Actor Chitrangada Singh gets candid with Asmita Sarkar about her food adventures with different cuisines
I get way too much happiness from good food,” can be the catchphrase of many Indians. So not surprisingly, shows about it have been on Indian television since the 1990s. One of the first cookery show being Khana Khazana by Sanjeev Kapoor. But international exposure has ensured that the audience has come a long way and wants to watch innovative food-based shows that have challenges and are high pressure.
The AXN Ultimate Cook-Off – The Marriott International Challenge, that was broadcast on October 12 at 9pm on AXN and SonyLIV tested the expert chefs of India. Actress Chitrangada Singh was a judge on the show.
“It had a mix of everything, one Italian chef and three Indian contestants who specialised in different kind of cuisines. So it was quite a mix up. There were competitions where they had to cook according to the given cuisine/dish. It’s not actually specific to any one culture,” she said.
She is a foodie herself but doesn’t eat too much. “I am somebody who really likes to try out different things as I travel and explore flavours. I feel very fortunate that I got the chance to travel quite a bit. I have been to some really strange places like Taiwan, Korea and I have spent a long time in Japan as well in South America. I had got the chance to really go through a lot of different cultures and cuisines. So such experiences make you develop a more refined taste and you understand fusion. It’s because of the traveller in me that I am here as one of the judges,” she said. When asked which is her favourite among the lot she pointed to Asian. “Whether it is Thai food and Indian of course, I like all the pulpy, masala and spicy flavours which have a really strong presence of chilly,” she said. The herbs and spices like basil in Asian food are her weak points. In South American, which is quite bland for her the flavour comes from fish and other meat. “It’s completely different in that sense,” she said. In Korean food, it is the barbeques and seaweed in Japanese that tickle her tastebuds.
For Indian travellers, she advises that they should stop sticking to their particular cuisines. “I want to tell them that you must experiment. My mother, who is a pure vegetarian, feels that there must me some meat in certain dishes. And I really try to push her to experiment more. Food is really an important part of your travel and you should be open to experiments and push yourselves to acquire and develop a new taste,” she said.
She cooks a little and has a trove of Indian recipes and bakes from her mother. “Even today the cook in my house calls my mother to ask whether what he is doing is right. (Laughs) There are a lot of things that we have grown up eating like Nan khatai, that she used to make really well. My mother used to make a rum cake around Christmas time. In that she used to soak all the dry fruits and almonds and then she would bake it. She actually baked a lot of cakes which we would share. I remember coming back from school sometimes and there would be the amazing smell all around the house,” she said. Even though she likes food from Rajasthan and Punjab her heart lies with Delhi is a “food hub” where the flavour is very different from Pune and Mumbai.
“If you have to try north Indian food, you have to go to Delhi. The paranthas that you get at the Pandara road are amazing. I love the kachoris at Haldirams. And it’s all in Dilli not Delhi,” she said. While judging the show, her focus was on presentation. “And then comes the tasting. Then the third one is the x factor. The factor that shows that this dish is something new,” said she.
When asked if she would be a part of any more shows, she said, “Let’s see what the format of the show is and if it is exciting enough. AXN gives the time and makes it of a very good quality. The content automatically goes up with such things. So why not? If something that good comes up,” she said.
Writer: Asmita Sarkar
Courtesy: The Pioneer