On February 29, chef Gaggan Anand’s Gaggan, in Bangkok, was crowned number 1 in the S Pellegrino and Acqua Panna’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list — for the second year running. The 37-year-old molecular gastronomy genius celebrated by rolling out a spread for his competitors and compatriots.
“I turned into a beast. I think 96 bottles of wine were opened. I made chicken tikka masala with naan and Kerala crab curry with rice, and made almost 300 people eat with their hands. I was so high on food.”
Anand, who likens hunger to lust, says that his culinary and dining decisions have always been impulsive.
“If I really love the food at a restaurant, I’ll book tickets and fly out to eat at the restaurant.”
In an interview with the Indian Express, Anand talks about, among other thing, why the Indian palate has a long way to go before it can be termed evolved, and what he cooks for his staff in Bangkok.
Tell us about something fantastic you have eaten lately.
I recently went to a tofu restaurant in Fukuoka, in Japan. The whole menu is based on tofu – of course, there’s beef and duck with tofu, but yeah, this is where I had the best meal recently. I’m not going to tell you the name of the restaurant, because I don’t want Indians showing up there asking for vegetarian and Jain food.
Don’t you think that the Indian palate is more evolved than that?
No. I’ve opened a restaurant called Meatlicious (in Bangkok) and guess who shows up and asks why I don’t have a vegetarian menu? An Indian. Meatlicious stands for meat: what did he expect?
Is there a type of food that puts you off?
Broccoli — I hate it. It started because when I had it first in India back in ’98-’99, it smelt like fart. It was being grown in a dump yard, and I could actually taste the nitrogen in the soil in the broccoli.
What is your earliest memory of food?
If there’s a reference to Kolkata, I’ll have to ask – what’s your all time favourite dessert?
Rasgulla with nolen gur during winters in Kolkata. No macaron, nothing beats this.
What did you eat at home when you were growing up in India?
My mum would make dal and chawal. I’d eat it with achar. No makhan, no ghee, it would be very simple.
What’s comfort food now in Bangkok?
Anything with noodles in it. Ramen, pasta…
What would a staff meal at Gaggan include?
We’re a group of 18-19 and eight nationalities in all. So, today’s it Peruvian, tomorrow Italian, the day after Thai. It’s very vibrant. Next week, we’re going to have a sandwich competition among my staff and we’ve split them into nine teams – there’s an Indian paired with a Peruvian, a Thai chef with an Italian and a vegetarian Indian chef with a Colombian and so on.
Sounds like great fun. What do you normally cook for your staff?
I cook if I’m in town and let the guys know in advance that I’d be cooking. They always ask for pasta, but I like to mix it up. I don’t like routine, so I’d make a spicy Thai crab curry with rice and noodles.
Who do you go eating out with?
My wife is my biggest foodie friend. Food is what drew us together. That’s our connection. She’s Thai. When she was in India, she sent me photos of papdi chaat and jamuns, and asked me to identify what they were. She loves medu vadas – she can eat 10 of them at one go. When we were in Kerala in the backwaters, she ate all the beans thoran and there was nothing left for me.
What do you snack on?
Oh, I’m a professional muncher. I get hungry at 1am even if I’ve had a 10-course meal. The cupboard in my bedroom is full of goodies: samosas, nachos, wasabi nuts, chakna, churan.
What’s in your fridge at home?
Pickles – Indian, Thai and Japanese. There are a whole lot of Japanese ingredients, frozen food – frozen naans are a must – and sauces.