Chef Shriya Shetty talks about her deep love for food and travel and all the culinary (and life) lessons she’s learned along the way
My culinary travels began four years ago. My travel partner, Varun Shetty, and I go where the food is – we are led by our noses! That’s also how we decided to move from Mumbai to Mangalore, Karnataka, to explore and eat our way through the lost recipes of our beautiful culinary heritage. Our food “research” is showcased via our ‘Mangalorean Oota’ pop-ups around the country.
I don’t remember the first dish I cooked, but, for some reason, I remember the first time I marinated chicken.
I was four or five years old and helping my father; I loved doing it then and still do.
The most interesting souvenir I’ve brought back would have to be my very first uruli from Kerala. During one of our pop-ups in Fort Kochi, I fell in love with the vessel and, being the traditional utensil junkie that I am, I really wanted one. A friend helped me pick out a beautiful traditional brass uruli, complete with a brass spoon. I didn’t realise how much it weighs! But, where there is a will, there is a way and, somehow, I managed to lug it back to Mangalore.
The most unusual ingredient I’ve cooked with is Kadaknath chicken! There’s so much hype around it for its medicinal value, and I was extremely excited to try it. Flavour wise, it wasn’t great. I am not a fan.
When cooking with unfamiliar ingredients, first work with a small batch – raw, boiled and lightly sauteed to find the best way it cooks. And, remember, we are blessed with Google!
When visiting a new place, visit the local market for ingredients and go where the locals go to find the best food. Remember this: if the locals are flocking to a place, 99%, it will be good!
There are so many interesting places to discover in Karnataka, but I’ll always remember my trek up the Kodachadri mountain. The trek itself was a nightmare – I wasn’t quite fit back then and we were trekking at night. But, once we reached the peak, it was worth all the effort. I had never witnessed a sky full of stars until then, and, that night, camping under the stars, I couldn’t stop staring at the sky. When you go into the countryside, you see a whole lot of stars due to the lack of pollution on the peak that night, I saw what seemed triple the usual amount! I didn’t even know so many could fit in the sky. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps!
When exploring a place through food, keep an open mind. Don’t just go to places that are listed as the “top 10”. Speak to locals and find out what’s good, they are the best guides. And, travel by foot or rent a cycle to explore a neighbourhood. You discover so much more! You miss out on 70% of a place when you’re in the car, so carry your walking shoes and make the most of it!
My perfect comfort meal depends on my mood. But, being the true Indian that I am, nothing makes me happier than the piping-hot dal-rice-ghee and fish-fry combo.
To know more about Chef Shriya Shetty, check out LPMI’s April 2020, issue. Pick up a copy or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.