Foodistan took me on a culinary tour of India and Pakistan
I feel very privileged to have travelled all over the world in the name of food. The “language” of food is universal. Every part of the world has a food culture and the amazing thing is that as rule it transcends politics and religion and is therefore a language one can speak freely.
My most recent foody journey was to Delhi to film Foodistan, a competition between India and Pakistan to find the best overall chef.
When NDTV approached me to do the show I thrilled. Firstly it would be a great competition, let’s face it you only have to watch these two countries play cricket against each other to realize how competitive they are. Having been to both countries and tasted both cuisines I know how each one is as similar as they are different.
India is an incredible food destination and it is very special to me, firstly it has such a strong food heritage with possibly one of the most colourful culinary pasts of any continent. From a personal level it brings wonderful memories as I had my honeymoon in Kerela.
Southern Indian cuisine is one of my favourite regions for food. I adore dosa and ate it everyday for my breakfast in one particularly romantic spot I ordered a “Love Dosa” which was big enough to share. It was literally the size of a car bonnet! The food of this region is a little spicier than others so suits my palate as I love my food hot. Coconut oil is used very liberally which not only imparts this wonderful flavour but has the added bonus of being much better for you as well. All these factors combined with an abundance of seafood make for a foodies feast.
On the other hand take me to northern India or indeed Pakistan for the best lamb kebabs in the world. So perfectly spiced then slowly cooked over a charcoal grill or in a tandoor and always served with a piquant chutney.
The Pakistanis do wonders with offal too. On one of my visits there I remember driving for hours from Islamabad to Swat Valley. We literally bumped along at a snails pace for the last few hours through the most beautiful valleys and breathtaking scenery.
Eventually we arrived at our hotel in the centre of town hungry and thirsty. I was starving when I came to dinner and I can still recollect eating the most delicious offal kebabs, perfectly spiced and meltingly tender.
In typical Pakistani style there was also a bowl of steaming lentils laden with ghee and cream. Ridiculously indulgent and ridiculously delicious.
Foodistan took me on a culinary tour of India and Pakistan it was so wonderful to eat so many different regional cuisines. As well travelled as I am it would very difficult to find the time to eat from this many regions in the space of a month.
The chefs were all incredibly passionate and very competitive as one would expect. What was truly wonderful is that despite the competitive atmosphere and cultural differences real friendships were formed. As chefs left the competition there were many tears.
This group of people were thrown together for Foodistan but sadly it was only because of the competition they had met and it would be very difficult for them see each other again which was a great loss. However the chefs were inspired by each other and swapped recipes.
One can only hope that they will each take these back to their restaurants to share with their customers. Ultimately food really was the real winner proving that it really can transcend borders, politics and religion.