Chef Sandip Narang
Do you prefer the traditional or experimental style of cooking?
I don’t have a preference for any one over the other. I believe one needs a strong grasp on the traditional styles of cooking based on which they can build and try experimenting with cooking. Without a solid understanding of the integrity of ingredients and it's ideal cooking techniques it is difficult to honor it in the finished product.
You worked at the Lake Palace in Udaipur. How was your experience?
My experience there was simply amazing given the character of the hotel. It opened the doors to a cuisine that I had had limited exposure to, Mewari Cuisine. The Mewars were traditionally the Warrior community and hence had to travel a lot during the year. Because of the weather not much grew there and they learnt and understood the importance of preserving whatever they had access to, when they had access to it! Like this interesting technique: during times of war the warriors didn’t have time to sit and prepare a meal. In the morning they would marinate the meat in spices, wrap them in leaves, dig a hole in the hot sand and leave them there till the evening. With the really hot temperatures there by the time they’d be back in the evening and retrieved the meat… it would be cooked! It was unusual cooking techniques which I had no prior exposure to that I took away from my days at Lake Palace Udaipur.
Owing to the grandeur of the hotel, it saw a lot of famous footsteps through its doors. We’ve had top Bollywood stars staying with us, barbequed with Calvin Klein and had Richard Gere stay with us too.
What are some Vietnamese specialties?
Vietnamese food as a cuisine has an interesting peculiarity. They have the habit of wrapping up their food… either in leaves or rice paper sheets. This is typical of their cuisine and not seen often elsewhere. The fillings can be vegetarian or meats with vermicelli noodles and basil or most anything else. The Pho is one of their specialties. It constitutes a broth with noodles, vegetables and meat garnished with additions like roasted peanuts, burnt onion or garlic, crunchies, and herbs.
Another specialty is Curry with Baguette owing to the French influence in Vietnam. They have a nice spiced curry with either vegetables or meat which they eat by dipping in pieces of baguette. The spiciness of the curry is cut by the sweetness of the bread and the crust of the baguette adds an extra crunch and texture to the entire meal experience.
How did your interest in cooking begin?
I’ve always loved food and eating, even as a kid. The first thing I remember making is an omelet as a 9-10 year kid. I even started to make the Diwali Mithai at home each year. This lead me to fancy myself as a great cook, thinking I was even better than my mom sometimes. Just kidding.