Luke Nguyen’s France

Australian-Vietnamese Chef Luke Nguyen’s passion for food leads him into France, a paradise for food lovers, where he explores the land that has shaped his native country – Vietnam. During this journey, he unearths a whole new side to French food, culture and lifestyle and learns about the art of regional French cooking from locals he meets along the way. He also interacts with the country’s top chefs and home cooks and whips up tantalizing dishes including classic recipes like melted goat’s cheese on sourdough and French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine.

Join him every weekday from 8pm to 9pm on TLC in LUKE NGUYEN’S FRANCE as he discovers France’s diverse cuisine and culture. Read on as he talks about the show and shares some interesting experiences.

In your latest show, Luke Nguyen’s France on TLC, you take viewers through your culinary adventures in France. How has the experience been so far? Can you tell us more about French cuisine, the people, traditions and culinary customs?
My show on TLC will feature everything that has to do with France and will try to give viewers a holistic experience. The show captures the rich culture, architecture, landscape, regionality and the beautiful people of the nation. Everything in the show is connected with food and I did a lot of research about the nation by actually meeting and talking to the local people myself. This eventually helped me get really deep into the country’s traditions and culinary customs.

As far as my experience is considered, I guess the most important thing that I’ve learned would have to be the varied and different styles of French cuisine. I think what most people around the world would say is that French cuisine is very difficult. I’ve learned that that’s not entirely true. French cooking can be a bit technical, but is quite simple. I’ve also learned how different French cuisine ranges from the North of France all the way down to the South of France. And it’s very, very regional and consists of flavors.

What are the ingredients that are widely used in French cuisine?
More than the ingredient it’s the techniques of cooking a French dish. The French use heavier kinds of butter – lots of butter. I learned so much about regional and French cuisine and how diverse it is. So, it’s basically the diversity of French cooking and flavors.

Tell us more about the French culinary style. How is it different from the others?
What I found most impressive about French cuisine was that throughout the country, every single person I met was a big foodie. People there have been brought up with a food culture and they appreciate food and have respect for the produce. When they cook they always use fresh produce and most premium quality.

As I mentioned earlier, more than the ingredient it’s the techniques of cooking a French dish. During my visit to France it felt like I was on this journey to learn a lot about them and the food. I want to show people how easy cooking can be. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Can you name some traditional French dishes that one must try in France?
French make the best baguettes. The French baguette is to be eaten with the food and not with the latter stuffed inside the baguette. They are on the heavier side and taste nothing like baguettes that we eat outside France.

France is known for its patisserie items, cheeses and wines. If you had to recommend one of each, which one would it be and why?
I would recommend trying everything.

Tell us more about French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine?
I wanted to immerse myself further into the culture and the cuisine. As you would know French colonized Vietnam for almost 100 years. So we can say that French cuisines have a great influence on the Vietnamese dishes and vice-versa.

I found that many dishes I grew up eating have actually been influenced a lot by the French when they were in Vietnam for almost a century. I interviewed a lot of Vietnamese who grew up during that time and are now in their 90s – some of them are 100 plus years old. I also met a lot of French who were in Vietnam during that time. I really wanted to find out what dishes and ingredients as well influenced the cuisine.

The French in the 1800’s brought over the very first coffee plant from France. And now, you find a  coffee shop in every corner in Vietnam. Things like that are the ones that have influenced not just the Vietnamese cuisine but also a big part of our culture and daily lives in Vietnam. And so, my mission was to go to France and really discover how the French have influenced our dishes. Luckily, I have a lot of family in France so it was also a great way to reconnect with my French family.

Can you name an age-old French-Vietnamese fusion dish?
Well, I’ve been researching the French connection to Vietnam for many, many years. Purely, for my own learning and I will have to say that I found out lots of dishes which saw the influence on one another. However the technique and style remains distinct. You can see the influence in one of the dishes call Pho – the beautiful bowl of soup. It is said that pho was inspired by the boiled French dish, le pot au feu.

