By Bhavana Akella
New Delhi: Expect out of the ordinaire when you enter this restaurant. The chef here wears protective glasses and wields a blow torch, while gases fume through the kitchen doors. For Kolkata-born chef Gaggan Anand – whose restaurant ‘Gaggan’ in Bangkok has been ranked the best in Asia and 10th best in the world by a ratings website – “a progressive path was necessary to change the face of Indian cuisine globally”.
“I was made to be different,” Anand, 36, said in a candid email exchange with IANS from Bangkok, adding that his progressive cooking comes from his desire to change the look, feel, texture and taste of Indian food – inspired by rock and roll music and his guru, Ferran Adria at ElBulli restaurant in Spain’s Girona town.
Drawing flavours from the street food of Kolkata, Anand retains some of the popular street snacks on his menu. Chocolate pani puri, edible plastic spiced nuts, potato 2-some – crispy and liquid, Keema pao (mini burgers made with lamb curry), Bengali mustard and noori pakoda find a place among the street food inspirations.
“I had the idea to open up a restaurant on Indian food made in a progressive way, but it took me two years to believe that my idea could be made possible,” Anand exclaimed, adding that his culinary journey was never planned but he had merely followed what had come his way.
Serving food with techniques of molecular gastronomy (application of scientific methods for food development), Gaggan has since 2010 been revolutionizing the way Indian food is crafted.
The techniques range from the use of liquid nitrogen (for instantly freezing substances), sous vide (a technique where meats or other substances are vaccum sealed in a packet and immersed in a hot water bath to ensure slow cooking), use of maltodextrin to convert oils into powdered form – these are some of the key techniques of molecular gastronomy.
“I would not say that all Indian food tastes better in this progressive way. But we keep researching to make the food not just about technique. If you try the 23 courses that we make, it can be seen that each one is a different technique and applicaiton, adding to a different texture,” Anand said, adding that a research space is a very important component of his kitchen to keep innovating.
The restaurant also allows the customers to choose to be seated at the ‘chef’s table’, which has a see-through glass offering a view into the kitchen. The dishes, with the fuming liquid nitrogen or smoked meats, add to the theatrics. The menu also allows a ‘Taste of Gaggan’ or the ‘Best of Gaggan’, each consisting of over 10 courses.
Asked why he opened a restaurant in the Thai capital but not anywhere in India, he said: “I was already settled in Bangkok, but in India we are planning a restaurant too; when and where..we’ll hold that as a surprise.”
Gaggan is located at 68/1 Soi Langsuan in Bangkok. (It has been rated by www.theworld’s50best.com)
10 course Taste of Gaggan would cost 2,500 bahts (over Rs.4,500) per head (without alcohol)