Chefs Now Take Pride in Indian Food: Vikas Khanna
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – A new six-part series to mark India’s 75 years of Independence by Warner Bros. Discovery, will feature a stellar cast. Each episode of ‘The Journey of India’, hosted by Amitabh Bachchan, will also feature a leading voice to showcase a key theme in India’s development as a nation. Chef Vikas Khanna spoke on how he explores the palatability of Indian cuisine in the show.
On how the association came about:
My association with Warner Bros. Discovery’s ‘The Journey of India‘ started with a small conversation where we talked about the evolution of Indian cuisine. It is a subject that is very close to my heart and what made it exceptional for me was that it is the celebration of India at 75. Our country is so modern and yet seeped into rituals and history. For me, food is one of the greatest vehicles of this communication and this is what made this subject so interesting about picking up the simplest foods and telling a big story of India through it
Changes in culinary traditions:
First, pride in Indian cooking is at the forefront of Indian chefs right now. When we were training, we were only taught Western cooking because they thought that we would be working in big hotels and that’s the cuisine dominantly cooked. I do feel that the metamorphosis of Indian cuisine started from home, but it has blossomed all over the world now I’m speaking in reference to America and I feel that things are happening to Indian chefs being at the forefront which we’d never seen in the last few decades and is great because Indian food is getting a new identity which is beyond the generic menus in which the restaurants served. We see a whole new space which Indian chefs are taking right now.
When we were growing up as a reference, we went out to a restaurant maybe once in two or three months, otherwise, it was always street food and there was no experimentation with cooking. Everyone was trying to create generic food, close to their cities or regions, which was like homegrown cooking. There was nothing beyond that. Then in the 80s, there was a whole new interest in Chinese cooking. Indian Chinese came to the forefront from street food to restaurants. Now what’s happening, is that regional cuisine has taken over. It is so different compared to when we went out to eat with families. There is big financial independence and travel, which affects restaurants because social diners are now commonplace. There is so much dispensable income which is a major change that has allowed chefs space to try different cultural expressions, and self-expression in Indian cuisines. Now I feel that people are understanding ingredients more. Chefs have become more conscious of what they are using because the diner is asking the right questions. This is a whole new game.
Favorite old-time food:
It must be Khichdi, but I also love sweets from time to time. A simple perfectly made Kada Prasad or something. These are the comfort foods that I grew up with and I feel that they try to ease the pain or struggles and challenges. Just a simple bite of this food takes you back to the time you had less pressure. That time of life when it was less stressful.
Go-to Indian meal:
I feel there are a lot of Indian meals for me, it just keeps changing as I work on different spaces. Right now, it is so much about the Northeast because we have some projects with documentaries and books, but I do feel that from time to time it begins to automatically change. One dish leads to the next one and the whole cuisine becomes the forefront of your research and tastings. Everything Indian.
The ‘Journey of India’ will premieres globally on the streaming platform discovery+.