Fishing nets and coconut trees, colourful people and terrific tales, spectacular spices and multi-dimensional cuisines. Celebrity chef Vikas Khanna has been savouring every bit of this appetising coastal cocktail in season three of Twist of Taste on Fox Traveller. In the latest edition, he is gung ho on exploring dishes beyond the usual fare. “I personally love to work on shows that revolve around well-defined themes, like in this case, its coastal curries. Themes, according to me, hold a stronger recollection value,” says Vikas Khanna.
For the show, Vikas Khanna visits the many places along the coast — sandy beaches of Udvada, Ratnagiri, Goa, Mangalore, Udupi, Manipal, Kochi and Pondicherry — where he meets and greets local people, shares their grub and then comes back to his kitchen and cooks up his version with a twist. Home cooks, chefs, farmers, fishermen, bakers, merchants, restaurateurs and chocolatiers share not only their food with him, but expose him to their traditions and the story of their life. “These riveting accounts, secrets behind timeless recipes, little anecdotes…all this inspires me to cook, and in a way, pay their dish my tribute by giving it my own signature twist,” says Khanna. He’s applied his ‘twist technique’ while cooking up signature dishes of Caramelised Cucumber Cake to Shrimp Poha Biryani to Udupi Sambar Jar Cakes. Even traditional delicacies like ghee roast, duck roast, dry prawn curries, and puran poli have been revamped.
But it’s not just twist and mix. Vikas Khanna has a strict rule while experimenting — “that the dish remains simple. Too much fusion only leads to confusion, and the idea here is to connect with the auntyjis and mummyjis. I like to toss dishes that even my mother can replicate easily in the kitchen. This is my audience base —they have made me what I’m today — and I can’t alienate them,” he says. The aim is also to motivate younger generation to tune in. “I believe in aspirational cooking, one that inspires you to indulge too, and not just presenting dal makhani on national television,” he adds.
His style of easy conversation as he goes looking for and then recreating the grub, adds a nice touch to the show. He likes to share his travels with the audience — whether it is the journey to Kerala in search of the kingfish or to Kochi port where he savoured the best fish caught and cooked in what he calls “the best open restaurant he’s been to near the sea”, or to his alma mater, in Manipal, the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, where he failed in the second year and was later honoured with a lifetime achievement award.
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His favourite episode in the series is the one where he meets a woman who makes the best poha and sells packets of it daily. “We all know poha is flattened rice, but I was curious to know how she does it. I wanted to know the technique, and was humbled when I saw her pounding the rice with her hands. It was such a heart warming episode,” says Khanna, who then returned to his kitchen and made a shrimp biryani of poha. He’s so taken in with the stunning coastal landscape and foodscape that Khanna has decided to come out with a cookbook on coastal curries and cuisine. In the meantime, Khanna will be touring with two of his latest books, Return to the Rivers and Bliss of Spices in February and March.