Voted the hottest chef by People magazine in 2011, Vikas Khanna is now back in the country. He is heading to the Jaipur Literature festival, which starts today, to release his book, Return to the Rivers, inspired by a chance meeting with the Dalai Lama. Meanwhile, on air, the celebrated chef is taking us on a journey to explore a new palette of flavours on Fox Traveller’s Twist of Taste Season 3. Khanna talks to us about his love for Indian cuisine and more.
What can we expect this season?
This season of Twist of Taste takes you through a coastal trail— right from Ratnagiri to Pondicherry. You will see that there’s a lot more to coastal cuisine than rice and fish curry. There is Arab influence as you move to Calicut and Alleppey, French influence in Pondicherry and Portuguese influence in Goa. It is the variety that makes it so beautiful.
Your most memorable experience on the show?
Meeting Sarfaraz and his family in Mangalore—they shared the recipe for their tamarind fish biryani. Another fascinating bit of information: how to make flattened rice. We take it for granted, but the procedure is quite long—it takes three days to de-husk rice and make poha. Smitaben’s family in Ratnagiri enlightened me and inspired me to use poha the way rice is used—to make pulao or khichada.
Where does India stand when it comes to TV shows on food?
Television is a place with scope for a lot of organic growth. I really like the change Sanjeev Kapoor brought in with Khana Khazana. Now we have another celebrated chef on television—Ajay Chopra. Sometimes when I am at the airport, kids come up to me saying they want to be chefs. It is definitely causing a stir.
What does food mean to you?
Freedom—as it knows no boundaries. I cook with all my heart—be it a new dish, a new show or writing about it in a new book. It gives me freedom. And unity, because it brings people together.
Best of Khanna
Favourite home-style food: Dal-rice and dahi
Restaurant select: Sasuma in Surat
Favourite dish: Grandma’s aloo methi
Cooking tip for readers: Cook with your heart. And grind your masalas yourself
Fave cuisines: Thai, French and Japanese
Advice for budding chefs: Be honest, look at your timers not your wrist watch
Fave TV shows: Buniyaad and Pakistani shows like Tanhaiyaan and Dhoop Kinare
‘Twist of Taste Season 3′ premieres on Fox Traveller on January 20 at 9.30 pm
– Sumitra Nair