“The kitchen is like a playground for those who love to cook”: chef Saransh Goila
Chef Saransh Goila is making his culinary footprints across the country, one food initiative at a time. From opening the popular ‘Goila Butter Chicken’ restaurant in various cities, to writing the gastronomic travel story India on my board To leave everyone in awe of his interesting cooking videos on social media accounts, Goila is the young Indian chef to watch.
Currently presents the gastronomic show of Zee Zest, Grand Tronc Rasoi Season 2, the chef will take viewers on an epicurean expedition and share culinary anecdotes, anecdotes and recipes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, he spoke about regional cuisines, interesting culinary anecdotes, culinary experiences, the food industry and more.
How was the experience of traveling to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh during the show from a culinary perspective?
Grand Tronc Rasoi Season 2 has made pride of place in my heart as it maps the Grand Trunk route from Afghanistan to Pakistan, via India and Bangladesh. Since my maternal grandfather is from Sindh, it gave me a reason to pick up on the flavors and the stories, to learn more about the cultures and how people and food went through this. road. I learned a lot as a chef. I did not know all the recipes. Usually when you do a recipe show you know it all from scratch. It was a way for me to learn about different cultures, history and new recipes that I had never cooked before. It’s different from a recipe show because it involves a lot of research and travel.
What is the strangest food fact that you discovered on this trip?
One of the strangest things I have learned is how the ingredients got to India and then returned to Afghanistan. In addition, recipes that were previously simpler have become totally unique thanks to this trade route. There is this dish in Afghanistan that has dumplings in it and a lot of it is because of this trade. I had imagined Afghan and Pakistani cuisines in a way. But then when you really go into it, you realize that the little things have huge differences. In Bangladesh, they manufacture tehri biryani. Their chicken biryani is tehri and that’s the only way they make biryani and are proud of it. In India, there is debate about vegetarian and non-vegetarian biryani. While in Bangladesh it is the most acceptable truth that their biryani is actually the only biryani.
There is something called purdah biryani in Pakistan where you wrap the biryani on all sides with the dough which makes it very intriguing and difficult to do. It was very fascinating. It’s exciting because it makes you want to cook again. It really opens your eyes and reminds you that what you think about food may not be the truth as soon as you cross the border. Historically, there was a lot to be learned from the eyes of food and cooking. As a child, I thought the dried fruits were Indian but I learned that they came from Afghanistan.
A dish from each of these four countries that you must taste.
From Afghanistan, you have to try to shiver which is basically a dumpling made the Afghan way and served with yogurt. From Pakistan, I would choose Purdah chicken biryani and Lahori kadhai. From India the closest to my heart would be dal pakwaan. From Bangladesh there is this recipe called do I maach which is a mixture of two fish.
From writing a gastronomic travel diary to hosting a gastronomic program, what piques your interest in discovering regional cuisines?
I love to meet new people and learn on the job. I like to learn the culture of another city, town or country. On the show, we have a segment where we interact with a local in the cities we go to. We did a lot of research online and found chefs, historians, bloggers, and kitchen keepers in these places. We found at least one person who could give us a local flavor or touch so that we could look at the recipe or the city from a local person’s perspective. They were able to add value to the facts by correcting us and making us much more aware. This is why I love to travel. My ankle for traveling is making new friends. Before this show, I didn’t know anyone in these three countries. It helped me connect with at least 3-4 people in these countries who shared common interests in food and culture.
How do you think regional cuisines can find a place in traditional restaurants?
When someone goes to a restaurant as a consumer, they are looking for an experience, a story. You want to go away and have a good time. Often regional cuisines and dishes are presented in a very boring way. By presentation, I do not mean the presentation of food. As soon as people start to think of regional cuisines, they think it’s old world. They are also starting to present it and market it like that. I have the impression that this is where there is a discrepancy. You have to look at these recipes and cuisines from the perspective of the world we live in today, where you revive those recipes but present and market them in today’s fashion.
If I have to serve purdah Pakistani biryani or a classic thandai of Banaras in my restaurant, it needs to be presented in a cool and approachable way. It is this bridge that must be built. So that it is not a battle to revive these recipes, but so that they fit naturally into today’s culinary scene. It’s more of a marketing perspective than a recipe perspective. The recipe is quite tasty for a dinner party, but what sometimes doesn’t get them excited is the way we approach them. Some chefs and restaurants have already started to understand this and others will gradually follow.
From papad pasta to papad lasagna, your Instagram feed is about your dining experiences. Tell us more.
I think many are sitting at home during the lockdown and going crazy. I really feel that the kitchen is like a playground for a chef or people who love to cook. I had a lot of daddy leftovers in my drawer. I realized he would spoil himself if he stayed there for months. I asked myself, what can I do with this? This is something that is very important for a chef to ask. I have been eating papad ki sabzi since I was a child. So, I experimented and found these dishes. Sometimes experiments work wonders, sometimes they fail. In this case, I was lucky. When I ate it I realized it was working perfectly and I knew I was going to do it again. I think it’s mostly about not being bound by conventional notions of how certain things should be done. You must be open to experimentation.
What was your favorite containment experience?
I think papad pasta is my favorite locking experience. From trying to finish a package of papad in my house to now having dozens of such packages has become my most loved and precious ingredient. I actually want to go to some old school papad making stores where I can go talk to people who make papad. I really want to know why papad is so important to us and what people love about it. It is also gluten free, which makes it a great food.
What was the impact of the containment linked to Covid-19 on the agri-food industry?
I think it has been a very difficult time for the food industry. I know a lot of chefs who have lost their jobs and their restaurants. We would certainly have liked more government support for the hospitality industry. Many of us have worked online. The industry is still very stressed and has taken a few years back, to say the least, financially and in terms of resources. It is not the most rosy period and it has been very demotivating for the whole sector. I really hope someone realizes that the area needs to be saved. Otherwise, we are seeing the slow death of legendary restaurants and places that you don’t want to see since India is all about the food.
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