Chopsuey isn’t Chinese! Holiday Inn wants foodies to sample real Asian flavours
Bengaluru-based chef Pawan Kumar hopes to reorient your palate while hosting Kochi’s latest Pan-Asian food festival.
The Vietnamese know how to cook a hearty breakfast. That statement rings true as I struggle to finish a humongous bowl of rich and aromatic pho—a noodle soup lined with thick cuts of marbled beef tenderloin—placed in front of me, at Holiday Inn’s Masala restaurant. When asked if this is an attempt to express solidarity with our beef-loving state, executive chef Michael Saju guffaws and introduces me to the man behind the five-star property’s latest food promotion, chef Pawan Kumar.
First things first, what’s a Sichuan cuisine expert from Bengaluru’s Crowne Plaza doing in Kochi? “There’s a common assumption amongst local foodies that Oriental fare is Chinese cooking. This is a misconceived notion. ‘Oriental’ is an umbrella term from the gastronomic circles which includes delicacies from Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and more. My hope is to dispel this engrained thought via this food festival,” explains Pawan, who originally hails from Shimla.
Misnomer no more
As I sample their insipid stir-fried vegetables (topped with burnt garlic), the 31-year-old explains that there are many popular Oriental dishes which pass off as authentic, that have nothing to do with the region. “Specials like chopsuey are actually American incarnations, which is why you won’t find them on my menu,” he adds, prompting me to dip their succulent seafood shumai dimsum (wrapped in potato starch) into a spicy ginger soya sauce.
While chef Pawan takes me through his career graph—which began nine years ago at Shimla’s Choice Hotel followed by stints at Radisson Blu—and simultaneously uses his flashy teppanyaki skills to live cook some fried rice, I dig into a platter of super-sweet mai chu-chi, a popular sesame chicken variant from the Hunan province.
Next, the chef graciously agreed to prepare his piéce de résistance—a tongue-numbing Sichuan mala fish. The dry swordfish fillet—infused with his favourite star anise—pairs exceedingly well with the mild fried rice. Another highly recommended dish is his elevated take on a Northern Thai staple, green curry. “Don’t forget to examine our pan-Asian festival’s gluten-lactose-sugar-free spread of desserts,” insists chef Pawan, as I bite a Cantonese spring roll stuffed with their housemade ice cream.
Dinner from `1,195 onwards.
Till June 11. Details: 4199000