The new Executive Chef of The Park Visakhapatnam, has worked all over India; picking up the best of every place he’s been to and has had a blast cooking for celebrities. Yo! Vizag finds out more.
Know the Man
Chef Neeraj Balasubramanian, an IHM – Hyderabad alumni, has been in the business for 11 years, yet he claims everyday to be a learning experience for him. When his childhood dream of wanting to be a fighter pilot didn’t pan out, he decided to try his hand at cooking; inspired by his sister who’s also a chef. His first job at Taj shocked him with the reality of working in an industrial kitchen; but the foodie ploughed on because of the adrenaline rush cooking gives him. He claims handling the kitchen to be a tough job, but the high he gets when people enjoy his food makes it worthwhile.
With no plans for settling overseas, Neeraj prefers to stay and explore the cuisine here. In lieu of opening a restaurant few years ago, his acquirement of lost recipes from housewives residing in different states left him awe-struck by the simplistic beauty of the recipes. “In the quest for world cuisine, we’re losing the essence of what we have,” he says. Indian cuisine is dear to him and with it gaining popularity abroad he wonders why we are losing respect for it.
Old recipes are where my heart lies, I strive to revive the forgotten recipes of India and execute them in an innovative manner.
It’s Neeraj’s first time in a semi-metro city and he finds the relaxing pace here a refreshing change. He thinks Vizagites are open to new ideas, despite a preference for local cuisine. The Park Visakhapatnam recently held a French – Indian fusion food fest that was well appreciated.
Neeraj’s personal favourite at The Park Visakhapatnam, happens to be a new dish he’s introduced – Martaban ka Meat, a dish where the meat is cooked for 48 long hours in a ‘martaban’ or mud pot over wood. The result is a divine concoction that melts in your mouth. He also recommends the spicy Curry Dew mocktail and the spit-roasted Paneer Pasanda Tikka.
COCONUT BATTER FRIED PRAWN BROCHETTES
- 4 jumbo prawns
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 lemons
- 1 egg
- 40 gm corn flour
- 40 gm desiccated coconut
- Salt to taste
- Oil for frying
- Satay skewers
- Clean and de-vein the prawns. Leave the tail on.
- Marinate the prawns in ginger garlic paste, spices, lemon juice and salt.
- Make a batter using corn flour, salt and egg.
- Skewer the prawns using the satay skewers.
- Dip the marinated prawns in the corn flour & egg batter and coat with the desiccated coconut.
- Deep-fry in oil.
- Serve hot, garnished with a sprig of cilantro and avakkai mayo.
MARTABAN KA MEAT
- 1/4 cup mustard oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, plus 1 teaspoon julienned ginger
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- ½ tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 pound trimmed lamb shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- One 14-ounce can, diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 tablespoons minced, oil-packed, hot chilies, such as cherry peppers
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1/2 small jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon Potli masala
- Steamed basmati rice and warm naan, for serving
- Preheat the Martaban on wood fire to 325° F.
- In a medium Martaban, heat the mustard oil until it shimmers.
- Add the chopped onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring until lightly browned for about 5 minutes.
- Add the minced ginger and garlic, cook until fragrant for about a minute.
- Stir in the paprika, coriander and turmeric and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the lamb cubes and cook, stirring, until the meat is no longer pink.
- Add the chicken stock, diced tomatoes and minced chillies to the Martaban and simmer over moderate heat until barely tender for about 15 minutes.
- Stir the julienned ginger, cilantro, jalapeño and garam masala into the casserole. Cover and cook slowly on dum for 48 hours, until the lamb is very tender.
- Serve the curry with basmati rice and olive naan.