My tongue! My taste for food – I have loved food since I was a child. I guess you could say I followed doing what I loved – and have been lucky enough to make a career out of it.
It was an integral part of my early life. I have always loved food, my mother and grandma great cooks so I grew up around that and their passion for flavour and delicious food.
The ginger and tamarind chutney that we serve with our squid dish is in fact a childhood recipe. We also serve a sambar with the marsala dosa that is a traditional dish taken from my mother.
From day one, the Abhi’s menu was very different from the normal run-of-the-mill Indian restaurant. It was recognised as being revolutionary in the sense that it was so unlike the kind of Indian food around at the time – we had no samosas or the heavy kinds of dishes usually associated with Indian restaurants.
Over the years, Abhi’s has grown and developed like a child, from infantry, toddler, and teen stages, and now proudly celebrating its 20th year. Abhi’s has changed with time, style, technology, decor, presentation and styling of food and service standards. As we have gained such a loyal following, our customers do not hesitate to try new things from the menu, which in turn has given me a greater license to introduce them to more bold and interesting flavours.
No, not at all! The restaurants are quite different concepts so impossible to compare - just like my sons!
5. After twenty years in the business, have you noticed a shift in people’s palates for Indian cuisine or how they view dining out?
Definitely – people are now beginning to see that Indian can be a fine dining food rather than just a takeaway food. When I first began, there was a distinct lack of availability of ingredients, lack of variety of ingredients, lack of professionalism and professional Indian chefs. The cuisine was very basic and amateurish. As a result, it was regarded very much as a takeaway food rather than a fine cuisine to be enjoyed in a restaurant.
When Abhi’s opened, it was always a risk to introduce flavours and new dishes from different parts of India that had not been done before, but people accepted and enjoyed it to the extent that it gave me a challenge to keep research into the depth of Indian cuisine. This progressive process of education of Indian cuisine is validated by Abhi’s existence for 20 years.
It was great – I was so honoured that I was given the opportunity to appear. It was exciting to expose my food to a such a wide audience, and to show that Indian food can be a gourmet cuisine.
I am often seeing my restaurants pop up on these blogs! I fully support food bloggers, it really shows the popularity of food and dining these days as an entertainment activity, and I think it is wonderful that people dedicate so much of their leisure time to it. I am constantly impressed by the standard of writing and photos on these blogs also – it goes to show you do not have to be a trained chef to impart worthwhile knowledge on food.
Kumar Mahadevan in the kitchen at Abhi's in 1990, when it first opened
8. Do you have a favourite spice?
I love using fennel and green cardamom.
9. What's your advice for people looking to become a chef or start their own restaurant?
Understand your own strengths, and also the market you are entering into – this is essential. Do some research, isolate your point of difference, and go forward from there.
10. And finally, many people are intimidated about cooking Indian food at home without using pre-packaged spices or sauces. What’s a simple recipe or dish people can create at home?
You definitely don’t need to use packet foods – this dulls the flavour of the cuisine and the spices. Indian recipes can be surprisingly simple. For example, my fish curry is very straightforward and a great one for winter.
Goan Fish Curry
800g fish steaks eg. sand whiting
200g fresh grated coconut
8 dried kashmiri chillies
1 tbls whole coriander seeds
6 cloves garlic
Half inch piece of ginger
1 tsp peppercorn
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
I small onion, sliced
4 green chillies, slit
5 small wedges of kokum or 1 tablespoon tamarind power
- Rub the salt on the fish and keep aside for at least an hour.
- Make a fine, smooth paste of the following ingredients with water: grated coconut, chillies, coriander seeds, ginger, garlic, peppercorns, cumin seeds and turmeric powder.
- Combine the marsala paste with two tablespoons of oil and boil for 10 minutes over medium heat, while stirring frequently. Add sliced onions and then the required amount of water until it comes to the boil. Add the fish steaks and simmer until cooked.
- Add the slit green chillies, wedges of kokum or tamarind powder and salt.
- Cook gently for a few minutes until done.
All you have to do is fulfil the requirements below:
- Leave a comment on this post and tell us: What's your favourite Indian dish? Or which dish at Aki's would you most like to try? Check out the Aki's post for details on some of the dishes available.
- And then send an email to email@example.com with the subject heading "Aki's" and include your full name and a copy of your published comment from this post.
The Aki's competition closes on Sunday 18 July 2010 at 5.30pm AEST. The winner will be announced on Grab Your Fork on Monday 19 July 2010.
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7/02/2010 12:59:00 a.m.