Luke learns to master the art of French cuisines

Luke Nguyen cooks across France

Luke Nguyen in France

LUKE NGUYEN’S FRANCE airs Monday to Friday at 8 PM on TLC

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Foodie Reviews: South Indian Breakfast at Sofitel BKC

Tuskers, voted as India’s best vegetarian restaurant by The Times Food Guide at Sofitel Mumbai BKC offers a South Indian treat, every weekend with the launch of its South Indian Breakfast Buffet. Guests can savour dishes from Kerala and Tamil Nadu especially prepared by Chef E. Munichandrudu. The spread includes scrumptious dishes like dosas, vadas, paniyaram, sevai coconut upma and more.

Dosa lovers can pick from options like Sada, Masala, Mysore, Spinach, Beetroot to name a few. A special Chocolate Dosa is also available for children on request. Health enthusiasts can opt for Oats Bisibela Bath, Ragi Uttapam, Carrot Dosa among other options. With live cooking stations and unique flavours, Chef Muni crafts wonders to each table.

What I tried:
– Cutting Coffee
– Idli & Vada with different kinds of chutneys and sambar
– Tomato Uttapam
– Kolakotai (Steamed masala rice dumpling)
– Ragi Idiyappam (Ragi flour steamed cake)
– Rawa Upma (Semolina cooked with mustard seeds and curry leaves)
– Ven Pongal (Rice cooked with lentil and ghee)
– Citrannum (Rice tossed with lemon juice and spice)
– Rawa Kesari (Semolina cooked with sugar)

What impressed me:
– Every dish was served fresh and hot and was delicious
– With an immense knowledge of South Indian cuisine, Chef Muni will be introducing guests to almost 46 different items with this buffet that will include approximately 18-22 different varieties of chutneys, all of which will be available on a rotational basis
– Since the menu changes every week, there’s always something new to look forward to
– The food is simple – like home-style food and enjoyable

Cutting Coffee

Idlis and Vadas with different kinds of chutneys and sambar

Sada Dosa

Tomato Uttapam

Tasting of the other dishes

South Indian Breakfast Buffet

South Indian Breakfast Buffet

Tea & Coffee

Rating:
5/5

Address:
C 57, Block G,
Bandra East,
Mumbai – 400051.

Timing:
7am to 11am

Priced at INR 711/- plus taxes, the buffet is available every Saturday & Sunday only.

Tuskers - Sofitel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

India On My Platter

India’s youngest celebrity chef, TV host, anchor and food columnist, Chef Saransh Goila makes you travel across India with the launch of his debut book – India On My Platter. A combination of travel stories, recipes, food tales, adventures and fun experiences, it is more like a food travelogue than another run-of-the-mill recipe book. Upon being asked to describe the book in one word, Chef Saransh instantly said, ‘Different!’ A 20,000 km-journey spanning 60 cities and 25 states in 100 days all through India made him realize how diverse and beautiful our country truly is. ‘From a roadside truck shop to India’s biggest omelette centre to a kitchen in Kullu – this once in a lifetime opportunity made me cover it all. In fact it is not just a chef’s but a boy’s spiritual journey,’ he further added.

Read on as Chef Saransh shares some interesting anecdotes, his most treasured memories, different kinds of people he came across and more from his road trip.

India On My Platter

1) Name 5 unusual dishes you tried during your journey
– Kodra Ki Roti in Kullu:
In a small village in Kullu, there were six dishes on the menu. Kodra (type of local millet) ki roti, jaatu rice, kaathu (local spinach preparation), bhalle (yellow lentil dumplings), siddu (local buns stuffed with lentils) and rajma (kidney beans). There were a few accompaniments like locally produced cow ghee and fern pickle. The food was slow-cooked over wood-fire.

– Fish Outenga in Assam:
Fish Outenga, which was river fish cooked with a vegetable particular to Assam, called outenga or elephant apple. It was a very simple recipe that used freshly pound turmeric, which closely resembled ginger. On tasting the recipe, I realized it reminded me of raw mango that had been cooked in a curry.

