Travelling the world to cook: How a British fish curry changed his life | Food
Fort Kochi lad Anand George donned the chef’s hat just so that he can gorge on good food and see the world. Today he is the owner of Indian restaurants like ‘Purple Pappadam’ and ‘Takka Tak’ in Britain. Anand shares the tastes and experiences that altered his life with Onmanorama.
The story began in 1998 when he left Kochi after a degree in commerce. In Delhi along with preparing for the Hotel management course, he also worked in the kitchen training department at Hyatt for five months. This job which taught him the basic rules of the world of food was a career-defining moment in his life. He joined the Taj School in Aurangabad and graduated with a gold medal as a professional chef from the college.
Later he joined Rajasthan Oberoi’s premium luxury resort Vanya Vilas as a kitchen assistant. The resort was frequented by the likes of Ambanis. This job helped him to understand Rajasthani culture and cuisine more closely. During summer, the resort will be closed for three months. He made use of that time and after two months of exposure training, he moved to Southern Spicy Restaurant in Taj Coromandel, Chennai. He was able to work with some of the most experienced chefs for a year. He later joined as a Junior Sou Chef at The Leela in Mumbai. He was planning to go abroad. Eventually, he reached London and his first job was at the dessert section.
When he realized that he could change jobs on a work permit he moved to a French Indian kitchen. The restaurant was conceptualized like a French colony in Pondicherry. The general manager of the restaurant was Kottayam-based, Sherin Alexander. He prepared Meen Pollithachu, idiyappam, and other authentic Kerala dishes. After savouring the food, she told him to pack the food and also gave him the job. He had only two demands- a place to stay and the liberty to cook Indian food. He worked there for two years. Meanwhile, he started brainstorming with his friend about opening a new restaurant.
In 2007, he opened an Indian restaurant called Cardiff Mint & Mustard in the Wales capital. The Indian restaurants here were known as Curry Houses. The curry houses were only visited after the parties were conducted at the pubs. There weren’t given preferential treatment. This is the time when the restaurant Mint & Mustard introduced a new taste. Several awards, recognitions, and inquiries came his way.
In the 2008 Tiffin Cup competition at the British Parliament, he was awarded for producing a combination of Alleppey Fish Curry (green mango fish curry taught by Chandrettan) and Potato Masala. It was very newsworthy at the time. The same year he received the UK Chef of the Year award. In 2009, the restaurant was included in the Top 100 list and the Michelin Guide and Good Food Guide.
In 2011, he moved out of Mint and Mustard restaurant. But soon enough, he started his own restaurant called ‘Purple Pappadam’ in Cardiff while still working. The restaurant was declared a resounding success. In 2015, he opened a street food joint at Cardiff street called Tukka Tuk. There are already 3 different units in Wales. In addition, he also organised cookery classes. That’s when the idea for a book of flavours came up. He didn’t think much and drove straight from Cardiff to Kochi for The 5000 Mile Journey book. During the three-week tasting tour of Kochi, an exquisite book of flavours was released. He gathered people from the cookery class and organised 3 trips to Kerala through his own travel company. They toured Kochi, Alappuzha, Palakkad, Thalassery, Wayanad, and Kozhikode and savoured the local food flavours.
That trip introduced him to a special mustard sauce and vindaloo varieties served with pork roast from Kochi. It tasted divine and it was quite an experience to travel in search of forgotten exotic flavours. He discovered a lot of undocumented cultural recipes in Kochi-Mattancherry. He wanted to learn more about it.
To those who want to be a chef
Cooking is a skill, and you will get work anywhere you go. This is an honest job, do it with integrity. You need to constantly fine-tune your skills and should never stop learning. Nothing can be learned overnight. Important thing is to fill people’s hearts more than their tummies.
Presenting the 3 signature dishes at Tiffin contest
Oil: 25 ml
Onion: 150 gm
Raw mangoes: 150 gm (3 small mangoes, peeled and cubed)
Ginger: 10 gms
Curry leaves: 5gm
Kashmiri chilli powder: 15 gm
Turmeric powder: 5gm
Coconut milk powder (for coconut milk): 300 gms
Salt: 12 gms
Water: 900 ml
Onions and ginger can be cut lengthwise
Mix coconut milk powder in 600 ml of hot water
Heat oil in a frying pan and fry onion, ginger, green mango, and curry leaves
Reduce the heat, add chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt, and fry well. Add 300 ml of water and bring to a boil. Then add 600 ml of water and simmer for 15 minutes. When the gravy starts to thicken, add coconut milk and cook on low heat for half an hour. This gravy should be filtered and used
Curry leaf mash potato
Grated potato: 600 gm
Oil: 30 ml
Mustard seeds: 5 gm
Urad dal: 10 gm
Onion: 150 gm
Ginger: 10 gm
Green chilly: 5 gm
Curry leaves: 3 gm
Turmeric powder: 2gm
Water: 50 ml
Finely chop onions, green chillies, curry leaves, and ginger
Heat coconut oil in a frying pan and fry the urad dal. Add mustard seeds and stir well. Then add ginger, green chillies, and curry leaves
After reducing the heat, add turmeric powder and salt and fry. Add water and potatoes and mix well
How to cook fish
Sea bass fillet- 6 pieces
Add salt and butter to the sliced fish. Heat a pan and cook both sides of the fish for 2 or 3 minutes
Pour the Alleppey fish sauce onto the plate and place the potato mixture in the center of it. Fish fried on top. On top, garnish with beetroot greens and curry leaves.