Dia Mirza has just made her television debut with ‘Ganga – The Soul of India’, on Living Foodz. The show will see her following the Ganga from Gomukh to the Bay of Bengal. In an interview with the Indian Express, she talks about her mom’s cooking, the sublime food she had in North India, while shooting for her show, and how she keeps fit.
How much of a food lover are you? Is it just sustenance, or are you really serious about the food you eat?
Really, really serious. I started cooking when I was growing up in Hyderabad, and I was already pretty decent when I was around seven years old. When I eventually moved to Mumbai and started living on my own, I really came into my own as a cook. I can make a mean Kachchi Biryani, and sometimes I bake it, too. Not surprisingly my husband Sahil (Sangha), too, is as much into food as I am. He is always reading recipes, and collecting them. Who says opposites attract?
What’s the best food your mom cooked?
Classic Hyderabadi stuff — Khatti Dal, Nihari — and Spaghetti Bolognese. The best thing is when she first met my father, she told him she couldn’t cook at all.
What’s your comfort food?
Give me rice, dal and some aachar any day, or a Spaghetti Bolognese.
What kind of foodie discoveries did you make while shooting for Ganga — The Soul of India?
Simply, too many, and amazing ones at that. You would too, if you started in the Himalayas and followed the Ganga all the way to the Bay of Bengal. Among the culinary high points of the journey was some sublime vegetarian food in Punjab and Uttarakhand. I especially loved the Aloo Gobi — up there everything tastes so different, and the textures, too, are nothing like we find in the vegetables we buy in our cities. The farther away you are from urban India, the more clarity you get about the social role food — real food — plays in our lives.
What’s your diet like? And how do you manage when you are on a shoot?
I usually carry a dabba when I am shooting, but it really depends on what kind of day it is. Usually, my day starts with some warm water and a cup of tea without sugar. Breakfast is mostly oats and fruits such as papaya. Lunch is a few chapattis, dal, egg whites, and it is followed by some green tea. If I feel hungry around late afternoon, I have some dry fruits. My evening snack is stuff like an open-faced avocado sandwich with multigrain bread. I don’t have any complex carbohydrates post 7, so dinner is usually salads, protein in the form of grills and some more green tea. I stay away from all kinds of processed food.
Do you have a sweet tooth?
I have 32 sweet teeth. I love everything from chocolates of all kinds to panna cotta to Khubhani ka Meetha and Double ka Meetha. I usually have sweets on weekends, my cheat-days, when I eat whatever I feel like eating.
Which is your favourite regional cuisine?
I’ve grown up eating Hyderabadi food, so that obviously is close to my heart, but, at the same time, I’ve sampled various coastal cuisines — Oriya, Malabar, Maharashtrian — and love all them equally. With a country as big and diverse as India, it is tough to pick a favourite.
Which eateries do you frequent when you travel abroad?
Each time we go abroad, Sahil and I spend days looking at exciting new restaurants to go to. In New York, we love the Fig & Olive. In London, our favourite is still Hakkasan.
What will we find in your refrigerator?
Fresh veggies, fruits, lots of eggs, cheese, yogurt, and dark chocolate.
Which is your favourite spice?
Can I make it a blend of spices? So, garam masala.