‘Khichdi is the most comforting food for me’

Live to eat or eat to live?

I live to eat, of course!

Instagramming food pictures...

Oh yes! Instagram, I think, is a great medium and you can say what you feel through pictures.

Favourite comfort food

It’s khichdi. What we create outside home as chefs is fancy, but at home or when I am tired after a hectic day, khichdi is the most comforting food for me.

Impossible to resist

My weakness is pani puri and chaat from the street and not fancy places. I find it impossible to resist and can have a couple of pani puris at any time or any hour of the day.

Food items I avoid

I am not particularly fond of meat like lungs, liver or kidneys. Although as a chef I feel I eat everything under the sun, but there are certain tastes which I don’t enjoy much. I normally taste a little of everything to understand what masalas have been used and how it is prepared.

But I don’t enjoy the meats I mentioned earlier. Another thing which I still cannot eat is insects...I can never eat silkworms or caterpillars or grasshoppers. That will be a bit too much!

Experimenting with cuisines

I am very experimental. No matter where I travel to, in India and abroad, I try the local food. When you eat others’ food you get to know the culture of that place. But, having said that, I will not eat bizarre food like blood, monkey’s head or something’s brain or insects. I have reservations regarding that.

Best food destinations

When I am travelling abroad, I always find out from the locals where they eat. Don’t go by what people say on the internet. I have always followed this principle and have found some amazing places to eat. Be it a little hole in the wall place or a good restaurant, the food has always been good when it was recommended by the local people.

Home food is the best

I love food that is cooked well and from the heart. It doesn’t matter where the food comes from or which cuisine it is. I enjoy French cuisine, as much as I enjoy German and all South East Asian cuisines as well. It’s very difficult for me to say what I am partial to, but I think home food is the best.

My favourites

I nternationally, I like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthal and in India there’s Sanjeev Kapoor. I like their charisma, although I have not tasted their food.

Memorable meals

These memorable meals are very personal and a part of my growing up. During my childhood on my birthdays, my mother used to make a particular kind of kheer. And whatever way I cook it, mine doesn’t taste the same as hers.

Then there are some home-made sweets which are made during winter in Bengal, like Nolen Gurer for instance. The fragrance of the sweet used to permeate through the house whenever my grandmother cooked it.

Food at marriage functions in Bengal, where food is served in baltis (buckets). The speed at which those rounds come of Phulko Luchi, Mangsho and all delicacies possible, are again some of my childhood memories.

Even simple stuff like eating at a highway dhaba where they cook fresh food in front of you does it all for me. Another memorable meal was when I went to a village near Midnapur district in the interiors of Bengal for a shoot...

There was hardly any electricity and everything from kitchen to the utensils were made of clay. There I cooked a meal with a lady and ate it straight out of the pan...I think I have never come across such a taste anywhere in the world...not even in Michelin star restaurants.

When it comes to restaurants, the Ethiopian meals which I first tasted in a place called Dukam near Washington DC...it was beautiful and delicious.

For a cook out I would choose

I don’t mind cooking with Jamie Oliver, because I like his energy. I would love to push myself to one edge to see how well I can withstand that. I would love to take that challenge.