Gary Mehigan’s Indian Food Trail | Verve Magazine
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Wine & Dine
September 22, 2016

Gary Mehigan’s Indian Food Trail

Text by Wyanet Vaz

“I am just fascinated with dosa!” MasterChef Australia’s Gary Mehigan pins down his favourite Indian indulgences…

The display picture on his Facebook page is actually a platter of pani puris and Indian spices. And as you scroll through the comments you’ll find enthusiastic fans giving Gary Mehigan quick notes on the chaat corridors in India. If ever in doubt, he just needs to look this up!
On meeting with the much-loved judge from the long-running Masterchef Australia (for the CEO Series in India), we got him to map out the best Indian dishes, desserts and restaurants. From dals in the north to dosas in the south, hop onto Gary Mehigan’s gourmet guide…

On incredible India… “There is no such thing as Indian cuisine. Indian food, regardless of where you are (unlike French cuisine which is very subtle, often understated and very refined) is completely different. It’s like an assortment in your palate, and that’s why it is so addictive. I love the riot of colour, flavour and texture.”

Your food map… “I love Mumbai’s street food like pav bhaji, sev puri and pani puri. South-Indian rice preparations like idlis, dosas and appams are a great exercise in fermenting batters and creating something really different. On my list are also some of Kerala’s fish curries with spices and chillies. The curd curry in Rajasthan is a must-try, and I enjoy the strong flavour of asafetida. I also tried Goan sausages, which were delicious. Going up north, I love the unusual spices, dals and the use of the tandoor. They are particularly Indian but induce a flavour you can’t get anywhere else.”

Ingredients you love working with… “When I visited India for the first time, I took home a lot of herbs and spices. I am growing chillies and curry leaves in my garden (and I worry every time they shed their leaves, praying that they come back to life!). I use a lot of those in my cooking, including mustard oil. I have a big spice collection, and it’s something I would’ve probably never had before.”

A video posted by Gary Mehigan (@garymehigan) on

You cannot leave India without… “Trying out paneer masala, or dosa with the potato filling. I love the thali. Because as a foreigner you get to sample little dishes, especially the puri bread in the middle — they puff up and are so fascinating. And you need to eat with your fingers, which is wonderful.”

Current obsession… “I am just fascinated with dosa! I have seen chefs try so many things with this simple preparation — sometimes they use it like tacos, putting funky things on and with different fillings. Like Chef Manish Mehrotra from Indian Accent treated it with blue cheese, and at first I felt that it’s just not right. But once you eat it, you know it’s totally right!”

On your bucket-list… “I want to ride an Enfield from the south all the way to the Himalayas. I read that the North-East of India is drop dead gorgeous, so that is on my list too.”

Favourite food spots… “Indian Accent, Manu Chandra’s Toast & Tonic — which is a concept based restaurant. It is fun to see Indian chef’s moving in that direction. I recommend a lot of street food.”

Memories you’ve bookmarked… “India has given me little food experiences like the one time we rode for 2 hours in Bangalore, only to get to the tamarind trees. We pulled fresh tamarind., broke it open and ate the pulp. That’s a beautiful food moment for me because in Australia, England or America most people have tamarind from a jar, and you never really see it on a tree.”

Your sweet tooth craves… “Jalebis. Desserts in India are really very sweet, But I like rabri, and saffron milk puddings with nuts. Gulab jamuns — only when are really beautifully cooked, and are light and fluffy. But I can’t have too many of them!”

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