Dubai is rapidly becoming a testing ground for innovative Indian cuisine. We speak to the mastermind behind Farzi Cafe, a name that you might already be familiar with…
Jiggs Kalra might be known as the “Czar of Indian cuisine”, but it’s his son, Zorawar, who is on a mission to bring contemporary, fun Indian tastes to the world. Director and Founder of Massive Restaurants Group, Zorawar Kalra is the name behind the enduringly-popular City Walk haunt, Farzi Cafe.
While Kalra Sr might be a renowned TV star, food columnist and author, Zorawar is following in his footsteps, replacing Sanjeev Kapoor as a MasterChef India judge. He’s also following in his footsteps in providing innovative, tasty twists on traditional Indian dishes.
The Great Food Club grabbed five minutes with Zorawar…
What do you admire about Indian food?
Indian cuisine represents more than 5000 years of history. It is one of the oldest known culinary traditions in the world. We take immense pride in the cuisine of our native land. It is the robustness of Indian food, encompassing an array of native regional and sub-regional cuisines, that holds a place of pride for Indians, and in the imagination of the world.
Could you describe your grandmother’s cooking?
Like most Indian households, ours was no different. We grew up on normal home cooking from our mother and grandmother.
There were days when they would collaborate to prepare a lavish spread for the family, which comprised dishes that were passed down through the generations.
My grandmother’s cooking was inspired by the regional, pre-partition culture that she grew up in, with flavours inspired by the erstwhile Kingdom of Punjab, with fresh produce from its vast agricultural landscape.
The mutton beliram she prepared was one such dish, one she learnt from our ancestors, perfected over time, and a dish I always used to look forward to her making. It is hard to explain its flavours, but suffice to say it is one of the best dishes I have ever had in my life, reminiscent of childhood memories.
What makes Indian cuisine so different from other cuisines?
Indian cuisine has developed over centuries, impacted and influenced by various cultural interactions through trade relations, and more importantly as an effect of numerous foreign invasions and colonisations by the Mongols, Mughals, British, Portuguese and Spanish regimes, among others.
This has resulted in the culinary influence in, and diversity of, regional cuisines and flavours found in modern Indian food. Sadly, (and unlike some other cuisines of similar lineage), the recipes of Indian dishes were never recorded in ancient times, which lead to losing many gems.
Having said that, many recipes have passed down from one generation to the next, creating various regional versions prevalent even today.
Indian food has held the imagination of the world since its commercial proliferation in the past 80 years or so. No other cuisine has such a legacy spanning the vast geographic landscape as that of India, using complex techniques and numerous domestic spices.
Let’s not forget, in its own right, a ‘modern’ technique such as molecular gastronomy was found being used in dishes such as Daulat ki chaat or makkan malai centuries ago – and using nature to prepare it. That, I feel, is what makes Indian cuisine so unique.
For reservations, call 04 394 2556.