Recently, a friend and I argued about Gaggan Anand’s take on Indian modernist cuisine.
His argument was (the way I heard it) food should be how it was 100 years ago and all this experimenting with science, flavours and textures are not “original”. There are many people who have a problem with Gaggan Anand’s original dishes which have been inspired by food back home.
The fusion of methods is what irks people (people who I have discussed it with), apart from the fact that he went all the way to Bangkok to set up his restaurant. To me, Gaggan Anand is clearly one of the best Indian chefs there is. Not only did he expand the horizons for Indian cuisine and put it on the global cuisine map, but he definitely thought outside the box. He challenged every flavour component of the cuisine to elevate it to a whole new level. Yoghurt explosion- We have all had it, tasted it and relished it. But to plate it like that- so futuristic, so modern- is just…brilliant!
This argument arose when we were talking about Francis Mallmann and his philosophy of cooking. And with Indian cuisine being one of the most homely, yet diverse and complex one there is, we digressed to discuss Gaggan Anand’s take on “home food”.
If you compare the artistic creativity between a modernist chef and someone who sticks to traditional cooking- well you can’t compare them, can you? Traditional cooking relates to comfort whereas modernist cuisine brings out the adventurous side.
Willie Dufrene is another one of those chefs. His dedication to study something as unknown as meat-glue and to make it a culinary necessity is legendary. Andoni Luis Aduriz and his two-year egg research is another example. Similarly, I think Gaggan Anand is extraordinary for venturing into an undiscovered territory- Indian cuisine in the modernist cuisine world. And in all fairness, he serves naan and curry too!
My point is, what one calls comfort food might be exotic to someone else and what is modernist/trendy to some, might be comfort food for the other. But, when judging one’s food I think we should take a minute to understand their hardship, passion and dedication. I revere Gaggan Anand for his passion most.
And of course, Francis Mallmann is the king of comfort food. Forests, charred meat, good wine, poetry and cooking food for a long time in an open fire, he gets it!
Inspired by Mallmann’s salmon cooked in sea salt, I made this:
I used local parrot fish, stuffed it with mint and coriander, jalapenos, pepper and lemon juice.
This went on a aioli made fresh and was garnished with pickled onions and jalapenos.
There was salt everywhere! Not as smooth as Mallmann’s “comfort food” salmon, but delicious and unique for my palate.