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The Spice Traveller

Meet the man who is uncovering the quirkier side of British cuisine

Posted: 30.09.14

We all know that Brits love curry, but what do Indians think about the grub on our shores? Celebrity chef Saransh Goila recently embarked on a culinary expedition of the UK to find out more about British food in a quest to a) get more Indians to book a holiday here and b) educate them about what our dishes are really about. Saransh who won the inaugural series of Food Food Maha Challenge was crowned India's first Super Chef. He tasted his way through London, Yorkshire, Scotland and The Cotswolds for a 20 part web TV series for ZengaTV which is currently being aired. He popped into the Asiana office to tell us more about his foodie adventures...

So your foodie journey to the UK started with eating plane food on Virgin Atlantic, how did that go down?

I was impressed! There is a misconception about plane food that it's all terrible but the truth is when you are in the air you lose 50% of your senses, including your tastebuds. So when something looks unappetising (like being served in a plastic school dinner style tray) you'll assume it tastes bad. But what I noticed at Virgin is that they make an effort with presentation. Instead of serving food in plastic containers with foil lids, they have started serving plane food on a plate which automatically makes it look and taste more appetising.

What was your favourite British dish before you got to the UK?

Fish and chips! Ok it's bland but in India it's done differently. In The UK they place a lot of emphasis on the batter and that's what makes the recipe; it's certainly something I'll be taking back to my own cooking. I learnt how to make proper battered fish and of course got to sample some of the best fish and chip restaurants.

How does British curry compare with Indian curry?

I was here seven years ago and it has improved since then! Today the curry is much more authentic, in fact I dined at a restaurant in Bristol and I thought I was in India. I love how British Indian food is so modern and was impressed by places like the Cinnamon brand, Dishoom and Benares. They aren't just making curry but also different types of Indian food like breakfast dishes. In India chefs are also modernising so it's good to see Britain doing the same.

Some of our food is a bit bland, do you find yourself adding spice to it?

It's not just missing spice, even salt. British people don't add enough salt to their food which is what gives it flavour. I've been ok but one of the guys from my production team has been carrying around a bottle of Tabasco sauce with him!

You’ve been eating in everywhere from fine dining to fast food joints what's been you're favourite discovery?

I've been lucky to see some very unconventional experiences. I think my favourite was in the Cotswolds I visited a couple in their cottage and they serve afternoon tea at their home. They offer tours of the area then follow it with tea it's a great way to experience British hospitality.

Any strange British eccentricities you’ve noticed?

Well everyone told me British people have bad teeth but it's not true (thankfully!) They are obsessed with weather but I am pleased I haven't seen any rain yet not even when I was in Scotland.

Is there any food inspiration you’ll be taking back?

One thing that chefs really care about is the sourcing of ingredients. They love having their own gardens, growing organically and eating what's in season. This is something India could learn from. When something is in season we should eat it, not just in ways we know about, but try new recipes too.

What perception do Indians have about British food?

Most think it's uninteresting but actually Britain is a melting pot of cultural cuisine. You can eat food from all over the world here and it's exceptional quality. I think Indians need to be more adventurous and be prepared to come here and try new things.

Sadly we don’t have Indian street food culture – do you miss that?

You have some, but normally in markets. It is a shame, here it's more about going to a restaurant where as in India you can eat anything you want on the go (and it's cheap!)

How could British food be improved?

I think British chefs shouldn't be afraid to incorporate techniques from other cultures. They cook international food but they could use the herbs and spices and ingredients in new ways like using Mexican spices when they aren't cooking a traditional Mexican dish.

We're big on desserts over here, have you managed to sample some?

I've eaten a lot of cakes! And all sorts of cakes - cheesecakes, swiss rolls....the quality has been phenomenal. I also like the way Brits use a lot of fresh fruits in their desserts and flavours like lemon and chocolate. We could learn a lot although there are a lot of Indian chefs who are now doing fusion desserts which is good to see like playing with traditional flavours like cardamom and using it in contemporary ways, I'd like to see more of that.

With all this food tasting have you been worried about the calories adding up?

Yes I have put on 2kg with all the cheese I've been eating - so much cheddar! And my they drink a lot here, from midday to midnight. I couldn't keep up! It's all been so much fun though and so worth it. I hope with the programme I will break down a lot of myths about British food and show Indians that actually coming to the UK is a great place for a holiday because the cuisine is so unique and delicious!

Interview: Momtaz Begum-Hossain

The Spice Traveller is currently showing on Zenga TV and can also be viewed on Saransh's popular You Tube Channel. (www.youtube.com/saranshgoila)

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