There is a healthy discussion about food on which place of India a certain dish came from. Even when I am visiting a house, I see the family members are also arguing about food and which place it has come from, no you shouldn’t have this, you should have added this, how much spice to add etc.
Everybody has their traditional recipes from their grandmothers, or their state. I have actually tasted four or five biriyanis from Hyderabad and try to find out what actually they have added to it. I also love the diverse conversation about food in India. There is always a story behind the recipes.
Best cuisine of India…
From my very initial visit to India, I somehow love the South Indian food of India especially the rice platters, the dosa, idli and, appam. They are very light for the tummy yet very tasty. I love the way use of curry leaves, lime and tamarind to their dishes. They add a fresh flavour to the dishes. I love the fish moilee, chicken fry and rava (semolina) prawn. Especially the rava prawns they make it so crunchy and juicy, I simply love it.
What are the Indian dishes that you have cooked for your friends in Australia?
I have cooked papdi chaat and paani puri and chicken curry with coriander and mint. There was a butter chicken on the table and some lachcha paratha.
On the diverse flavours of India…
As a chef I am always in search of flavours so when I am in Nagaland, it’s all about smoked pork, fermentation process it is amazing. I have learnt how to cooked spiders and worms and I have learnt it from the Naga cuisine. Naga life is a different kind of life and that for me is fascinating. So, it is not one single thing, it’s the whole experience of cooking and absorbing ideas from different places. And as a chef you always search for inspiration. For example, I met a young chef in Nagaland and he took me around the markets. For example, I have tasted fermented mustard green paste and it tasted so much like Australian veggi mite. It was sour and you can spread it on toast like the Bombay sandwich instead of the coriander chutney.
You must be watching Hindi cinema, what is your favourite movie?
I am not so much of a Bollywood person, but an Indian Australian actor did a movie called ‘Save your Legs’, which I simply loved. I simply loved Aamir Khan’s Dangal which is about two female wrestlers. It is beautiful to see two young girls fighting for the right to wrestle with the support of their father.
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