What happens when India’s most prestigious and rocking Times Lit fest invites the “worlds hottest chef” (People magazine)? Award winning chef, author, TV host, philanthropist, poet Vikas Khanna flies in from NYC and gets mobbed. Its with great difficulty I get him away from his fans and onto the stage to conduct a question answer session and to launch his book of culinary poems. We’re excited to find out more about his Museum of culinary arts, research on his next magnum opus of sacred foods of India. “All the worlds a story” was the theme of Bachi Karkaria and Namita Devidayal’s fabulously curated “Times Lit fest” How this dashingly goodlooking Punjabi boy went from being homeless in NYC to being the face of Indian cuisine is definitely an inspirational story.
Gorge. Gulp. Groove. That’s the theme tune of this concept cafe which has come to Mumbai via Delhi and Chennai. Go to soak in the madness of MTV.
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It happens only once in a lifetime. All my senses are getting pampered. And how! Im seeing the most delicious dish being cooked by the lovable legend 84 year young Asha Bhosle AND Im hearing her sing at the same time. And as though this wasn’t bliss enough, I get to touch and then taste the “Chingdi chaap “ Its made to the famed RD Burman’s recipe and it gets even more exciting when Asha ji shares that recipe with me. Her mellifluous honeyed voice sparkles the kitchen in her iconic Dubai restaurant. Almost fifteen years ago, I’d watched her cook in her Mumbai home kitchen when she’d shared her invaluable recipes for my cookbook. I was blown away by her gusto and passion and consummate cooking prowess. How does she stay forever young and exuberant? I got the answer when I tasted the new menu. She tunes in with the times, evolving herself and remaining contemporary and flexible. So while I tasted the classical biryani and chingdi chaap ( RD Burman ‘s recipe) I also tripped out on her brand new barrah lamb chops paired with carrot coconut cream, fried fish with avocado cream and baby chicken with bok choy and makhani sauce, all deliciously made by the brilliant young chef Bobby Retnakumar Geetha. With us is Asha ji s amazing and talented family and also one of the chiefs of Mashreq bank Richa Madan who not only sings well but also cooks equally well. And needless to add is a big fan of Asha ji.
All this was in her elegant flagship Dubai restaurant. The gorgeous singing legend’s award-winning culinary destinations transcend cultures and cross continents and are now in 13 locations in The UK and in the Gulf. Asha ji personally oversees the work of the restaurants’ spice master to ensure the essence of her culinary philosophy is imprinted in every kitchen, and in the experience of every diner.
But, of course, what she is best known for is her singing. She has sung more than 20,000 songs in eighteen languages, and has been showered with national and international awards.
BIRTH OF A GOURMET CHEF
‘I started cooking when I was ten years old,’ Asha explains in her soft, melodious voice. ‘My mother never used to cook, but I really learnt a lot when I had to cook for my father’s shradh . . . puranpoli, kheer, bhajiyas.’ Asha’s father, Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar, taught her singing and coincidentally, Asha sang her first song ‘Bolte chala chal nava bala’ at the same age as she learnt to cook. Born in Sangli, when they moved to Bombay, Asha led a rigorous and hard life, leaving home at six in the morning and recording till the wee hours. All this seems to have only made her stronger.‘Mera vishwas hai that you must have will power,’ she asserts. ‘I used to love playing gulli danda on the streets and could play all day.’ She also used to borrow a lot of books from a library near the Dadar station, stay awake reading in lamp light and return them the next day. Till today she has retained her curiosity and wonder of the world around her. Her interest in cooking has much to do with this.
So fabulous is her cooking that Randhir Kapoor had once joked to her “aapke gaane se aapka khaana accha hai”. Her enterprising and dynamic son, the driving force of her restaurants, Anand sums it up in one sentence: ‘The world has lost a chef to a singer.’ To which I wanted to tell him, ‘But you have both, you lucky guys!’
