He thirsts for beverages

He thirsts for beverages

He thirsts for beverages
Be it a tall tumbler of luscious lassi or a refreshing glass of buttermilk, beverages complete Indian meals. While some help us wash down our food, others add some extra zing to our palate. And every region of the country has its own range of beverages. Some are seasonal, like aam panna, while some like nimbu paani are available throughout the year. And it is this sheer range that chef Kiran Jethwa is exploring in the show Spirited Traveller. Aptly named, the show, curated by Fox Life, aims to explore the most authentic and exotic beverages across India. The show will capture his adventures as he travels to Goa, Sikkim, Nagaland, Delhi, Coorg and many other places in search of unique beverages.

Kiran says, “The show is a thrilling adventure exploring the diverse culture of India and its local delicacies. It’s mainly about reaching out to people through unique beverages and the interesting history, culture and tradition behind them. We have looked at India through a different lens.”

For Kiran, born in Kenya to an Indian father and a British mother, the show has been an opportunity to explore his motherland. “When the channel approached me with this idea, I thought it was fantastic as I hadn’t really travelled across India. So, it was an opportunity to explore the country and see where my heritage came from,” he says.

And the journey hasn’t disappointed him. For, Kiran reveals how connected he feels with the country through the show. “I’m totally fascinated by this incredible nation, and have got lots of love for it. I understand the country better now, and have reconnected with it.”

Through the show, Kiran has discovered a sporadic drink menu from around the country, which includes the oldest, unknown, unheard of potent Indian beverages such as butter tea and bhang from Lepcha, toddy from Kochi, ginger wine from Kolkata, Cabo from Goa etc. And, he has also stumbled upon the age-old secrets of traditional cuisines.

While Kiran has travelled to a number of locations in the country, Nagaland has fascinated him the most. “Nagaland is in a stunning and beautiful part of the world, which has a very different culture. They eat weird things and drink interesting beverages. For instance, they indulge in water bugs and frogs!” This small northeastern state did blow Kiran’s socks off with its variety of ingredients and meals. For instance, he says, “They make a reduction from mustard leaves. They boil the leaves till a point where the juice turns into a thick, dark liquid, which is very bitter and sour. But when you use it in food, it tastes amazing.”

So, did the Nagaland sojourn throw up a dish that is his favourite? Chef Kiran doesn’t think so. He says the vinegar extracted from garcinia fruit in Coorg is the one that stood out for him. “From the garcinia fruit, they extract the juice, which is then boiled and reduced. What remains is a thick syrup known as kachampuli. They use this for pork dishes, and it was unbelievable,” he says.

For someone born in a house that celebrated food, having made a career in the same field isn’t surprising. “In our family, food was at the forefront of everything. And the kitchen was a very social place. I loved cooking from a young age and when I finally found a professional kitchen, I realised that this is what I wanted to do. My journey with food is a never-ending one,” says Kiran, who finds comfort in French pastry.

Kiran, whose food philosophy is to have an open mind always, believes that “your culture defines what you eat and what you are exposed to. But it doesn’t limit you. While it defines your initial palate in life, it also lets you explore other things.” Kiran, who has a restaurant in Nairobi, feels Indian cuisine is doing well for itself and “is one of the greatest cuisines in the world. The fact that it has travelled across the world shows that people love it.” Spirited Traveller starts tomorrow and plays every Monday and Tuesday at 9 pm, on Fox Life.