Chef Vikas Khanna is as busy in the kitchen as he is outside it. Currently, the Michelin-starred Indian chef, who played host for the second season of MasterChef India, has been busy writing yet another book. But this one, he insists, is going to take some time.
Having already invested three years in it, Vikas is looking to launch the tome in 2016. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says, about his book titled India: A Culinary Epic. “It starts in Mohenjodaro, Harappa and traces the roots of Indian cuisine all the way to its current form in America. I’ve chronicled almost 4,000 years of food history and mythology in it,” adds Vikas, who has travelled to obscure corners of the country and the subcontinent to track the origins of various recipes and cuisines.
“On my next trip I will be going to Pakistan. We know Punjabi food of India, and now I want to discover its Pakistani version,” he says.
From eating silk worms to sleeping in mud homes and living the life of a spice farmer, Vikas claims this book will be “one of the biggest cookbooks in the world”. “We have to write our own history,” he says. One of his most-memorable trips so far has been his stay with the tribals on Andaman and Nicobar Islands. “We think ceviche is such a new-age dish, right? But the people here have been eating this for centuries — fish marinated with lime juice, chillies and salt,” says Vikas. “And the tools they use all emerge from their needs. For instance, they use the bark of a cactus to grate coconut, and with what speed!” At this time, Vikas is in Calicut, to sample their famous biryani. “After this I am going to Tellicherry (Kerala). It’s where one of the world’s most expensive peppercorns comes from,” reveals the chef.
The book, which will comprise over 2,000 recipes and 4,000 images, will also highlight techniques to make various kinds of prasad (holy offering). “I went to Balaji temple (in Rajasthan) a few months ago and realised that the kinds of prasad available in the country are so different from each another. So those who can’t travel to the religious sites can now attempt creating various types of prasads at home,” he says, adding that he’s already written 37 different recipes.