'Simplicity is the key to cooking Indian food'

'Simplicity is the key to cooking Indian food'

We identify him with the peppy rendition that he sings while adding salt to food, ‘namak shamak’. With Punjabi tunes of tabla playing as the background score in his show Turban Tadka, chef Harpal Singh Sokhi is known for the simple yet innovative dishes he cooks in the show.

Recently, the celebrity chef furthered his support to Yellow Tie Hospitality’s tie up with Genuine Broaster Chicken (GBC), the US-based food chain.

It is set to enter in the Indian market in Mumbai by the end of this month.
Sokhi has created an exclusive menu for the chain which includes dishes like Jong Lee Paneer Burger with Thai Spice Paneer Sticks and Noodles, Mutton Rogan Josh Burger, Gulkand Muffin and Palak Paneer Burger.

In a candid conversation with Metrolife, he tells how he created these dishes. He also points out some significant changes that Indian household kitchens have experienced over the years.
Excerpts:

Tell us about your support to GBC.
As a chef with focus on doing any kind of food for Indian palate, I wanted to provide an international platform and format to Indian food. The chain is famous in America for broaster fried chicken and I wanted to impart an Indian soul to the menu here.

How did you curate the various dishes in the menu?
With experience in my own restaurant chain Bibi Jaan, my television shows and my road shows, I get the opportunity

to meet people and know their tastes. I was once in the streets of Jalandhar, where I saw a man selling burgers with a spicy patty with schezwan sauce and noodles on top.
I tweaked it a bit and created Jong Lee burger. The Palak Paneer Burger was created out of the constant complain of mothers about their children not liking home-cooked food. Such thoughts that were created and put together in my test kitchen will now become a reality.

What do you think works the best with Indian audience?
When I started Turban Tadka, I observed that people were getting away from kitchens and the love for cooking.

I was scared that if this format continues, cooking food at home would die some day.
So I brought in fun and love for food in the kitchen. People started loving ‘namak shamak’. This love from the people inspired me to cook food that every household in India could replicate.

Tell us about the dishes that you cook on the show.
Simplicity is the key to cooking Indian food. I concentrate on creating recipes that people could easily cook in their kitchens. I want people to eat Roti Pizzas at home, which they can make on a tawa.

I want them to cook Garlic rotis instead of plain rotis; an Apple Parantha instead of an apple pie and Jaggery Nuts Bar instead of energy bars.

How has cooking changed in Indian households today?
This is something which is very interesting. Home kitchens are now looking at new gadgets and even new knives. Baking at home has become a part of regular cooking. Pasta is something which has entered the monthly ration. Chinese sauces and noodles are definitely being stacked up in the cupboards of all households. Breakfast has changed to cornflakes, muesli and oats.

Do you think there is a need to shift to healthy food in India?
I honestly believe that when an Indians eat food at home, they eat the best healthy food that is available in the world.

It comprises a complete meal with proteins, carbohydrates and fibres. However, consumption of ‘mithais’ and fried food needs to be looked at for their oil content.
A samosa can also be cooked as a baked samosa with multi grain covering.

Are Indian cuisines at par with world cuisines?
Indian restaurants are shining across the world. Major restaurants across the world today look at using Indian ingredients. Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok, by chef Gaggan Anand is a great example.

The restaurant serves modern Indian food and is known to be the best Indian restaurant in Asia. Many such restaurants have bought laurels for Indian cuisine.

What’s next?
Next is probably Indian food in Mars or Moon. To me, it is reaching out with ‘namak shamak’ to every household in the world and stay there.
Let’s spread happiness with food.

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