9 top chefs pick dishes inspired by their travels

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When you and I travel, it’s simply to explore and return with souvenirs and memories for ourselves. When chefs travel, their souvenirs tend to be shared with the rest of us. Because the savour of a new dish tends to stimulate the chef’s creative mind. Next thing you know, it’s on a menu somewhere.

Meet nine chefs whose wanderings around the world expanded their menus.

Man of the world

Hindustantimes

Joan Roca
Dish: Eat The World at El Cellar de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
When: Over the years
Inspired from: Japan (fermented soya takoyaki), Thailand (coconut tartlet with green curry chicken and cashew nuts), Korea (kimchi with pork jowl cooked with soya), Peru (causa limeña with potato, rocoto, black olives, pepper and avocado), Turkey (lamb stew with sumac, cucumber, yoghurt and mint)

Travel memory: “When I travel, I love visiting streets and markets to understand how people eat and submerge myself into the culture of each place. Local markets make me realise how little I know about the richness of ingredients all around the world. Listening to everything said by the locals and going outside my comfort zone of knowledge evolves to inspiration for me.

This particular dish has finger-food creations that allow us to share with our guests our last journeys. We invite customers to taste and guess each of the countries in the dish that represents a walk around the globe.”

Going local

Chef Garima Arora arrived early in Manilla to explore the local cuisine; (Inset) She picked up the dish of kinilaw from Philipines

Chef Garima Arora arrived early in Manilla to explore the local cuisine; (Inset) She picked up the dish of kinilaw from Philipines

Garima Arora
Dish: Kinilaw with Koji Bread at Gaa, Bangkok
When: September, 2019
Inspired from: Manila, Philippines

Travel memory: “I hadn’t been to the Philippines in some time, so when we were invited to cook in Manila, we decided to arrive a few days ahead of our pop up to explore the markets and the local cuisine. Our morning started with a visit to the farmers’ market owned by chef Margarita’s family. She showed us local ingredients like talangka (crab fat) and a variety of vinegars. She also introduced us to a dish called kinilaw, a Philippines ceviche. In the middle of the market, chef Margarita whipped up a salad of the freshest crab meat and coconut milk we’d ever had, tossed with palm vinegar and fresh chillies. We loved it so much that for our pop up in Manila, we made a salad of talangka kinilaw and served it on khakra flat bread. Back home during the festive season at Gaa in December 2019, we featured the kinilaw on our special menu. This time we created a dish of our own: crab kinilaw paired with koji bread.”

On a taste trek

Trekking Rwanda reminded chef Suvir Saran of Kerala and sowed the germ of the idea for a (inset) mutton ghee roast

Trekking Rwanda reminded chef Suvir Saran of Kerala and sowed the germ of the idea for a (inset) mutton ghee roast

Suvir Saran
Dish: Kerala Mutton Ghee Roast at The House of Celeste, Gurgaon
When: July, 2019
Inspired from: Rwanda, East Africa

Travel memory: “I was trekking through the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Something about the terrain, the richness of the colours and textures of Rwanda, the gently rolling land, the cleanliness and the ease with which the people spoke English, all reminded me of Kerala. While trekking, my mind took me through making that ghee roast with a topping of poached egg, perfectly runny inside, but gently fried with a Parmigiano-Panko crust. It went on the menu at The House of Celeste at 32nd Avenue in Gurgaon as Kerala Mutton Ghee Roast.”

Lessons from the masters

Cooking with chefs in a resort in French Riviera inspired Kunal Kapur to introduce Kerala spiced duck tarts (inset)

Cooking with chefs in a resort in French Riviera inspired Kunal Kapur to introduce Kerala spiced duck tarts (inset)

Kunal Kapur
Dish: Kerala Duck Tarts, Raspberry Chutney, Coconut Snow
When: June, 2019
Inspired from: Nice, France

Travel memory: “My trip was not only a gastronomical delight but a unique opportunity to cook with chefs Massimo Bottura, Tom Colicchio and Graham Elliot. We were to cook together for 100 people at a resort in the French Riviera. In one of our conversations, chef Bottura talked about aged meats. Eating dry, aged meats was not new to me but I had never used them in Indian food. I started with dry aged duck. After 10 days of dry aging the duck, I slow-cooked it in its own fat with some Tellicherry pepper from Kerala and gamthi variety of curry leaves. After cooking the duck, I pulled it and tossed it in Kerala masala, then paired it with fresh raspberry chutney placed in a tart with some homemade gunpowder.”

