Abinas Nayak, The Chef Who Is Giving Odia Cuisine It’s Due Recognition
- Ayandrali Dutta
Updated : January 23, 2023 07:01 IST
Abinas has learnt cooking from his mom and grandmother by being observant while they were cooking in the kitchen, says The Odia cuisine is sublime and has a great variety of desserts, curries and has a lot of healthy grains to offer
The name that took the culinary world by surprise, Abinas Nayak, won the 6th season of MasterChef. Exploring the flavours from home, he used the common man recipes to plate and bag the apron and finally the trophy. His Chicken Besara, an Oriya signature got many applauds. Today a self-taught food stylist and techie, he is the recipient of the Lokicooks Fellowship 2019. Today as Corporate Chef and Co-founder Rroshashala, a unique cloud kitchen startup, is a one of a kind Odia food destination in India, he believes that brainstorming, discussing, and learning is one of the most important characteristics of being a chef.
How has the Masterchef title changed your life?
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Masterchef has changed my life in many ways. Earlier I was trying to promote Odia and other regional cuisines through my pops-ups and culinary competitions. Now after winning the show, my voice has become bigger and stronger with people following me. This also helps in spreading word for the regional cuisines. People believing in my craft gives me immense strength and power to do more and give back to society and popularize the regional cuisines which people are yet to explore pan India.
Tell us a little about Rroshashala?
Rroshashala is a brainchild of me and my partner, Sauhitya Garabadu and Rishe Raj Singh to celebrate regional food in India, especially Odia Cuisine. Rroshashala is a one-of-a-kind cloud kitchen and its mission is to promote the traditional regional Odia cuisine via Cloud Kitchens, Street Food Experiences, Restaurants, Experience Centres, Pop shows, etc.
I as a Corporate Chef and Co-founder, try to design a menu that is Sustainable, and make use of regionally sourced ingredients. The menu keeps changing according to the season and festivity. Our vision for the next three years is to mark footprints in all Indian metros with a broader range of offerings and establish an Experience Center in Powai.
What has been your primary style of cooking, and how would you say it’s evolved over the years?
I have learnt cooking from my Mom and Grandma by being observant while they were cooking in the kitchen and seeing their passion and affection with which they always cook. So I always loved Homestyle Food both eating and Cooking, however being an artist by heart, I have always loved to see my food beautifully plated when it arrives on table so my cooking style has always been, all about nostalgic flavors infused with contemporary techniques that are presented in a beautiful way. Swaad wohi andaz naya is what best describes my style of cooking.
Why is still Odia Cuisine, India's most understated culinary delicacy?
Did you know Odia Cuisine is known as India’s best kept secret delicacy? Although Odia Cuisine is very nutritious, nothing much has been written or documented about the cuisines. The peacefully positioned province of Odisha in eastern India is renowned for its authentic, ancient tradition and is home to thousands of historic Hindu temples. The cuisines of Odia, which is nestled close to the coast, comprises rich, natural flavours that emanate eternal bliss. Despite having such a diverse range of flavours, the acclaimed Odia cuisine is not so well-known across the country. The food of Odia cuisine is sublime and has a great variety of desserts, curries and has a lot of healthy grains to offer but spreading the word and documentation is required for others to try or even people to know . I believe a lot of food experience and workshops can be built around the cuisine to help people to understand the true value of the cuisine.
If someone is trying Odia cuisine for the first time what are the 5 dishes from the cuisine you would suggest?
Besara, Mansa Jhola, Pithas, Badhi Chura, Chenna Poda are some of the dishes I would really like people to try.
- Besara - Besara is Odisha’s Sauce which is very versatile and has a very unique taste.
- Mansa Jhola- Odia People love their meat and Mutton is close their heart its part of every special occasion.
- Pithas- Odisha has variety of pithas thats are steamed , fried and baked, they are healthy and super yumm
- Badhi Chura- A condiment made using sun dried lentil dumpling, garlic, chillies.
- Chenna Poda- a burnt cheesecake , make using chenna , sugar, and elachi.
What does it take to sustain the competition?
Clean and consistent flavours, less wastage, sourcing ingredients locally, and using sustainable and good quality ingredients are the key components to sustain in any business. Infact at Rroshashala, we are committed to providing hygienic food and assures zero usage of preservatives and low-graded ingredients in the food preparation process. When food packaging is concerned, as a startup we opt for zero plastic use and 100% electric cooking with no fuel usage.
What is your idea of innovation when it comes to food?
For me food is the greatest form of art, so innovation and creativity is a possibility at every stage from sourcing to processing till it reaches the final table.
Pairing with different ingredients to create new flavours or blending of cuisines to create a new dish or just heroing a single ingredient, but prepping and cooking in different methods, modes of innovations are endless.
However, my mind always revolves around finding ways and methods to utilize the simplest and the most difficult ingredients in the best possible way and infact create a best dish out of a single ingredient.
What are your favorite ingredients to cook with?
It's the most difficult question because my favourite ingredient changes from time to time depending on the dishes I want to prepare. Sometimes its roots and tubers, otherwise it can be nuts and proteins. Different ingredients open different possibilities of learning and a different flavour.
Right now I am a little obsessed about an ingredient which is fennel and my reason for the love is for how versatile the ingredient is.
What has been your idea of comfort food? What’s your fondest food memory?
I associate comfort food with nostalgia and memories, so ,my kind of comfort food is always the dishes that we have been eating in our homes while growing up like Santula, Ghanta Tarkari, Phala Kanji, Kheera Santula.
• Tomato finely chopped 1
• Green Chilly 2
• 1 sprig of Curry leaves
• 1 tsp turmeric powder
• 2 Ambula (optional)
Chicken Curry Cut-700 gms
FOR BESARA PASTE:
- Soak all Ingredients for the paste for at least 2 hours or 10-15 mins in warm water.
- Grind to make a fine paste. And set aside to use it later in chicken mousse and Gravy.
- For Gravy
- Heat a pan and add mustard oil, add diced onions, add Diced Chicken and saute till chicken get a light brown crust
- Add tomatoes, and curry leaves
- Add 2 tbsp of Besara paste, turmeric powder and mix Everything for 1 min and add 2 cups of water. Let it cook gently for 10-15 mins or till everything is cooked and gravy gets a boil.
- You can add a tablespoon of Soaked Ambula water to make the gravy more tangy flavour (optional)
You can use the same paste and gravy with other proteins such as fish, prawns and mushrooms.