THE LEGENDARY RECIPE
200 grams Prawns (tails on headless)
100grams Panko bread crumbs
1 grams sakura cress ( optional for garnishing)
2 grams coriander chopped
2 grams chili powder Kashmiri
10 ml lemon juice (bottle)
10 grams salt iodized
10 grams heirloom tomatoes (for garnishing)
25 grams ginger
25 grams garlic
30 grams kohlrabi salad (for garnishing)
30 grams red onion
1 raw egg
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Ø Remove the shell of the prawns keeping the tail on and clean in chilled water.
Ø Marinate the prawns for at least 3-4 hours before use.
Ø Using a blender, make a paste of onion, garlic, ginger, lemon juice. Add chili powder, salt and coriander chopped.
Ø In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg and add it with the onion & garlic mixture.
Ø Crumb the prawns, deep fryer it for at least 5-7 minutes with a temperature of 350 degree.
Ø Remove from the fryer; drain the excess oil using a paper towel tap slowly.
Ø Garnish with Kohlrabi salad, Heirloom tomatoes & sakuracress
Hot news. Last week, I was lucky enough to get a taste of the delicious new offering by the father of modern Sri Lankan cuisine, Dharshan Munidasa and the stunningly beautiful Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez.Sure it’s name “Kaema Sutra” harks back to “kama Sutra’ our very own bible of all things sensory and for sure this restaurant experience pampers all the senses too. However, Kaema is the Sinhala word for food and “Sutra” the Sanskrit word for the study of an art or ideology. And happily (for us) this is Chef Dharshan’s own philosophy. It seduces… be it the porksicle or “what the hopper”
I love the fact that Cheron Cafe, a small, cheery, open through the day café is the result of four decades of a family’s passion.
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Whoa! The capital of this tiny jewel of an island is rocking with high-energy. And here in Colombo Im getting high on music and food in it’s newest uber cool sophisticated hot spot. I get a taste of the hugely talented chef Paul Lenz’s giant tomahawk steak, Kathryn Farmer’s smooth as silk singing and Timothy Wright’s gracious charm. Capital Bar and grill shimmers in the shimmering Shangrila which preens on the Indian ocean. Authentic Chinese, modern Srilankan restaurants all under one roof here. Close by, Michelin starred chef Rishi Naleendra opens Botanik, not too far away the Mediteranean Asian fine dine Epicure magnetises. Monsoon with it’s South East Asian fare and it’s tropical eclectic ambiance joins the newness parade.
Comforting, quirky, cheerful. Nudged into cacophonic Fort, this two-levelled café is an oasis of calm.
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Breaking foodie news. I am getting the very first taste of the recipe for a culinary Superhit! I just happened to be in Colombo and wow! am thrilling to brand new contemporary Srilankan flavors. In more ways than one. Srilankan beauty Bollywood superstar Jackie Fernandez and Srilankan culinary superstar Dharshan Munidasa have just opened “Kaema Sutra” in the swanky shimmering Shangrila.
Sure the name harks back to “kama Sutra’ our very own bible of all things sensory and for ofcourse this restaurant experience pampers all the senses too. But, to put it in perspective, Kaema is the Sinhala word for food and “Sutra” the Sanskrit word for the study of an art or ideology. And happily (for us) this is definitive of Chef Dharshan’s own philosophy. He has fully understood the intricacies of Sri Lankan cuisine with its many regional and colonial influences, the abundant use of the island’s natural spices and ingredients and age-old cooking techniques. And then he blends with his own masterful modern style to create authentic Sri Lankan cuisine with novel variations.
SRILANKA ON THE WORLD GOURMET MAP
Amazing! Srilanka, the tiny little jewel of an island is on the world gourmet map all because of the brilliant, self taught chef Dharshan Munidasa. Two of his restaurants ( Nihon Bashi and Ministry of Crab) have been on Asia’s 50 best list and that’s an amazing feat. As regional jury chairperson of the Worlds 50 best and Asias 50 best restaurant academy Ive been thrilled to applaud him receiving these awards.
