Following his food dream after his grandfather who was a chef, MasterChef Australia judge Gary Mehigan started young. While studies kept him occupied during week days, his weekends were spent working in a local hotel. The Australian chef has been in the business for 30 years now and has successful restaurants, TV shows and a few books under his hat. He talks to us about his love for Indian cuisine, its growing popularity and more.
What’s your take on Indian cuisine?
From North to South to East, the diversity in Indian food amazes me. I ate a lot of dal in Rajasthan. Down South in Chennai, I ate a lot of coconut and curry leaves. It will take us a lot of time to eat our way across India. The food has interesting flavours and different textures. Actually, we have a very limited idea of what real regional Indian food is all about. That’s changing.
What are the dishes that left a mark on your palette?
Things that stood out are naan, dosa, idli, appam. I love dosa. Masala dosa is one of my favourites. I indulged in sweets like malpua, jalebi and gulab jamun. I also tried a bit of street food. I liked sev puri and bhel puri.
Was the food too spicy for your taste?
I loved the spice. In fact, I went to the spice markets in India. I haven’t seen anything like these spice markets. It’s absolutely incredible. Fennel seeds and coriander are great. When I cooked with Indian spices, the flavours I got were so much more resilient. It was so much brighter than what I get from the same recipes in Australia. I bought a lot of spices to take home. I bought cinnamon, cashew nuts and other things.
Watch a masterclass by Gary Mehigan here
Any particular dish that you would like to recreate in your restaurant in Australia?
Absolutely. There’s this curry I had when I was in Chennai. It has turmeric, a lot of curry leaves, tempered spices, mustard, fennel and a very light chicken curry. I also tried my hand at dosa. It took me a long time to get the batter right, but now I can make very good dosas.
How big is the Indian food scene in Australia?
It’s starting to take off. Until now, we had heavy dishes with British-Indian influence. But now things are changing. We need to bring Indian flavours with new presentation to the market. We need creative Indian chefs to come to Australia and show us what real Indian food is all about.