Putting America on plate
A star chef and Mumbai's US Consul General jam over a stove to make America's holiday dishes and exchange memories of meals from back home
A meal can lead to partnership. Chef-restaurauteur Boo Kim, who heads Bandra eatery Bastian, experienced this first hand when members of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) came by for a meal. Given that the Korean chef grew up in Chicago after moving there from Seoul when he was four, the conversation veered towards American food. "The next day, I got a call from the team. They wanted me to give guests a 'taste of America' at one of their events, and, here I am," he says.
We are at Linking Road's Foodhall Cookery Studio and the experimental kitchen is suffused with the aroma of roast turkey. Kim has 60 minutes to keep the other ingredients ready until he is joined by his partner-in-gluttony, US Consul General David Ranz, who is three months old in office. A New Yorker, Ranz had recently told this paper that in the first month in Mumbai, he visited 25 restaurants.
The foodies are set to treat guests to a four-style American meal featuring signature dishes. It's part of an effort by the USDA to promote American ingredients in Mumbai, available at Foodhall until December 16. "Everything on the menu is what I've grown up eating," says Kim. Although we think of burgers and hot dogs as quintessentially American, this menu makes a deviation to feature "holiday dishes"—crispy confit duck salad; shrimp and grits; roast turkey, and blueberry pie.
Kim and Ranz are twinning in blue, printed shirts. They start the cook-up with cheesy grits, prompting Ranz to recall the time when his grandfather would prepare it using coarse-ground cornmeal. "It's impossible to define American food, since the country is a melting pot of immigrant culture," says Ranz. Kim concurs. He grew up in big family in Chicago, where "mixing and matching foods" was common. "My cousins are half-Mexican, half-American. So, a lot of different flavours made it to the food we ate," he says. Once, Kim, while in the mood to experiment, stuffed kimchi inside a whole turkey. "It was the best idea ever," he laughs.
Here, however, he has decided to stick to tradition. Their camaraderie notwithstanding, Ranz's idea of comfort food might be slightly different from Kim's. "For me, it's risotto. A lot of people think it's complicated but it's not that difficult to make," says Ranz. He and wife, Taly Lind, also a diplomat, have undertaken several culinary trips in the last 30 years. In fact, they plan to write a book titled, Countries We Have Eaten, dedicated to their travels. "Museums and churches are excuses to do something between meals, because honestly, it's all about food," Ranz winks.
Chef Kim Boo
Favourite Indian food: Dosa.
Guilty pleasure meal: Sour cream with chips.
Favourite ingredient to work with: Sesame; it's versatile.
If not a chef, I'd be: An accountant
Favourite Indian food: Butter chicken.
Guilty pleasure meal: Egg noodles with ketchup.
Go-to restaurant: Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen in New York.
Favourite food memory: At the basecamp of Nanga Parbat, locals serve the best chicken curry
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