Mouthful of Mexico

From his trip to Mexico City chef Manish Mehrotra picked up the himachi ceviche and recreated it as (inset) Tadka Himachi at Indian Accent

From his trip to Mexico City chef Manish Mehrotra picked up the himachi ceviche and recreated it as (inset) Tadka Himachi at Indian Accent

Manish Mehrotra
Dish: Tadka Hamachi, Avocado, Calcutta chutney at Indian Accent
When: November, 2019
Inspired from: Mexico City

Travel memory: “On a trip to Mexico City, I realised I have only dented the surface of this multicultural city’s implausible cuisine. I was invited to cook for a cinema-themed event called Millesime México along with chefs from around the world. We bonded well and tried a lot of local food, running the gamut from tamales to various kinds of tacos, pulque (a fermented drink from the agave plant), churros, chocolates, horchata and a lot of sea food. The himachi ceviche caught my tastebuds – it’s Mexico’s preferred fruit layered like rose petals, and topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of serrano chilli and a mist of lime. This speciality revels the sublimity of fresh, local ingredients prepared without extravagant intervention. Inspired, I created a Tadka Himachi to suit the Indian palate.”

Desert king

Chef Akira Back ate Kabsa (inset) at an associate’s home in Riyadh and included it in his restaurant menu

Chef Akira Back ate Kabsa (inset) at an associate’s home in Riyadh and included it in his restaurant menu

Akira Back
Dish: Kabsa at AB Steak
When: January, 2020
Inspired from: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Travel memory: “Saudi Arabia is rich with history, culture and cuisine. I was fortunate to eat at many different restaurants with different flavours and tastes from around the world. However, the meal that stood out was served at my associate’s home. The dish is called Kabsa, which is mixed rice and meat. The meat in our Kabsa that day was lamb, prepared in a style called mandi. This is an ancient technique where the meat is barbecued in a hole in the ground and covered as the meat cooks. The juices from the meat dripped over the rice, blending all the flavours together. I have created a similar item for my AB Steak restaurant menu.”

Takaway from Down Under

Prateek Sadhu’s trip to Byron Bay, Australia, resulted in a taco-inspired (inset) rice pancake with a Kashmiri twist

Prateek Sadhu’s trip to Byron Bay, Australia, resulted in a taco-inspired (inset) rice pancake with a Kashmiri twist

Prateek Sadhu
Dish: Rice Pancake, Jackfruit
When: Mid-April, 2019
Inspired from: Byron Bay, Australia

Travel from: “Palisa Anderson’s 107-acre Boon Luck farm in Byron Bay, Australia, is dedicated to growing delicious heirloom ranges of tropical fruits, Asian and local vegetables and herbs of all kinds. She made me try a Thai Taco that she had made for her kids. I came back inspired. We introduced a Kashmiri dish like a taco but make your own style. The taco was a rice pancake called tzir chot, a kind of cheela made with rice flour, cumin and a touch of green chillies. It gets its name from the hissing sound the batter makes when it hits the skillet. I borrowed my mother’s recipe. The czot here is served with jackfruit cooked with fennel and Kashmiri chillies. It comes with three dips: walnut and yoghurt, with dehydrated mint powder; radish; and lastly, kidney beans with mustard oil.”

From Israel, with love

A trip to Tel Aviv inspired chef Tanvir Kwatra to come up with different versions of (inset) hummus

A trip to Tel Aviv inspired chef Tanvir Kwatra to come up with different versions of (inset) hummus


Tanveer Kwatra
Dish: Dips at Andaz, Delhi
When: June, 2016
Inspired from: Tel Aviv, Israel

Travel memory: “Israel is one of my favourite countries in terms of food. I remember walking through the lanes of Carmel Market and spotting Humus Hacarmel, a former synagogue turned restaurant. On the menu are three kinds of hummus: hummus, hummus fol and masabacha, all divine. Masabacha is a warm plate of hummus topped with a spoon of tahina, a spoonful of chickpeas, chopped onion, chopped pickle and a dollop of spicy relish with a sprinkle of paprika, cumin and a generous drizzle of olive oil. I interacted with the owner and spoke about hummus at length. The hummus here is prepared with a mix of chickpeas and fava beans. After this, I improvised and made a couple of versions.”

A Malaysian makeover

From his frequent Malaysia trips chef Vinesh Johny came up with the recipe of (inset) Pandan & Coconut Ogura Tea Cake

From his frequent Malaysia trips chef Vinesh Johny came up with the recipe of (inset) Pandan & Coconut Ogura Tea Cake

Vinesh Johny
Dish: Pandan and Coconut Ogura Tea Cake at Lavonne Café, Bengaluru
When: January, 2020
Inspired from: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Travel memory: “I travel frequently to Malaysia. The food scene here is absolutely phenomenal and constantly evolving. One of the ingredients there that intrigued me was pandan leaf. I remember watching my wife Joonie’s aunt tie the leaf into a knot and drop it into the rice cooker. The resulting rice was delicately-flavoured and with the mild, sweet and nutty aroma of the pandan. I was absolutely inspired. So the next day, with some help from Joonie’s Aunt Sayee, we decided to make a Pandan & Coconut Ogura Tea Cake. The air was filled with the aroma of gorgeous pandan, while the cake was absolutely light and fluffy. I haven’t yet introduced this cake at the Lavonne Café, but it will go on the new menu soon.”

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