How Chef Kunal Kapur Became The ‘Kebab & Curry Guy’
He loves to play with Indian flavours, and believes that simplicity is the formula behind a winning dish. Touted as ‘the next big guy in kebabs and curries in India’ by the Czar of Indian cuisine Jiggs Kalra, chef Kunal Kapur is here to stay.
A stint with popular food reality show, MasterChef India has got him all the recognition apart from his cookbook and experimenting with the Indian palate.
We caught up with celebrity chef Kunal Kapur, who has conquered the culinary world with his innovative cooking techniques and infectious smile.
When was the first time you made a dish all by yourself?
I was wondering the same thing because I couldn’t remember the first time I landed in the kitchen. So, I asked my mom because I was sure that I had prepared something when I was quite small.
She told me that the first thing I ever made was tea. We used to live in a joint family where morning tea was like a tradition. It used to have a lot of sugar, but was loved by everyone. And then later I started preparing sandwiches.
Are there any food moments from your time at the Institute of Hotel Management, Chandigarh that make you smile?
There are many incidents, but the one that took place in my second year is unforgettable. My friends and I were asked to prepare lunch for the entire institute. It was the first time that I was cooking in the institute kitchen. So, we decided to prepare Dal Makhani.
Now, it’s a dish that needs a lot of perfection, practice and correct amount of ingredients to get that perfect flavour. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out good and every hungry person that day started looking for us. We hid ourselves in the kitchen as we heard everybody shouting. I cannot stop smiling when I recollect the day.
As a chef, how important are awards for you?
According to me, it doesn’t matter for a long time. I am obviously happy when I receive it, but then, you must move on. You are a chef and the dish you are cooking tomorrow should be better than the dish you prepared today.
I cherish the time I received an award for the Best Anchor for MasterChef India, but that doesn’t satisfy me. I always aspire to evolve.
How were you selected as a judge for MasterChef India?
I received a call from the media house while I was working at The Leela, Gurgaon. They were planning a food reality show, and wanted someone with good knowledge about Indian food, dynamic and looked promising.
What are your thoughts about Indian food?
I feel that Indian food is slowly fading among the youth. There is so much to it, but everyone is more interested in international dishes. I think it is very difficult to find a chef even in India who can cook traditional Indian cuisine perfectly. It needs to be explored at its best.
Who cooks at home?
Usually my wife and mother, If you find me cooking at home, it will be for my son!
Tell us about your book, A chef in every home.
The book features international recipes that are cooked using Indian ingredients that are typically found in every Indian home. It is a guide for people who love to cook at home, and want to prepare something unique.
Be it a housewife, a teenager living alone or a young man, these recipes are quick and can be cooked with very few ingredients.
What is that one food trend that you think will make news in the future?
Cooking simple food with fresh ingredients is going to be a major food trend again.
Everybody today wants to become a chef. What do you think is the real role of a chef?
A chef in today’s world is no longer a person who just cooks food. He or she also needs to know the business aspect of it. This includes setting up a restaurant, kitchen layout, engineering, complexity and other dynamics.
One ingredient that you love to play with in the kitchen?
Chocolate and garlic
One chef who is your role model?
Any guilty food pleasure?
Chocolates and ice-cream
You favourite restaurants in India?
The China Kitchen in Delhi and The Leela in Gurgaon.
Words of wisdom for amateur chefs?
Give yourself time to learn the tricks, and then apply the same correctly in your profession.
Recipe for Subz Biryani (Serves 3)
1 cup oil
2 tsp royal cumin
Cardamom green(5 nos)
2 cups sliced onions
¾ cup ginger garlic paste
3 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups carrots diced
1 cup beans diced
1 cup green peas
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp red chilly powder
4 cups yogurt
2 cups mint leaves
1 tbsp kewra water
1 tbsp rose water
2 cups basmati rice
2 tsp saffron dissolved
1. Wash and soak the rice for an hour.
2. Heat oil in a pan and add the whole spices. Add sliced onions and cook till light brown. Immediately add the ginger garlic paste. Cook for 3 mins.
3. Now add the vegetables and salt. Sauté for 3-4 mins and add the powdered spices. Add 1 cup water and cook.
4. Increase heat and add whisked yogurt and cook till it get a boil. Turn off the heat and add green chilly, kewra water, rose water and mint leaves.
5. Boil 12 cups of water in a separate pan. Add salt and then the rice. Par boil the rice and immediately take out the rice when it is still ¾ raw. Reserve and keep 2 cups of this water.
6. Spread the rice on top of the vegetables and add cubes of butter and sprinkle saffron. Add 2 cups of water from boiling the rice.
7. Place a tight fitting lid on top and seal the lid with dough or place a heave object on it. Cook on very low heat for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for another 20 mins.
8. Remove the lid and serve the biryani with burani raita.