What’s your favorite holiday gift ideas?
We make our own chutneys here in the restaurant, and we like to pack them in hand-painted chutney jars, which my wife paints herself, in bold Indian designs.
What’s your favorite holiday cocktail?
I generally like something with Champagne, like a mango or peach Bellini. It’s nice and refreshing.
What’s one great entertaining tip?
I think hospitality is the most important thing you can offer—when you entertain at home, you can eat and drink whatever you want, but it will be the atmosphere you create, the welcoming factor that’s really important.
What are the 5 top don’t-miss places on a holiday visit to your hometown, Mumbai?
When I go home to Mumbai, mostly I love to eat. There’s so much variety—especially when you’ve been away for so many years, the food tastes so different there because they use more flavorful, local ingredients like goat and mountain lamb. And it’s such a cosmopolitan city. I love it.
What dish are you most famous for?
Palak chaat, a fried spinach dish on the menu at Rasika. The inspiration was an Indian fritter, which is generally very heavy with batter. When we were creating the dish, we wanted to do something light, even though it’s fried. It has a little sweetness and sourness from the date-and-tamarind chutney, a little spice from the red chile powder and the cumin powder, and it has sweet yogurt. I think it’s the lightness and the combination of flavors that make the dish so popular.
What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?
The Masala Art, by Hemant Oberoi. Oberoi is my mentor, he’s the corporate executive chef for the Taj Mahal group of hotels. His book is on Indian cuisine, but with a very modern outlook, and that’s where Indian cooking is going today.
One technique everyone should know?
There are a lot of people who always shed tears when they cut onions. If you refrigerate the onion before you chop it or slice it, it definitely doesn’t make you cry as much. And I think we’ve cried enough.