'The main meal consisted of one soup, a salad, 2 or 3 vegetarian dishes (including at least 1 green vegetable), a variety of rice, freshly prepared Rotis or Phulkas, Dal, and yogurt.'
Executive Chef Sandeep Basrur of the Amber India Restaurant in San Jose was involved in creating the meals for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's stay in California.
Vijay Bist, the founder-CEO of the Amber India Restaurant Group, and Basrur spoke to Arthur J Pais/Rediff.com about how they catered for the Digital India banquet in San Jose September 26, and Modi's meals.
Tell us about yourself and the Amber India Restaurant Group.
Vijay Bist: I have been working on creating these culinary offerings for the last two decades. It was a real honour for Amber to be chosen to cater for Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his recent visit to California.
Why was your cuisine chosen to cater for Prime Minister Modi's stay and banquet?
Sandeep Basrur: I am an award-winning chef who believes in modern Indian food with a California touch. My belief that Indian food can be light and healthy is evident from some of my creations at Amber India.
How much were you involved in Prime Minister Modi's daily meals?
Sandeep Basrur: I had the honour to personally cook the prime minister's meals during his stay in the Bay Area.
The banquet dinner showcased a four course plated meal featuring delectable items from various regions around India: Kothimbir Vadi from Maharashtra, Patra and Bhutta nu Shaak from Gujarat, Kashmiri-style Bharwan Murg, Karavali Spice Paneer Shashlik inspired by coastal Karnataka and Khajoor Kheer influenced by the classic milk-based desserts of Calcutta. The California influence was evident in the Organic Tri Color Quinoa Pulao.
Describe the challenge of preparing the daily meals for Prime Minister Modi, especially under the supervision of security.
The first day's lunch was set featuring some Gujarati dishes like Bhindi Kadi, Val ni Dal and Srikhand, all of which he relished.
At the end of the meal his personal assistant would give me his requirements for the next meal and when it had to be served: Snacks like Batata Vada and Masala Chai. These had to be made fresh in the hotel suite.
His basic requirements were simple: The meal had to be pure veg (no egg, no gelatin). The main meal consisted of one soup, a salad, 2 or 3 vegetarian dishes (including at least 1 green vegetable), a variety of rice, freshly prepared Rotis or Phulkas, Dal, and yogurt,
He made a special request for chanss (less oily food). Some of the dishes he relished were Dal Khichdi, Tomato Nariayal Ka Shorbai, Bhindi Kadi, Undhyo, Palak Shorba, Basundi, Poha, and Mix Veg Paratha.
The protocol was stringent. Security personnel or embassy personnel would always be present when we were cooking his meal.
At the time of food pickup, the security technical officer would taste a sample of each and every item while the other representative would take small samples for lab testing.
Only then was food allowed to be taken to the prime minister's room, escorted by security.
Chef Basrur -- a graduate of the Institute of Hotel Management, Mumbai, and the Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island -- shares some of his recipes exclusively with Rediff.com
(Creamy Spinach Soup)
Photograph: Julian Bleecker/Creative Commons
(Sauteed okra simmered in spicy, little sour yogurt gravy)
For the okra
(Rice with Yellow Lentils)
Additional inputs: Mabel Pais