‘Ministry of Crabs’ : Srilankan Restroby OPINIONEXPRESS.IN May 31, 2019 0 comments
Sri Lanka’s most renowed chef Dharshan Munidasa has made his debut in India with his Ministry of Crabs. In an email interview with Saimi Sattar, he talks about his reasons for opening an outpost in the country, his inspiration and of course his love for the different kinds of crabs
Dharshan Munidasa is Sri Lanka’s most renowned chef, restaurateur and television personality. The Ministry Of Crab, in which he has partnered with Sri Lanka’s cricket legends Mahela Jayawardane and Kumar Sangakkara, has debuted in India with its first Indian outpost in Zaveri House, Khar, Mumbai after having launched in Shanghai and Manila since last year.
The Crabs are the ‘stars of the show’ at Ministry of Crab, ranging from 500 gm ‘small’ crabs to 2 kg ‘Crabzillas’ plated up in a variety of ways from fiery Pepper crab to the unique Garlic chilli crab and the succulent Baked crab. The restaurant also features a variety of other seafood, from amazing king prawns found in the rivers running across the island to fresh clams and oysters from the lagoons.
The name of the restaurant has an interesting story behind it. When brainstorming names for the crab restaurant he wanted to create, which was to be a culinary homecoming for Sri Lanka’s Lagoon Crabs, Dharshan felt that in its country of origin it needed a powerful, institution-like name; and so the title, “Ministry of Crab” was established. It opened its doors in December 2011.
Nihonbashi, his Japanese speciality restaurant, which was founded in 1995, draws on his mixed Sri Lankan and Japanese parentage. This along with the Ministry of Crab are two of the most successful dining options in the island. At both, reservations have to be made weeks, if not months in advance. Both are also the only ones from Sri Lanka on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List.
Having gained a reputation for his out-of-the-box thinking and his knack for pushing boundaries, Dharshan revolutionised Sri Lanka’s gastronomic landscape which has put the restaurant on the global culinary map. For these efforts, he was awarded the Business Today Passionate award 2017.
What makes the food by Dharshan stand out is his focus on high quality, fresh ingredients that he often pairs with Japanese cooking philosophies. Over the years he has been invited to prepare degustation menus in various establishments across the world; including the Regent in Taiwan, the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney, the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore, Shangri–La at The Shard in London, Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, Four Seasons in Mumbai, Cheval Blanc Randheli, Huvafen Fushi Maldives and The Sukhothai Shanghai.
What brings Ministry Of Crab to India?
Ministry Of Crab in Colombo serves many tourists from India and I think their stories of our unique cuisine have created a market and that’s why we are in Mumbai together with GIPL.
Has there been an adjustment of flavours in keeping with the local palate?
Not at all. We have introduced the true flavours of Ministry Of Crab to Mumbai as well.
As it has been a few months since the launch, what are the points of convergence and divergence with the Sri Lankan one in terms of dishes and flavours?
Nothing at all, what’s popular in Ministry Of Crab in Colombo is popular in Mumbai. It’s all about the taste!
When crafting a dish what are some of the things that you keep in mind?
It’s simple as our endeavour is to bring out smiles all around. That’s what we try to achieve.
What do you keep in mind when cooking crabs?
We do not to mess around too much with it and bring out its natural flavours.
What do you think makes Ministry Of Crab such a phenomenon across the world?
We are an ingredient specific restaurant, which is not unidimensional in flavour. We make the Chilli crab that was made popular in Singapore in a different way and the same goes for Pepper crab. We use olive oil and soy sauce in unique preparations to highlight the crab. Ministry Of Crab is an institution that celebrates crab.
As a child, were you always fascinated with the profession?
Not at all but I was always fascinated by eating.
Since you never attended culinary school, how did you learn cooking?
There was always pure hunger in me to make good food. I always knew that I could never eat bad food and I started cooking because the dorm food was unpalatable to me after one semester of University in the US. When I first started cooking, I slowly realised that I need to have a “method to the madness” so to speak and began developing menus with corresponding grocery lists. It always mattered that I made something that is good to eat and tasty.
When you cook for yourself, what is the meal that you like to put together?
Anything that I can get my hands on! What inspires me is amazing ingredients like a big crab I can play around with.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your new dishes?
Ingredients are key. Also, a quick stop to the local markets wherever I travel work wonders. It’s not only ingredients but even plates and utensils inspire.
What are your future plans?
Ministry Of Crab will be opening soon by the turquoise waters in Maldives. We’re looking forward to that.
When not cooking or curating new recipes, what can we find you doing?
You would spot me grooming my three poodles when I am not cooking.
Writer: Saimi Sattar
Courtesy: The Pioneer