Each month in our newsletter, we post an excerpt from Chef’s Choice: 22 Culinary Masters Tell How Japanese Food Culture Influenced Their Careers and Cuisine to introduce you to the featured chefs. This month we’re spotlighting New Delhi-born Chef Suvir Saran, an accomplished chef, cookbook author, educator, and organic farmer who has nurtured a lifelong passion for the traditional flavors of Indian cooking. Chef Suvir was Owner/Executive Chef of Devi in New York City, the first Indian restaurant in the U.S. to earn a Michelin star. He opened Unico Taco in Long Island City with Roni Mazumdar.
In this excerpt, Chef Suvir discusses the similarities and differences between Indian and Japanese cuisine.
“Japanese chefs think about subtle flavors – Indian chefs think about drama.
“When you go to an Indian restaurant, you don’t order just one dish. There are also condiments, fresh vegetables, and the protein. You never just eat one thing. You eat a complete meal. This is how a Japanese chef thinks, too. All types of ingredients go together to create a complete meal. In that way, we Indian cooks are like the Japanese, because they care for their food but don’t give people large amounts of any one dish.
“One of the biggest differences between Indian and Japanese food has to do with conception of flavor. I didn’t understand the Japanese conception of flavor until I saw the Japanese chefs in action. For example, for a hot pot soup, Japanese chefs combine a lot of beautiful fish and seafood with very savory shoyu and a little rice vinegar. Good quality shoyu has an amazing, rich flavor. Adding kombu and dried bonito flakes gives it layers of flavor. In India, it’s the opposite. We have lots of spice, so who cares about flavor?
The ideas regarding food are diametrically opposed. Japanese chefs think, ‘How can we make it simple?’ Indian chefs think, ‘How can we make it more complicated?’”
Read more about Suvir Saran and the other chefs in Chef’s Choice: 22 Culinary Masters Tell How Japanese Food Culture Influenced Their Careers and Cuisine.