A good reason for me to move from hotels to restaurants was to discover what Punjab was all about and to clear off dust settled on the real food of Punjab. Being born and brought up in the land of five rivers hadn’t done much justice to the knowledge I had about my own state. I still needed to explore more, read more, travel and understand hows and whys of everything. I was going to start from the very beginning – year 1162, birth of Temujin (Genghis Khan), the first great Khan of Mongol Empire.
Somewhere on a comfortable journey of my hotel life, Punjab Grill had happened and I made a switch to the restaurant. Everything within me had screamed to go ahead. My journey of being a Chef – leading any cuisine that comes my way, was making another turn. It was like the same turn a motorcycle makes on the curving of a road. Check speed, check gear, check rear view, check the road ahead, lean and throttle. I leaned on my motorcycle and throttled away to the next destination – my home cuisine.
It has been one year since and I have a few restaurants to look after. I put my recipes in just two of them. This was the food I was raised on – at home, in school, in college, in canteens and in local restaurants.
Leaving college, when I had stepped out of Punjab, I would look for my home food. Food that I used to eat everyday. I would go out to restaurants, check their menu and order anything that would look familiar. Rest of the food was all alien. I would pass it off as some other region’s cuisine. I was yet to understand that such food had already been termed as North-Indian food – the food of Punjab. Everywhere I dined, I would eat food without ever thinking that in future I would need to struggle my way through the restaurant industry to get simple recipes of Punjab’s food back! I had never imagined such a day. Every restaurant selling North-Indian food had a typical menu. Same food, same recipes, same portion size and same gravies. The future was certainly going to be windy, stormy, difficult, yet very educative.
Cooks in the kitchen have some basic gravies or preparations done and stored in their refrigerators – Makhani Gravy, White Gravy, Yellow Gravy, Spinach puree and Onion-Tomato Masala. Any food going out of the kitchen has one of these or more mixed into it. Talking about a full cuisine of a region, or more narrowly – Punjab, restaurateurs have managed to squeeze it all into 5 basic pre-mixes. I do not agree. There is certainly more to the food of Punjab. And I am here to uncover it all.