He’s a jolly good chef

Alisha Shinde
Monday, 4 February 2019

We caught up with chef Harpal Singh Sokhi during his visit to the city last weekend and learnt a lot of about food, fun and fads

Namak shamak, namak shamak dal dete hain’ — does this ring a bell? Yes, we are talking about the jolly good fellow who puts together a homely Indian dish on your TV screens everyday. Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi, a known name in Indian household, was recently in the city to promote Nouvetta brand at Home Town.

Just like his high-on-energy avatar on the famous show Turban Tadka on Food Food, Sokhi is fun when one meets him in person too. In an exclusive interview on Saturday, he spoke to us about his take on food and a lot more.

Food in Digital Times
Sokhi believes that the best thing that has happened to the food industry is that it is reaching every home in India. “It’s purely because of digitisation and the growth of television that food of all kinds, Asian, Mediterranean or Western, has made an entry into our kitchen,” he says. 

He, however, points out that despite the number of cookery shows appearing on TV, when people want to cook a dish or try their hands at something for the first time, they will not switch on their TV set but turn to their mobile phone to look for recipes. “It is convenient and easy and gives the individual an inspiration to cook, whereas cookery shows are usually followed by people because they enjoy the action and the fun that happens in the kitchen on TV,” he says.  
When it comes to sharing recipes on the show, Sokhi says, he wants to keep them local and something that is easy to follow. “Cooking is something that I believe should not be complex but fun, and it will be fun only when you are familiar with the method and the ingredients that are used in it,” he says.
As for his onscreen personality and the touch of humour that he adds to his shows, Sokhi says, “If you observe, a kitchen is a very boring place to be, you just have all the possible sizes of cookers, pans and spoons, and the person who cooks is just caught between the utensils and the dilemma of what to cook for the three courses. This happened at my home too when I was growing up. But I want the kitchen to be a fun place, because of which I brought a new fun side to my character on the show and it really worked with everyone. I am like a character in a soap on my show.”

East or West, Indian food is the best 
Indian cuisine is probably the most diverse cuisine in the world, feels Sokhi. “That is because of the flavour and the ingredients that are region based. There is a lot of variety out there, which makes our cuisine so exciting,” he adds.

In fact, Indian food is very healthy too. “As Indians, you must be aware that we have been consuming a balanced diet for centuries now. Indian thali means the ideal diet — a combination of roti, sabzi, dal, rice, salad and pickle,” he says.

Indian food changes as per the season too, because of which there is a lot of variety in our food. Plus, it is probably the most adaptable food in the world. “This could be because of the people as well. For example, if you go to Punjab and say make the Butter Chicken spicy, they will make it spicy,” he points out.  

And this is the reason our food is liked by people of different nationalities too. “Indians are taking the humble and simple dishes to the different corners of the world which in turn are showcasing the authenticity of the Indian flavours,” he points out.

Sadly though, despite so much variety in our country, Indians seem to be obsessed with the Western trends of food, be it pizza or burgers or waffles, laments the chef. “So, in my restaurant, if you want a pizza, you will get Sarson da saag pizza,” Sokhi says with a chuckle. Twist of Tadka in Bengaluru and Amritsar and BiBi Jaan in Jalandhar are some of the restaurants that he owns.

Eating healthy
Talking about Indian food habits, he says that we are obsessed with fried food and everything that is unhealthy. “And then comes a time when we are obsessed with these weird diets. I feel no matter what you are eating — healthy, unhealthy — you have to get down and exercise. That is the only way you can protect your health,” he says.

He points out that people often believe that if they use olive oil, they are eating healthy, but that is not the case. “Any type of oil, be it sunflower, groundnut or olive, needs to be consumed in very little quantity. You have to control yourself around deep fried food,” he suggests.
Sokhi says that it is advisable to use varieties of oil and not expose it to air or sunlight. Also we should not store it near the gas stove because it spoils the oil and reduces its shelf life.

Apart from what we eat, the utensils we use to cook it also make a difference. “I always tell people that they should cook in non-stick cookware, because you have to use less oil. The best option is earthenware as it is really good for health,” the chef says and he signs off. 

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