And now in Kaema Sutra, this genius “father of modern Srilankan cuisine” is all set to blaze trails. I love Srilanka as multi-ethnic and multi-religious as it is. And all this is religiously reflected in the cuisine. Whoa! What a magical mix… Sinhalese (predominantly Buddhist) and Tamils (primarily Hindu) Muslims Malays and Chinese too. The Portugese and British colonisation further added several dimensions and layers to the cuisine here.
Dharshan has refined it and put Sri Lankan fine dining on the international map firstly with his two star ingredients – tuna and crab. Nihonbashi and Ministry of Crab feature on every traveller’s to-do list.
And heres’ the amazing bit…he was drawn to cooking only when he was studying computer engineering and international relations at Johns Hopkins University. Since the food was atrocious, the half Japanese and half Srilankan started cooking himself.
And with his passion and genius he is now evolving Srilankan food. So at the stunningly beautiful Kaema Sutra (with its alfresco seaview, located in the super luxurious Shangrila) he creates refined versions of traditional Sri Lankan dishes. From Porksicle, (pork spare rib wrapped in roti and Manioc Floss) the beloved lamprais to “what the hopper” a decadent dessert of crunchy honey hopper.
The most traditional Ambul Thiyal, tuna curry which was cooked for hours is cooked on the table and just for seven minutes, using sashimi-grade tuna. Soft and juicy.I couldn’t resist requesting him to share the recipe…here it is
Tuna Ambul Thial Recipe
150g of skinless tuna (no bones or blood lines) Cubed
5ml Sunflower Oil
10g Garcinia Paste
10g Chopped Onion
5g Chopped Garlic
5g Ginger Slivers
1 Sprig Curry Leaves
1 inch Cinnamon Stick
3 Pandan Leaves
To a clay pot apply Sunflower oil and line with Pandan Leaves.
Place tuna in the pot.
Mix Garcinia Paste, Onion, Garlic, Ginger, Curry Leaves, Cinnamon Sticks, Cardamoms, Cloves and Salt with Water.
Pour mixture onto the tuna.
Close lid and cook on low flame for 10mins.
Would you believe this svelte and shapely beauty is as busy doing food tastings as she is shooting for multiple big banner films? An equally passionate and dedicated foodie, the gorgeous Bollywood superstar, Srilankan beauty and brilliant actress Jacqueline Fernandez takes time off to focus on food and restaurants. She makes time from shoots and brand ambassador commitments for high profile international brands to be partner in kaema Sutra. She is also mall set to open her very own Thai restaurant with her best friend Mishali in Mumbai.
She loves cooking. She loves Srilankan hoppers and “milk rice” as well as muffins. She s learnt these from Kim, her gorgeous mother. And here’s the surprise… she loves muffins and bakes them regularly.
JACKIE’S FAVORITE MUFFINS
1 cup spelt flour (gluten free ofcourse) 1 cup olive oil, 2 bananas, 1 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup Honey or raisins, 2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 cup husk (to bind instead of eggs). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Yum and healthy too!
It’s the cherry on the nostalgia cake. Literally too. Im getting high on the Cherries Jubilee dessert (in the foreground of the photo) invented by the famed Auguste Escoffier for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations, in 1897. Tasting it here in the 137 year old spectacular Grand hotel, declared a ‘National Heritage Property’ of Srilanka is a treat. Old world Colonial charm infuses the magnificent Tudor building, Victorian fire places, teak wood furniture, shimmering chandeliers and many a traditional recipe is preserved here. High tech comforts and old world luxury fuses together. Tyrone David ensures I get a fascinating taste of the past. From the Scottish cock a leekie soup to the Cherries Jubilee. From taking a cooking class from Executive chef Priyantha Weersinghe to golfing in the 125 year neighbouring beautiful golf course it’s a trip back in time. After all I’m in the cold and sunny “Little England” . That it is perched in Nuwaraeliya, in the mountains of Srilanka is another story.