The lively and entertaining Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi, is known to excite viewers with a variety of creative dishes he conjures up on television shows by using ingredients in an ingenious manner. He ensures the cooking traditions of India retain their authenticity and appeal while giving it a fresh unique twist, and especially in his fusion of Indian and international cuisine, he ensures each dish has its distinct flavour.
He shares his understanding and techniques of cooking on his popular television cookery shows, as well as on social media, interacting with fans from around the world. Currently, he shares the limelight with Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor of Khana Khazana fame, in addition to hosting the popular cooking show ‘Turban Tadka’ on Indian television.
Chef Sokhi was recently in Kuwait to inaugurate Lu&Lu Hypermarket’s Food Fest 2015. In an exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait, held on the side-lines of the festival, Chef Sokhi speaks about his experiences and his love for cooking.
What inspires you? How do you come up with the dishes you are famous for?
Inspiration comes only when you are passionate about what you do, you look for the change you can bring in. I am passionate about cooking and creating new things. Creativity emerges from my enthusiasm for cooking. Also, the secret for making everything I cook so delicious is the portion of love I put inside the vessel.
As a chef, what is your main aim when introducing new dishes?
The aim is to ensure whoever wants to experiment, gets something to their liking. With my food, I experiment with new formats and new changes leading my fans to start accepting new food choices, encouraging them to try new dishes. I approach cooking from this aspect.
Which Indian food is best for fusion with International cuisine?
The most important thing for fusion is to balance flavors and select best cooking techniques to create the dish. The key is have an understanding of how ingredients marry each other. For example, chicken Tikka pizza is very good because of the chef’s skill in combining the ingredients to produce a balanced flavor. Almost everything in India is possible for fusion. You just have to use international ingredients in a subtle way to enhance the main dish.
What is great food to you?
Food should also look good on a plate is what some International cooks say, but in India, if you look at the Thali, it is a wholesome meal, has a great visual effect and is scientifically designed for each person living in the country. The culinary impact of Indian cuisine is that it gives a journey of food and emphasizes the various tastes of different regions and has a scientific component.
How important is external recognition to you, personally and professionally?
The more popularity Indian chef’s gain, Indian food becomes more popular. My vision is to make Indian food so well-know that it is consumed across the world. And external recognition helps as people start acknowledging your craft, leading to an increased appreciation about the complexities of Indian cuisine. Today, Indian food gets respect across all fronts and internationally, when it is consumed in every country. Additionally, hearing about how many people love Indian food across the world helps the chefs’ growth and development of Indian cuisine.
What are some of the best recipes you have made on your shows?
On my shows, I try to think what people don’t know and explore the opportunities, especially what many people do not know about methods and ingredients that are important but overlooked. I pick unknown things to feature in my shows, and keep people informed so they can cook something interesting at home. For example, people didn’t know that the Fiddlehead fern could be an amazing ingredient for cooking until I made it possible. Simple ingredients across the country which people are not aware of, I try to showcase them to the world. India has so much to offer.
What is the worst experience you have had on your television show?
On my television show, cooking food is a big challenge for many reasons, mainly the handling of ingredients. I remember I was cooking along with staff members 600kg of Kheer for a religious ceremony. And we mistakenly added raisins to the hot kheer before refrigeration. The next day the kheer was bitter because the raisins were not cooked and it spoilt the dish. I can’t get over the experience as we lost a lot of food.
What are your best tips for budding chefs?
It is about passion, when you follow something zealously and work hard, your dreams will come true. It is difficult in the kitchen, but you need to persevere and do your best.
What more would like to accomplish in your career?
I do a lot of charity work for the girl child whenever I get an opportunity to help; I try to spread awareness and deliver the message across various platforms. I have been a part of this initiative for the last three years, and I strongly believe in offering my help. If it wasn’t for the girl child, my mother who is an inspiration, I probably would not be a chef. I want to do the best for the girl child.
How important is healthy cooking for you?
I don’t discourage people from using ghee, but I emphasize exercise and managing your health. Good food must be supplemented by exercise. Healthy food is not about refusing oil or ghee, but about consuming a balanced diet. Don’t have dishes too oily or rich, but be sure to eat fruits and vegetables.
Do you have a favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
I enjoy cooking everything, there is no particular dish, but what I especially enjoy is cooking food for my daughters.