The ‘Khana Khazana’ Chef Goes On A CNN Fusion Journey
The “Khana Khazana”, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor has been serving taste buds for almost two decades now. He is also the recipient of several awards both in India and abroad. And now it is his turn to expand his ‘kitchen’. In his quest to better his craft, Kapoor recently took off on one of CNN’s Fusion Journeys to Copenhagen where he met Chef Rene Redzepi. Together, the two celebrated chefs created something common out of Indian and Danish cuisines. This comes close on the heels of Kapoor’s White House Tour. Read on for more...
1) Fusion Journeys
CNN has started a six-week long series, which is something of a cultural plus travel show. In each of the six episodes, six celebrities would be taken on a creative journey of a location of their choice in which they will learn something or other about the culture of that location. The show is telecast every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on CNN at 20:00 GMT. It began on April 9, 2012 and will run through May 18, 2012. The first two weeks of the show focused on Tamara Rojo (Spanish ballerina) and Thomas Hampson (an American opera singer), respectively. The third week was devoted to Kapoor’s journey into Copenhagen and around it.
2) Kapoor’s Journey Into Copenhagen
Kapoor, who hails from the land of spices and stimulation, was awestruck by the dominating characteristic of Danish cooking, which is subtlety. In Copenhagen, Kapoor met Redzepi, head chef and proprietor of the one of the world’s best restaurant, Noma, which is a two-Michelin-star restaurant. Kapoor’s aim in undertaking this journey was to synthesize the two culinary traditions and create an original dish out of it. He speaks about his journey, “When you’ve been in the profession for as long as I have, it’s imperative to keep making new discoveries, to go beyond your particular area of expertise. And the best way to do that is to travel. So, I couldn’t resist the chance to fly to Copenhagen. With its Scandinavian climate and classic European architecture, it’s a world away from Mumbai – and the styles of our cuisines are just as contrasting.” However, he could not resist adding, “Our savory dishes are more salty, our hot dishes are more hot, our sweet dishes are more sweet.”
3) The Subtlety of Flavors
While a particular Indian dish cannot do without using as many as 15-25 spices and herbs to embellish the final taste, the Nordic cuisine, of which Rene is an expert, is all about simplicity of flavors. One can realize this immediately upon seeing how Rene operates. He goes out into the farms around Copenhagen, buys most of his ingredients fresh and directly from the farms. He emphasizes the use of fresh ingredients, something which Kapoor appreciates, “This emphasis on sourcing fresh ingredients, having a relationship with the producers, knowing the history of the food, is something I admire and relate to – but not something that I’m able to practice very often in my country. It’s an irony that the act of going back to nature, as it were, is something that is so easy to do in India, and yet we have been going in the opposite direction.”
4) A Fascinating Experience
Kapoor found it fascinating to watch Rene at work as he describes, “He (Rene) has so much reverence for the food and tries to keep the natural essence of his ingredients intact. So, for instance, a simple carrot might be slow-roasted for hours, allowing it to soak in its own juices – really bringing out its essential flavor.” In comparison to that, Indian chefs are generally quick and explosive in the kitchen and a particular vegetable is not generally coked for more than 15 minutes. The Indian cuisine, usually a cornucopia of flavors, attempts to please every taste sense on just one spoon.
5) One Dish, Two Different Styles
After partaking the subtle ways of Rene, Kapoor was in a dilemma as to “how to bring these two very different styles together in one dish?” So, he took the best of both. While foraging around Copenhagen with Rene for fresh ingredients, Kapoor came across some “fresh and fragrant mustard leaves,” which were pungent and very mustardy. Kapoor decided to coat Norwegian salmon with the mustard leaves, lime, seasoning and “let it cook gently.” As a result, he was able to cook a dish that boasted of the “distinctive Indian aroma” and also had “more of a Nordic approach to the style and philosophy of preparation.”
What Kapoor came back with from Copenhagen was “respect for the ingredient.” In fact, after meeting Rene and watching him cook, Kapoor says he has been able to “return home with a new appreciation for what Indian cuisine still has to offer.”