Veteran actress Rati Agnihotri and her actor son Tanuj Virwani share a great passion for eating as well as cooking. We peek into their kitchen
As we ring the bell of Rati Agnihotri and Tanuj Virwani’s Worli residence, drenched in the rain, the tantalising aroma of spices and meat wafts in the air. Rati opens the door, and we take no time to ask her what was cooking.
Tanuj Virwani and mom Rati Agnihotri rustle up many a dish at their Worli residence
“Mutton balls, chicken masala and stir-fried rice,” she says, and we are suddenly hungry. We enter their kitchen and see Tanuj weilding a range of kitchen tools and rustling up food like a pro. We speak of all things food. Excerpts:
Tanuj Virwani: I start my day with a smoothie, seasonal fruits, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and oatmeal. I like dry fruits only when mom blends them in a smoothie. I swear by non-vegetarian food, so she ensures that I include vegetables in my diet. If she cooks a nice chicken dish, she adds broccoli to it (rolls eyes).
Rati Agnihotri: Even I like having a smoothie for breakfast along with idli, poha or upma. I am a strict vegetarian at lunchtime.
Tanuj: They say one should have breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper, but in our house, we follow the opposite! I eat four meals a day. Before I hit the gym in the evening, I like to fill myself with a light snack. And then I have this bad habit of munching on snacks at night.
Rati: Though I finish dinner by 7 pm, I invariably bump into Tanuj in the kitchen at night (laughs).
Ga ga over street food
Tanuj: We both like street food. But mom generally steers clear of it during the monsoon. She makes street food at home. She makes fantastic corn on the cob. Since I am half-Sindhi, no day is complete without papad peppered with loads of masala. But I also ensure that I burn the calories.
Rati: To be honest, I indulge in a tasty snack, such as ragda patties, late in the afternoons. But the patty must not be fried, especially in monsoon. It goes well with green chutney. Now, as the holy month of Ramzan is here, we plan to go to Mohammad Ali Road to relish the lavish fare. Instead of eating at one eatery, we like to hop around and try out the food at multiple eateries.
Variety of flavours
Tanuj: I love to eat at China Garden and Sancho’s. I also go to Hard Rock Cafe once a month for the yummy burgers.
Rati: There are good restaurants in Colaba like Imbiss and Leopold Cafe. Then there is Madras Café at Matunga. You get really tasty food in these smaller places.
Tanuj: I like to eat with my hands. I don’t see the point in eating pizza with a knife and fork.
Rati: There’s this place near Kabutarkhana which serves yummy Malvani food. You get fresh meat liver and kidney. And the chawal ki roti is to die for. I try them out at home but it doesn’t turn like that.
Tanuj: Once I was hunting for a shooting location near Sassoon Docks early in the morning and decided to visit its famous fish market. You get fresh catch at cheap rates. I know mom loves Rawas and Palla fish and once I surprised her with my purchases.
On a tasty trip
Rati: Whenever I go to Lucknow, I make sure that I indulge in Tunde ke kebab, galaoti and hariyali kebabs as well as Awadhi biryani.
Tanuj: I love the food in Delhi. Even the Saravanaa Bhavans in Chennai are awesome. They serve really big idlis and dosas the size of a limousine (laughs).
World on my plate
Tanuj: We like to dig into international cuisines. My personal favourites are Ukrainian, Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Russian.
Rati: A few days ago, I made him a Polish dish called Pierogi. I think international food is much simpler to make. You can rustle something up for six people in just 20 minutes. In India, we spend so much time in the preparation.
Tanuj: I am quite experimental when it comes to food. I once tried having ox tongue, fried maggots and monkey’s brain in Bangkok, but I couldn’t bring myself to swallow them. I have also eaten kangaroo meat, butter snails and emu eggs in Australia. I love sushi, too (smacks lips).
Rati: He made me try the ox tongue, which is not a big deal. I love seafood. Tanuj not only likes to eat, but also cook, and he is very good at that. I don’t have to worry if I am not around or the cook doesn’t turn up. He does not follow the traditional rules but all his dishes turn out really well. And I am not saying that because I am his mother (smiles).
Tanuj: My cooking is controlled madness; it’s like a performance — I sing, I whistle, I whirl while cooking. Presentation of the food is as important as the taste. I remember mom cooking a meal inside a coconut shell.
Rati: I use the thin malai coconut. It adds much flavour to the dish. I fill the shell with herbs, prawns, rice, chicken and butter and then cook it. Tanuj doesn’t like to eat meat on the bone.
Rati: I am going to teach Tanuj to make stuffed turkey and eat it with the bone. He loves baked crabs, Malabari and Goan dishes prepared by me.
Tanuj: All this talk is making me hungry again, mom. Why don’t we cook another dish right away? (laughs)
Minced mutton balls
>> 1.5 cups minced mutton
>> 3/4 cup chana dal (Bengal gram) paste
>> 1 medium onion, chopped
>> 1 tbsp (each) sesame and poppy seeds
>> 1/2 tsp garam masala
>> Olive oil
>> Salt and chillies, to taste
Mix the minced mutton with the chana dal paste, salt and chillies. Roast the onion, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and a bit of garam masala. Add it to the mutton mix. Shape it into small balls. Heat oil in a pan. Stir fry the balls till they turn golden brown. Serve hot.
>> 1/2 kg chicken breast
>> 1/4 cup (each) cream and curd, for marination
>> 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
>> 1 tsp each garam masala and cumin powder
>> Salt to taste
Chop the chicken breast into large cubes and marinate it in cream, curd and ginger-garlic paste. Add salt, a pinch of cumin powder and garam masala. Brush it with ghee. Add a bit of kasoori methi and marinate for about four hours. Place it on a grill and let it cook till colour changes. Sprinkle chaat masala on it and it’s ready to serve.