Top Chef star and author Padma Lakshmi talks fried chicken, comfort food and the tropical escape she dreams about.
Padma Lakshmi
Credit: © Inez & Vinoodh

Spice World

I wrote my new book, The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs, because I love trivia about ingredients, and I'd never seen a really comprehensive A-to-Z guide on the topic. I wanted it to be informative but not bore people. Take sumac: Native Americans relied on it to treat coughs.

Thanksgiving Rules

There are always green beans, sometimes with shredded coconut and fried lentils, or with preserved lemon and shallots. That said, I'm very puritanical about mashed potatoes. I don't think they should have more than four ingredients: butter, potatoes, salt and pepper.

Power Powder

Green mango powder is great because it lends tartness to a dish without liquid. I'll add it to the dry mix for dredging my fried chicken. That way I avoid having to squirt lemon juice on it and making it soggy.

Island Time

In Bali, the fish is so fresh and the vegetables and fruits are gorgeous. Plus, you often have a multitude of cuisines in the same restaurant, and they're all delicious. If you order shellfish, they'll ask, "Do you want Japanese, Thai or Indonesian?"

Soothing Food

I associate khichdi, a lentil-and-rice porridge, with my childhood. Whenever I was sick, that's what my parents made me. I tend to prepare a ton and eat it for three or four days straight at lunch. Anything warm that you can eat out of a bowl is comforting.

Tea Service

In the throes of writing, I sometimes wouldn't leave my room, and my assistant would bring me tea every hour on the hour. When I was in the thick of it, I'd drink 10 cups a day, always black tea with milk and a tiny bit of honey or ginger. That's what kept me going.