'Don't mix ingredients; combine dishes and be surprised!'

...says celebrity Chef Damu, a household name in Tamil Nadu, who believes in kai manam and hence uses his fingers to add ingredients while cooking

Published: 23rd June 2016 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd June 2016 04:00 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: Coriander leaves, green chilli, ginger, garlic, red chilli and coriander seeds. Take them every day in any form of preparation and I can guarantee you will never have to pay a visit to a doctor again. Tamil Nadu cuisine is the only one with medicinal value in all its ingredients. Look at me, I’m healthy and till date, I’ve never had to see a doctor. 

I have tried various cuisines from 36 countries. Their flavours and textures are nothing compared to our food. I can make 5,000 varieties of dishes with our spices! Here is a little something about masalas that you should know. Whether it’s sambhar or rasam masala, it has to be added in the end and not in the beginning as it would lose its flavour to the vegetables. And use your hands while cooking, not a spoon. I believe in kai manam…use your fingers and the food is much tastier.

I was seven when I first tried my hand in the kitchen. I loved to eat mom’s vermicelli upma. I tried cooking it myself, it got burnt and I got a earful from her. I began to learn from mom, my relatives and since then I’ve never burnt anything else (grins).

Yes, since the age of seven, I knew I belonged in the kitchen; it was my God. My dad made me go to college and study chemistry but I would bunk classes and spend most of the time by the swimming pool. I quit after a year and got into catering management.

Through the course of my catering education, I realised my interest in innovative combinations. It’s not about fusion of ingredients to create a modified dish. It is about the combination of dishes. For instance, when I say idli, you will think of coconut chutney and sambhar but I recommend vatha kozhumbu. Try halwa with green chilli, pongal with fish curry or curd rice with mangoes! They work very well.

While my mom enjoyed my cabbage puttu and dad enjoyed my chettinadu style baby potatoes, I can live on greens massiyal dal, cooked and tempered well, with rice, fish, chicken or vegetable, all in ghee.

Ghee, yes. One teaspoon a day is a must! It doesn’t make you gain weight or give you gastric problems. Forget cardiac liver oil or olive oil, stick to gingelly and groundnut oil.

And don’t get me started on diets. When you are born, you are destined with your death date. Eat all you want, enjoy the food and be happy! You have one life.

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