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    Jet-setting from far west to the Middle East, chefA�VikasA� Khanna brings toA�table the tales from desert nations and its local cuisine

    It was his grandmothera��s traditional home cooked recipes that got chefA�VikasA�Khanna curious about Indian cuisine and her kitchen, back home in Amritsara��where large family feast were the norma��became part of his foundation.

    He recalls his grandmother telling him a�?cooking is not always about the recipes, but also about the stories, memories, experiments and explorations from the local traditiona�?. This lesson, picked up early on in life, has been a source of inspiration for much of his food expeditions, his recent book Utsav and also his new assignment for the TV show, Twist of Taste – The Persian Trail.

    The all-new season of the culinary saga has Khanna exploring the Middle Eastern countriesa��Dubai, Oman, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and Bursaa��in a quest to unearth authentic cooking and uncovering what inspired its creation by laying emphasis on the history and culture of the city. a�?I truly enjoyed my time in Oman. I never thought the locals were so influenced by Bollywood movies that everywhere I went, I found people who spoke in fluent Hindi. This includes our guide whose favourite hero is still Govinda,a�?A�Khanna reveals.

    In the show, the celebrity chef takes cues from the local dishes and ita��s core ingredients and returns to his kitchen to give the dish his twist. a�?But many a times, there are chefs who dona��t share the recipes and just evade the question by saying, a�?ita��s a family secret.a�� This is kind of a put-off,a�? he says.

    But while traveling in Tehran, Khanna chanced upon a small eatery that made excellent bread. a�?It was made on small pebbles by a little guy sitting in one corner and the doug of the bread was like water. It was a long three-foot bread and it was really awesome. When I tried making it, I couldna��t get it the first time. It was only after several attempts that it turned out the way it should.a�?

    In the UAE, he discovered a dish called fooga (referred to as machboos in the local language) that was like an overlap of an Indian dish. a�?It is made similarly like an Indian dish. It has boiled rice, cardamom, turmeric and other common spices.a�?The entire experience, Khanna says, a�?was like being born again with so many new techniques to learn.a�?

    But when it comes to his own preferences, this Manhattan celeb is a creature of habit and has a rough and ready a�?son of Punjaba�� manner with his desi food preferences. The dishy chef has been eating a bowl of plain dal for dinner, with a little bit of turmeric and salt in it, for years now. Leftover chocolate tarts and burnt roti crumbs are his guilty pleasures. a�?You end up tasting so much food in the kitchen that you want to eatA�some something sattvic at the end of your day,a�? says the chef who has recently launched his second book for children, The Milk Moustache (available online for Rs 299).
    Twist of Tales – The Persian Trail, every Wednesday-Thursday at 9 pm, on FOX Life.

    a�� Nandini Kumar

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