– Badam Ki Jaali in Hyderabad:
Badam
means almonds and jaali means an ornamental lattice net. The design of the almond paste dough resembles the carved stone windows of the Nizam’s old palaces. These almond burfis, with old Mughal designs, were being made by two very dynamic ladies. The older of the two, Nafees, was carrying forward an old recipe, given to her many years ago by her mother- in-law.

– Dal in Vishakhapatnam:
My favourite dish in Vishakhapatnam, among the many, was the dal, which had gongura leaves in it. The leaves are like wild spinach and are from the hibiscus family. They are slightly tangy and bitter. Gongura chutney is now popular all over India. The North Indians like making dal palak, similar to dal gongura in Andhra.

– Sunga Kukura in Assam:
Chicken cooked in a hollow bamboo, also called Sunga Kukura. The chicken is marinated with fresh turmeric, ginger, garlic, coriander, fermented bamboo shoot water, and fermented bamboo shoots and is then stuffed into the bamboo shoot and sealed using a fresh turmeric leaf. The shoot is then put in the fire, standing up, to cook for about 40 minutes.

2) Tell us a ‘Saransh Goila’ version of a few dishes you tried and would want to experiment with
– Beetroot Halwa was one of the most amazing desserts that I had on the journey and I would present it in a slightly prettier format. ”Beetroot Halwa quenelles on Saffron toast with pistachip rabri and chocolate almonds.”

– Learnt the traditional Biryani in Hyderabad. Just so vegetarians don’t feel left out, I created the ”Gobhi Mussalam Biryani.” A medium sized cauliflower gives it that weight a vegetarian would appreciate. Also yum!

– Kheer was amazing in Karnal – made with fresh milk from cows. My favourite ingredient is Chocolate – so I made a ”Chocolate Kheer” out of it.

”Kuliya ki Chaat” – A popular chaat in UP is a very innovative dish. These are vegetable and fruit buckets that are stuffed with fruits and lemon juice. I chose to stuff it with my version of chaat and take it a notch above.

3) Can you tell us about the different kinds of people you came across
India changes every 200 kms. People, food, language, festivals, fashion and more – every aspect is unique. To recall a few  –

– I made my way to the house of Nawab Masood Mir Abdullah, last of the Nawabi lineage of Awadh, who had invited me to celebrate Bakra Eid with him. Nawab Abdullah was present in his house with his brother Nawab Jafar. With their typical Lakhnavi accent (a mix of Hindi and Urdu), they explained the reason behind the celebration of Bakra Eid to me. They were also dressed in chikan-embroidered kurtas for the occasion, with the customary taquiyah (an Urdu word for short-rounded skullcap) on their head.

– I met this incredible entrepreneur with a mobile kitchen who would wait every day for passers-by to get stuck in a jam at Rohtang Pass (en route to Leh). His mobile kitchen comprised of Indian chaat items like matra kulcha and more. He would sell 100 plates in a day just because of the traffic jam. It does need some business acumen and guts to do this! He has served food to people from at least 50 countries. Upon being asked about his venture, he said, ‘Sahab, I’ve served everyone, from Amreeka to Dilli and I feel blessed and thank God every day for this opportunity.’

– I met the fourth generation of Pandit Raja ki Mashoor Thandai. This gentleman had quite a formidable personality. Vinod Kumar Tripathi, a.k.a. Raja, literally meaning king in Hindi, met me at the front of the shop to introduce me to thandai. Before we could even begin the conversation, he said, the who’s who of the country had visited his shop.

– I wanted to know more about the culture of Puducherry and the people who lived there. That is how I met Kasha, at Surcoufe Street. It was a store with an attached café, run by local women and owned by an American lady called Kasha, who had settled in Puducherry nine years ago. The store sold handicrafts, jewellery and clothes, all made by local craftsmen and artisans.

