Savya Rasa from India brought in a collaborative kitchen with the most prominent Indian chef and restaurant in Ireland aka Pickle, chef Sunil Ghai’s invention that gives a reliable experience of Indian cuisine that emphases on North Indian food cooked with the finest of Irish produce. Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your culinary journey?
I was born and brought up in Gwalior and belong to a Punjabi family and love for good food runs in our blood! Perhaps inspired by my foodie family adventures, I decided to do my hotel management from Gwalior. I began working early at the age of 17. My childhood memories are centred around food. We loved to cook and celebrate with scrumptious food. I met the love of my life and got married to Shitti Ghai (Leena) who is from Shimla and moved to Ireland in 2001 and have made this beautiful country our home. It was in 2016 when I started by food journey and opened a restaurant in 2017 and another in 2020. My culinary skills have got a few recognitions and I have been lucky to win the award of Best chef in Ireland twice. I have been the four-time recipient of Best Indian Chef in Ireland. My restaurant has also been awarded multiple times.
Why did you opt for a South Indian restaurant for your first international restaurant take over, though Pickle is North Indian?
At Pickle there is a story behind each dish — a reminiscence or a relationship backside of the fragrant gravies, the boulevard dishes, the complex slow-cooked meats that relates to the back home idea of using fresh ingredients, locally sourced and cooked with love.
The cuisine at Savya Rasa redefines coastal culture at its greatest; a vigilant and comprehensive study of Southern Indian gastronomic taking you back to benighted times; unfinished without the finesse and novelty that Chef Sheik Mohideen brings with him. Sheik’s 15-year wide-ranging gastronomic journey speaks volumes about him as he endures to fervently set milestones with new projects, with each fleeting day. The gastronomic artist credits in outlining back the roots and restoring them just as moulds by ringing out the nearly unmanageable task of conserving the culture through every recipe.
A union between the both, has been put together to craft a one of a kind tasting menu cooked with the best of Irish produce, showcasing the diner what the best of South Indian cuisine has to offer. The Pickle team is exceptionally excited about working with Savya Rasa, and the restaurant’s name seems to sum up why impeccably: Savya Rasa was created to celebrate the richness of the cuisine and culture of Southern India. Very often, thanks to stereotypes, many people outside of Southern India consider Idli, Vada, Sambar, Dosa etc as classic South Indian food. However, South Indian cuisine has all of this and so much more to offer. With the food Sheik creates, Savya Rasa seems to perfectly fit the bill. We are hosting dinners on both our home turfs. In 2023, I will travel to Savya Rasa to showcase my culinary philosophy what we do at Pickle here in Dublin.
What was the most favourite dish amongst the guests at the Savya Rasa pop up at Pickle?
The guests absolutely loved the tasting menus. Savya Rasa had taken over the entire restaurant for the weekend and we sold only the Special Menu ( priced at 80 Euros). It was a great hit. However, a dish that really stood out was “Sainu Thahta’s Chicken Kebab with Coconut Cashew cream”, which is Tender Morsels of Chicken marinated with cashew cream, coconut milk, ginger & garlic paste, salt, green chillies, coriander paste, skewered and griddled on a hot plate. A Malabar caterer and home maker called “SAINU THATHA” invented this from influence of Arabic kebabs and tweaked it with his native ingredients in Malappuram district of Kerala.
What is your favourite ingredient to work with?
I like cooking fresh seafood using fresh herbs like coriander, mint, and basil. I like the flavour of rapeseed oil. It reminds me of my mother using mustard oil all the time while cooking. The flavours come out so nice with rapeseed oil especially if you are cooking Irish lamb, vegetable curries or even tempering lentils.
What is your favourite dish to cook at home?
I like to cook chole bhature at home or simple yellow lentils, matar mushroom & aloo gobhi with pulao and chapati with boondi raita – simple holistic Indian fare. Chole Bhature has a special place in my heart as my dad used to love it and would always bring it whenever he brought home some food. Back in 2019, while I was on a holiday to India, my dad asked me to make chole bhature. I was under immense pressure as I knew he was quite a connoisseur of that dish. Thankfully he loved it and told me to make it again when I am back next year. But unfortunately, that never happened again!
What is your favourite piece of kitchen equipment?
The good old mortar and pestle. My mother is my inspiration and she never used any grinder or blender. I used to see her making all the spice paste and powders in a mortar and pestle.