A few days ago I got my favorite Thai Chilly Paste- a shrimp based Red Thai Paste from Bangkok (available rarely though as runs out of the counters quickly). A friend gets me every year when he goes there. What is so great about this? Another paste, looks ordinary. So ? Well, I make stir fried chicken with it and the family loves the taste.
Today, at the first available opportunity ( it’s a Sunday and I have slightly recovered from a week ridden with fever and bad throat) and I prepared this beauty. Here is it !!
Boneless chicken in a marinade prepared with this amazing red paste and stir fried in a wok with lots of onions. Result-soft and succulent chicken chunks with a blend of garlicy flavored tang and sharpness of Chillies balanced by a sweet and soury flavour as an after taste. A bit crispy outside and juicy inside. The sauce in which it is stir-fried with a bit of oil provides the overall taste to the dish and the sliced onions give that crunch in the texture. A sprinkle of dried parsley before serving lifted the taste to the next level. One piece on the palate gives you a bouquet of aroma and flavours, difficult to establish what flavour is that. Overall, a great dish, great looking, tempting and is easy to cook. It’s different and not time consuming.
While tasting the chicken and sipping my favorite sparkling wine, I was wondering how did it all start at the first place?
I was always a foodie. Loved good food, variety of food, street food, fine dining, different cuisines and above all, watched all cookery shows starting from the inception of Khana Khazana by Sanjeev Kapoor on Zee TV, way back about two decades ago. Later many chefs with the likes of Marut Sikka, Rakesh Sethi, Vikas Khanna, Vicky Ratnani, Harpal Sokhi, and many others who went on to become celeb chefs started doing various shows on TV. Then, simultaneously many foodies such as Kunal Vijayakar, Vinod Dua, Rocky & Mayur, Aditya Bal ….and quite a few others started tasting and introducing foods and food joints across India on TV shows. All these shows had atleast one loyal follower and that was me. I used to joke that I watch all food shows but don’t cook. What a diacotomy !
I loved food but was limited to tasting, appreciating and enjoying it. While watching all those shows, I always thought what a fun it would be if I could do all this. I had never cooked anything beyond the basics of Paranthas, Omlettes, Coffee etc. Much though, I wished to cook good food, anchor food shows (as I have been anchoring various events / shows since my college days) and go further into it. Then, one day it happened !
I got an opportunity to do around eight shows ( actually a class in a master chef type of setting) with a celebrity Master Chef Joe Baath across all major metros spread over two months. These shows were largely appreciated and enjoyed. In turn, I had put on lot of weight for had to taste and appreciate food prepared by almost 25 participants in each event and of course also by the pro team managing the demo kitchen.
Joe Baath is a hugely built man who was amongst the four finalists in the Master Chef show on Star TV in 2010, is an Emcee who does shows for Harley Davidson in India, Hindustan Times and was also associated with Kings XI Punjab for quite some time. Currently, he runs Eat @ Joe’s, an American dinner restaurant in Gurgaon. Joe became a good friend during that period and we are now always talking about Food and Entertainment, a common interest for both of us, during our numerous meetings over all these years. He is an authority on American Food and is my sounding board for checking out on the construction of various sauces such as Barbeque Sauce and Bacon sauce etc. His burgers and sandwiches are to die for. His own made Barbeque sauce with his secret recipe is out of this world. His pancakes are sinfully delicious. Last time when I went to his place, he innovated a large sized non-veg pancake roll. Only he could bring out the wonders of flavour in that preparation.
Now, hold on, the story doesn’t end here. In fact this was just the beginning. In Joe’s team, there was a conspicuous character, his friend….a typical foodie, a passionate cook, a friendly Maratha, with a very familiar smile. You see him and try to recollect where have I seen this man? But yes, had never met him earlier. He was the one who at the backend passionately lead the team, prepared for the show next day ensuring each and every ingredient and the process was in place, will be deeply involved in cooking and monitoring the whole thing. Above all, ensuring that I was fed with goodies, by adding magic of flavours on top of the dishes prepared during the class. I was introduced to him, he is Chef Sanjay Pawar. Sanjay is the one who is passionate about food, encyclopedia on various cuisines, never earned a chef coat, yet trains chefs. Food has taken him places. He loves to host you over and feed you his favorite delicacies. Is always willing to join you for lunch. Can go the extra mile to help you with recipes. And he is grandson of legendary character actor of yesteryears, Lalita Pawar….ah now I know how come his face and smile is so familiar. Sanjay too became a friend and my another continuous source of food discussions.
It was during that time that I had started cooking. Started with most complex dishes and from various cuisines. The process used to be that first I decided upon a dish. I would try to find its recipe either on net ( I subscribe to many food sites) or from a book. Then I would discuss it with Sanjay and try to improvise or give it a slightly different twist and prepare it. Many a times, the recipes are taken from Sanjay by pulling him to my desk to give me or calling him on weekends and asking him to rattle out (by now I would have quite a few pages written of many recipes). In all these years, the times have now slightly changed. These days, I call up Sanjay to tell him what I have cooked and what innovation I have added to it. Quite a few times Sanjay felt that the twist is innovatitive and that he shall also try. He once told me that his wife recently commented that initially he used to get calls from me for getting recipes and lately the calls are to share recipes. Quite an improvement though.
The stir fry recipe above ( which stirred the whole story out today) is suggested by Sanjay and of course with a little twist added by me. We all at home like this dish. The bottle of the red Thai paste which goes into it, lasts only 4-5 times usage. Then I look forward to when to get it again and it is Sanjay who brings it for me every time he goes to Bangkok (don’t worry, he goes there with his family every year to enjoy the food). I am again convinced that every food has a story and this stir fried chicken too has one to share.
Thank you Joe, Thank you Sanjay for being the catalysts in my recipe of life. I am loving the magic of flavours.