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'My first fusion food'
`When I started, fusion was equated with confusion' Manish Mehrotra | 42 | Indian Accent chef
The first fusion food I created was Meetha Achar Pork Ribs in London, during my early trials of what I call `Inventive In dian' cuisine. I had been trained as a Pan-Asian chef and was comfortable with flavours like sweet and chilli. I took up pork ribs (not lamb which has a stronger flavour) and tried cooking it in different ways: marinating and roasting it, boiling it, steaming it -but the smell of pork fat lingered. It put us off. In India we're very conscious of the way our meats are cut -we instruct the butcher on how to clean it in specific ways. That's when I thought of braising it in coconut milk in a slow oven. That did the trick.
Then my thoughts fell on achar. And I had some meetha Gujarati chunda with me in London at the time. I applied it to the ribs and they were an instant hit. Later, other chefs replicated the recipe on chicken and lamb. But I started with pork and stuck with pork. When I started out eight years ago, `fusion' was a bad word, equated with `confusion'. But my rule was to never mix ingredients without reason.There had to be a logic and story to the fusion. My ploy was to look to nostalgia, to what I was accustomed to in my childhood.
When I was about to open Indian Accent in India, people said I was nuts. “You're opening an Indian restaurant, that too in Delhi, without chicken tikka on the menu!“ they said.In fact, in the early days people actually came in, read the menu and walked out. They couldn't understand it. “You don't have biryani and dal tadka?“ they asked. In fact, the first time a renowned personality, and a traditionalist as far as food went, tried the food, he said the place ought to be called Indian Accident, not Indian Accent. It was a trying time, but we stuck to our guns.
As told to Joeanna Rebello Fernandes