CHENNAI: There’s no retirement for cooking and eating; this is why I got into this field itself. I am a pucca Chennai paiyyan. I did my catering course in Cuddalore. After that I got a job in a five-star hotel in Dubai and I have spent most of my learning years in the Middle East.
It was there that I learnt different cuisines. Though I can whip up decent Indian dishes, Indian cuisine was never my specialty in any kitchen I have worked in so far. I am crazy about new cuisines and presenting exotic dishes to guests. That’s where being in a different country helped.
In eight years, I learned four different cuisines. First I was specialising in continental cuisine, then Mexican, Italian and then pan Asian cooking. That’s when I got fascinated with Japanese cuisine. After learning all about it, I came to Chennai; that was eight years ago.
Authentic Japanese food is very raw and it doesn’t suit the Indian palate. I’m sure you know about sushi; its raw fish rolled into sticky rice. But do you know how it actually tastes? Like blood! Japanese like it raw and they like the taste of blood in all their dishes. Indians cannot take it. Hence, I experiment with Japanese in such a way that our people also take a liking to it. I have introduced a lot of vegetarian options too, because I want to clear the misconception that Japanese food is just seafood. I fry or steam most of the dishes and add variety of sauces to them. Sauces play a very important role in Japanese cuisine.
When I first tasted Japanese cuisine, I first tasted wasabi sauce. It looks like an Indian sweet...so I had quite a bit and my face turned red (laughs). We play this trick with all our customers too. Another thing that fascinates me about Japanese cuisine is the Teppanyaki — live kitchen. Here we cook in front of the guests and show off our culinary skills. The first time I went for it I was nervous, but later on, it became fun and now I wait for the guests to ask for it. We do fumble and make mistakes while presenting, but guests are understanding.
While in the Middle East I have travelled a lot and had a lot of street food. I like to observe what they do and then use it in my cooking too. In Chennai, I love to gorge on Burmese food. Now that I have tried all the main cuisines, I want to master French cuisine next. Our executive chef here knows all about it and I am already learning a lot from him. Apart from that, I want to bring in some rice and noodle variation in the Japanese menu here.
To all those who want to get into this industry I would say start off in a star restaurant; it will take you to places. There were around 30 of us in the batch, but I am the only one who is still in the cooking industry because I leaped higher.
Prawns: 6 pieces
Olive oil: 1 spoon
Sake: 15 ml
Mirin: 15 ml
Soya: 10 ml
A pinch of salt
Pepper: 2 pinch
Togarashi: 15 g
Pre-heat stove to medium low
When the pan is ready, add olive oil and cook the shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes
Mix all the ingredients which are mentioned above Garnish it with fresh lemon wedges
Lobster: 350 g
Olive oil: 1 spoon
Sake: 10 ml
Pepper: 2 pinch
Oyster garlic sauce: 20 ml
Garlic butter: 1 spoon
Pre-heat the stove
to medium low
Add the lobster and cook for 5-10 minutes
Add sake, pepper, oyster garlic sauce and garlic butter
Garnish it with lime slices and scallions