– En route to Karnal, I got off the car and spoke to one of the truck drivers named Kartar Singh. He was wearing an old blue T-shirt and a lungi (sarong-like garment wrapped around the waist and extending to the ankles, usually worn by men) and with his curly hair and messy beard looked every bit like a regular truck driver. Kartar Singh explained that he was usually away from home for 11 months. Because of his job, he considered the roads his real home. After I had a word with him, Kartar immediately and very generously, offered to cook dal and rice for me.

4) What about the different cultures and traditions you came across
Like people this list is a long one too. Few of the special ones I can count on my fingertips are these –

– Sikkim:
In Sikkim – The most popular tribes are the Lepcha, the Sikkimese and Nepalese. I feel that one of the best ways to explore a culture is by attending a wedding and taking part in the ceremonies. Most of us have been to a Hindu, Muslim or even a Christian wedding, but attending a wedding in Sikkim is a rare affair. I had the pleasure of being invited to a khim gyapa, a Bhutia wedding. One of the main communities of Sikkim, the Bhutias are a matriarchal society. So, while I was at the residence of the bride, the groom arrived laden with gifts for the girl’s family. The boy’s family was greeted with silk scarves called kharas. Two kilograms of pork, a bottle of wine and cookies made of rice powder called zhedro were presented to the bride. I realized how food was such an important catalyst for cultures to express emotions and to celebrate special occasions.

– Jammu & Kashmir:
Jammu has a sizeable Dogri population and they are known for their cuisine, which has a distinct taste with local flavours. Mr. Mangotra, who has lived in Jammu all his life, had invited me to taste and learn the basics of Dogri cuisine. He explained, ‘The Dogris inhabit the hilly tract bounding the mountains of the Kashmir Valley on the south and extends to the plains of Punjab. They are descendants of the Aryan race and speak the Dogri language, a mixture of Sanskrit, Punjabi and Persian, whose origin goes back to the Indo-Aryan branch of Sanskrit.’ He also mentioned that Dogri people are fond of singing folk songs and are passionate about their art, culture and food.

In Kashmir (at Javed Bhai’s house – our host) I sat down on the floor with a group of four men – each facing the other. While explaining to us about Wazwan, Javed said, ‘Wazwan is a unique concept in which “waz” means the chef who has rare culinary skills passed on to him through generations. He is an artist who is passionately involved with his art and carries the great Kashmiri tradition within him, and “wan” is a shop with the abundant supplies of meats and delicacies.’ These meats are then used for detailed preparation of delicacies and presented traditionally to showcase the charm and nobility of Kashmiri cuisine. This meal is served on a big copper plate called trami containing the steamed rice on which the varieties of meat, that include methi korma, seekh kebab, tabakh maaz, zafrani murgh and daniphul, are beautifully placed dividing the trami into four, so that four people can eat from one plate itself to enhance the bond of brotherhood.

5) Traveling, they say, is the best teacher. Is there anything you learnt during these 100 days?
After traveling for 100 days by road and covering as many cities all over India, meeting different people and exploring local cuisines and recipes was not an easy job – but it definitely was a wonderful one. As I documented the diversity of Indian food and its regional cuisine, I had noticed that it changed every 200 kms. There is so much the world doesn’t know about India and its food, the whole idea of writing this book was a daunting thought. I now urge people to choose Varanasi before Venice, or Gujarat before Geneva, the next time they plan their holidays!

On the personal front, I realized that at the end of the day we are all simple people. We appreciate gestures that are human and basic. I also learnt that food is not a luxury, it is still a necessity but we just love it a little more now.

Chef Saransh cooking at Gurudwara Anandpur Sahib

Chef Saransh learning to ride a tractor in Amritsar

Pehalwan teaching Chef Saransh about almond milk

Celebrating Eid by cooking in Lucknow

Good luck Stupas post Rohtang Pass

Some peace and prayers in Krishna Mutt Udipi