Freida Pinto, who lives between LA and Mumbai, speaks to us about her favourite restaurants, the food she is nostalgic about, and why she continues to crave vada pav.
What is that one food you miss from India?
Vada Pav. There is nothing to beat a fried vada when you are craving spicy comfort food. And my mom’s cooking. She makes a beautiful roast chicken curry with rice. I sometimes miss the Mangalorean seafood dishes I grew up on.
Tell us about one really memorable meal you’ve had.
In 2014, we were in Artesia, in southern California, for the pre-shoot prep for Desert Dancer. I was put on a strict diet to achieve the kind of body that dancers have. But there was this one day when I really craved good food, especially food from home. And by home I mean India. A close friend, who was with me, drove me to this Indian enclave in Artesia called Little India. It was full of Indian restaurants, and I could not believe that they were actually serving my favourite street foods: paani puri, sev puri, vada, bhelpuri…
Which is your favourite memory connected with food?
Some of my best memories are of the time I spent at my paternal grandparents’ home in Mangalore. My siblings and I stayed with them for a few years, and I still remember the fragrance of the fresh ground masalas that my grandmother made. She used to cook this fabulous potpourri, which had several ingredients in it, including fresh vegetables. We would eat it with rice pancakes. I also remember the jackfruit curry that my maternal grandmother often served with rice. My maternal grandparents were farmers, and I have fond memories of running through their paddy fields.
Which are your favourite restaurants in the US?
There are three restaurants I enjoy going to in LA. There is Jitlada, a Thai restaurant, which serves over 350 dishes, such as a beautiful coconut mango salad, spicy curries and catfish. LA has a rather eclectic dining scene, so you will find all kinds of restaurants in the city. Meals by Genet, an Ethiopian restaurant, serves delicious Injera Bread and stewed meats. If I am looking to eat Indian food, I head to Mayura. There is nothing fancy about it, but it dishes out familiar food: dosas, idlis, vadas, samosas. I like Italian food, and Seafood Risotto with Porcini tops my list, so I am always looking for new Italian restaurants in LA. In Beverley Hills, I enjoy eating at Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian steakhouse. They follow a very old tradition of cooking churrasco, in which the food is cooked really slowly. The steak you get is juicy and beautifully flavoured. The most lavish meal I have ever had was at an iftar party in Afghanistan. Years ago, I was an anchor for a show called Full Circle on Zee TV, and we were shooting in Kabul. We were invited for an Iftar meal and the food, especially the meats, blew me away.
What do you eat when you are on a diet?
Lots of grilled fish and seafood, grilled tomatoes, fresh vegetables and fruits. I don’t starve myself, but I try not to eat desserts. Though I love cake, even on a binge day I keep away from it, because it makes me feel bloated. I also eat a Triphala tablet every day; it helps boost your immunity.
Is there something you cannot resist?
I am a Mangalorean so I cannot resist fish or seafood: Butter Garlic Calamari, mackerel, fish curry, fried fish, give me fish or seafood in any form and I will eat it. And different kinds of bread and pizzas.
Do you have a sweet tooth?
I cannot resist rasmalai or dark chocolate. I also buy dark chocolates in almost every city I travel to.
What’s your favourite breakfast?
Eggs, particularly an omelette, oats, paratha, fresh juice and coffee- a simple and filling meal to start your day.
Do you cook?
Sometimes, though I am not a good cook. I feel cooking is a waste of time. In LA, I order a takeaway, or eat out. In Mumbai, my mom cooks for me and we also have a cook coming in.
Which are your favourite spices?
Definitely cardamom and bay leaf. I like the way the bay leaf smells when it is sautéed in oil.