When he started his internship at El Bulli, Anand was the second Asian and the first Indian to do so—and interestingly, the very first dish he created that made critics sit up and take note is inspired by Adria’s signature dish at El Bulli: spherified olives. Spherification is a technique to make spheres from the juice of a fruit or vegetable using edible gels and other chemicals. Anand applied this technique to papdi chaat. The spherified ball of dahi and tamarind atop a papdi wafer was his game-changer, and no matter how many other restaurants may now be serving versions of it, it remains the one dish he will not take off his menu. Other offerings run from goat brain foie gras to a truffle-infused sabudana kheer, from a gleaming sugarball filled with gajar ka halwa to his latest, a playful plate of oysters on the half shell, topped with kokum ice-cream. That’s right, kokum ice-cream.
Divine, a Gaggan speciality
Of his No. 3 ranking, Anand says it’s like winning the Oscars of cooking or like winning an Olympic medal. But how far Gaggan has come in just three years is what he’s really proud of—and compares that to winning the World Cup. Which gives you a clue as to where his sporting priorities—fostered in his growing years—lie: it’s Calcutta he grew up in before moving to Bangkok in 2007 and starting the restaurant in 2011. But, by his own admission, his biggest challenge is still to come—he will open his first restaurant in India by the end of this year. He promises that it will be a game-changer, that it will not be another Gaggan, that it will be something entirely new. “I will either die by it or emerge a hero,” he says. He feels the time is right, and is excited by the new directions some chefs are taking Indian food. Now, more than ever, he’s determined to conquer his own turf. Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent (also placed high on the best Asian restaurants list) calls Anand a rebel who is determined to introduce Indian fine dining to a global audience. “He’s breaking down the old traditions while not disrespecting them and that is necessary to take Indian food to the world,” says Mehrotra.
Anand also plans to give the Gaggan treatment to Indian dishes not seen in haute cuisine. He has made six trips to India last year. One way or another, for the culinary Captain Kirk, the mothership is clearly calling him home.
Photograph by Willem Deenik
The Gaggan ‘BONG Connection’
While making at home follow these steps...
Inspiration Combining the flavours of fish pathuri and Bengali fried fish (hence the crumbs) with kasundi.
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