How Kunal Vijayakar Trawled The Country For 60 Recipes
He loves to eat and we cannot agree more. Call him the funny man of Indian TV or a die-hard foodie, Kunal Vijayakar knows what keeps him going. After nine years of travelling the length and breadth of the country in search of interesting recipes, Vijayakar recently launched his own cookbook, Made in India, in February. We caught up with this candid and witty Mumbai-based food connoisseur on food glorious food!
Why did you choose to chronicle Indian food through a cookbook?
The idea was to compile some of the most fantastic food that I have eaten through my travels over these years. To be honest, it was a discovery of sorts to find exceptional recipes on the way. The memories associated with them prompted me to write Made in India!
How did you select or identify the recipes? Did you have any set criteria?
First, the recipe should touch me in some way the first time I eat it. And second, there has to be something unusual or mysterious about the particular dish. I mean we all have eaten Butter Chicken and Mutton Roganjosh umpteen times, right? But, all the 60 recipes in my book are unique and not commonly known.
What according to you are the 3 things that one requires to write a cookbook?
I think there are different kinds of cookbook writers out there. You have professional chefs who pen their favourite recipes and then there are people like me who simply love to eat. Given that, one needs to be passionate and must have proper understanding of the subject.
Another thing that aspiring cookbook writers must possess is the ability to write beyond recipes. That little anecdote, background to the dish adds on to the drama. It’s not only about writing good English, but also the ability to have fun with the language when penning a cookbook.
Do you have any interesting moments to share while working on the book?
A big discovery while writing the book for me was the realisation that I am too lazy. So after compiling the recipes, when it came down to formatting or giving the book a structure, I lost my patience. It took me a lot of time to actually come to terms with it, and that’s when I requested a friend to help me out. I also offered her some money to do so!
Have you cooked all the 60 dishes from the cookbook? If yes, which is that one dish you enjoyed preparing the most?
Yes, I have prepared all of them! Actually there are two dishes that turn out really well each time I make them. One is the Parsi Akuri and the other is Sookha Vatana. I enjoy preparing them for the simple reason I have grown up eating them.
For instance, the Sookha Vatana was a staple at home. For mains, there would be chicken, mutton or fish and this would be on the side almost daily. So when I moved out of my home, it was something I missed eating a lot. Even today, when I go home, my mother cooks Sookha Vatana for me.
Are the recipes authentic or do they have your unique twist?
Honestly, there is nothing that can be called ‘authentic’ today. Even a dhansak is prepared differently among various Parsi families. The only thing that is authentic in food is French baking for it requires specific ingredients and oven timings et al. So, all the recipes that find a place in my cookbook have been tweaked by me.
What goes behind choosing the title of a cookbook? How did you choose 'Made in India'?
Memorability and relevance are two things that decide your book title. For this particular title, I realised Made in India was easy to remember. It goes without saying that I thought of it even before Modi initiated his ‘Make in India’ campaign!
How will you describe your love for Indian food?
You can say it’s the same as my love for Indian woman! I am a desi at heart, and find Indian women the most attractive in the world. Jokes apart, I don’t think there is any other cuisine in the world barring Chinese that boasts of such diverse flavours, textures and what-not. I mean you travel from Gujarat to West Bengal, and the curry changes in every 50 kms! This is why Indian food is my true love.
Any advice for those aspiring to write a cookbook?
I think the best advice would be to find a good publisher to market and sell your book. It works all the time.
Recipe for Akuri on Toast
6 large eggs
25 gm butter
1⁄2 cup cream
2 small spring onions, finely chopped
1 green chilli, de-seeded and chopped
1⁄2 tsp garlic, finely grated
1⁄2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1⁄2 tsp turmeric powder
1⁄2 tsp dhansak powder
1⁄2 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste
Handful of coriander, chopped
1. In a bowl, beat eggs with milk and a little salt. Set aside.
2. Heat a little butter in a frying pan, add onions and fry until almost golden-brown. Then add in the garlic, cumin seeds and green chilli and fry to release the aromas. To this mixture, add turmeric powder, dhansak powder and red chilli powder. Cook for one more minute.
3. Now pour in the egg mixture. Mix well and stir gently on medium heat. Cook till the dish reaches a nice creamy consistency. Sprinkle it with fresh coriander leaves and the finely chopped spring onion and mix gently.
4. Toast some bread and butter generously. Serve the eggs on the buttered toast.
Photo: Kunal Vijayakar's Facebook page.