Chef Gary Mehigan was recently in New Delhi to host a delicious menu. Being at his charismatic best, the celebrated chef talked us through south Australian cuisine and gave us a sneak peek into some of his favourite dining experiences across the world.
He also shed light on what he loves about India and its food in a tête-à-tête with indianexpress.com.
If you had to define a quintessential South Australian meal what would it be?
Australians love crunchy, sweet and sour meat, and if you combine those things together, it will sum up to be the best meal. It can be south-east Asian, Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, so it’s hard to define what is a quintessential Australian meal. Once upon a time, people used to think Australian food is a lamb and three veggies on the side, and it’s not!
Tell us something about Australia’s experiments with indigenous and native ingredients over the years.
Australia has gone through an interesting phase with indigenous and native ingredients. The first time it was introduced, it was used really poorly by lots of chefs wherein, they used them in a way where it never belonged. But that is maybe, 20 odd years ago. Now, when it has emerged, it seems something more natural, textual and we have much greater understanding of how these flavours work with modern Australian flavours.
What is your favourite dish?
If I stick to one thing, I get bored really quickly, so I like to eat everything. When people ask, ‘Do you love Indian food?’, I say, ‘Yes I do’, but I don’t want to eat it every day. So when I come to India, I eat it every day until I go, but then it’s enough.
However, I still hold on to the fact that you can’t go past roast chicken. Like a really simple roast chicken, it’s something that always reminds me of a family who shares a table. Something that is served in summers with salads and fresh greens or in the winter with traditional vegetables.
What’s your all-time favourite Indian food?
At the moment, there is this obsession with tandoor and my all time favourite is south Indian cuisine. Especially, the breads – idli, dosa, uttapam – and all of these things. But this year, someone cooked me chole and kulcha that I had for breakfast one day and the fact that they use black pea in chole was really amazing.
One thing that you can’t do without in a kitchen?
A sharp knife. It drives me insane. My mother has 30 knives, but none of them are sharp enough.
One food trend that should die in 2018?
Giant-size dessert. People think those monster chocolate things are delicious.
One food trend that should stay?
Simplicity in food. And also, I think the rediscovery of indigenous local Indian cuisine is fascinating and should catch more momentum.
One person, you would love to cook for?
I think it would be a bunch of people sitting around a table and having some energetic conversation. Maybe, late American comedian George Carlin, Billy Collins or also, maybe Narendra Modi sitting around the same table and a couple of top chefs – it would be quite interesting and challenging as well.