I want my books to earn oil stains and dog ears, says chef Vikas Khanna
Vikas Khanna speaks to Phorum Dalal about working on a book that has none of his own recipes and his equation with Mumbai
Helloji,” a crisp Punjabi accent greets the writer over the phone, apologising profusely for the delay due to a promo shoot, and preparing for his trip to the US the same night. Pleasantries done, Vikas Khanna is more than excited to talk about his love for food and his latest book, Savour Mumbai — A Culinary Journey Through India’s Melting Pot.
This is one of your first books that doesn’t have a recipe you have created.
This book is dedicated to the iconic food places in the city that serve food to thousands of people every day. For this book, I walked into kitchens and learnt signature recipes from the chefs. The journey involved spending time rolling Roomali Rotis and mastering Dhania-Pudina chutney at Colaba’s Bade Miyan, folding Patti Samosas at Goodluck Restaurant in Bandra, to turning Patras at Govinda’s in Juhu. Also, following the aromas of street food in narrow bylanes and khau gallis.
Today, Mumbai’s food is a cuisine on its own. What do you think makes the food so distinct?
Mumbai has a concept of co-existing, unlike any big city in the world, where tastes, and cultures and traditions would merge. Here, a dish from any cuisine is devoured for its individuality. That is what I love about Mumbai’s foods.
You can trust tradition and culture are dominant ingredients here.
What do you think is tougher — bringing out a cookbook or shooting a cookery show?
Watching gives more clarity than reading. So, I don’t compromise on the picture content in my books. Pick up any of my books and you will see that I rely heavily on pictures, and this is what will entice the reader to try a hand at the recipe. I don’t want my books to gather dust on the shelves. I want them to earn oil stains and dog ears, a sign that a home cook is feeding my recipes to the family.
Even if you are not the one to enter a kitchen to try your hand at replicating a chef’s recipe, this book will take you down Mumbai’s streets, alleys, five-star hotels and popular joints and tell you a tale or two about signature dishes that has all of Mumbai drooling.
I was enticed to try the vada pav or ‘spicy potato burger’. A simple dish that demands an accurate taste. While it is a dish I have tried at home earlier, the propottions mentioned in the recipe changed the ball game. It was perfect.
Next, I tried the naan. Interestingly, it demands egg in the flour, which was a surprise element. Khanna has managed to create a recipe book that gives home makers the opportunity to serve gourmet food of the five-stars or the masaledar dishes from the streets without compromising on taste, hygiene and perfection.