A major in economics, Pallavi Nigam Sahay was settled with a well-paying job in a leading insurance company, but love for food and passion for cooking led her to do a culinary diploma from the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners, and in the process, she ended up cooking up a surprise. “My classmates were working in the financial sector, and I too opted for it, least realising that it doesn’t excite or make me happy. I wasn’t the type to toss up data, mix up numbers and create theories. But I was passionate about cooking since childhood. So one fine day, I quit my job and joined a culinary course to become a chef,” says the chef, who is in her 30s.
It was her undying love for regional food that made her write a book celebrating the cuisines from Bihar, The Bhojpuri Kitchen. It was released in October last. She relied on her mom-in-law Jyotsna to author this book to bring the best of Bhojpuri kitchen—from comfort food, festival fares to sumptuous snacks, curries and bhujias (pan-roasted vegetables) to saags, pickles, chutneys, and sweet delicacies—to join the ranks of other regional cookbooks. “Not many people know, but we have food for all reasons and seasons. When it comes to food from the twin states, people mostly know of litti-chokha, but there’s a lot more to explore. The gastronomic range is a sheer delight for a foodie and nothing but pure bliss,” she says.
Sahay was trained at Grand Hyatt (Mumbai) and Trattoria Maddalena (Italy), and is today based out of Muscat, where she works as an independent food consultant with popular restaurant groups in the Middle East and India.Her expertise lies in redesigning recipes to suit the modern palate with ingredients that are easily available to home cooks. She hosted Working Women’s Kitchen Series on Sanjeev Kapoor’s YouTube channel, Khazana. “The series was based on the concept that in spite of being busy, anyone can cook themselves a nice healthy meal, which doesn’t always have to be regular items, but can be gourmet meals too, from paneer pasta to chicken casserole, shrimp linguine and sheesh tawook,” says Sahay.
Her easy-to-make, quick and healthy recipes are quite popular among food enthusiasts, and she was ranked among the Top 9 YouTube chefs in April last year.
A popular face on YouTube channels, Sahay has worked with India Food Network on Kissan Tiffin Timetable Project for which she cooked a delicious surprise from Potato & Cheese Roesti, Roti & Rice Burrito, Baked Cheese & Mushroom Pinwheels to Veggie Paneer Croquettes, Kidney Beans Burger and Instant Paella, for fussy eaters.
“I hail from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, but I am married to Kunal who comes from a food-loving family based in Bihar. I was introduced to the vast repertoire of Bhojpuri bansaghar (kitchen) on my kacchi ceremony that is performed a day after the wedding. I relished the traditional dishes like Baingan Badi Ki Subji (aubergine curry with black gram cakes), Pachphoran Kohra (pumpkin cooked with five whole spices), Machli ka Sarsonwala Jhor (mustard fish curry), and mutton curry, etc. The chulha chulai ceremony (a newly wed’s initiation into the kitchen) only kindled my romance with Bihari cuisine,” she says, adding that the vast culinary expanse of Bhojpuri kitchen led her to fall in love with its food—some known, others unknown and many forgotten ones too.