Chef Benjamin Lalhmangaiha On Mizo Cuisine To Korean Food
Image Credit: Chef Benjamin Lalhmangaiha

Chef Benjamin Lalhmangaiha is an ardent epicurean on a quest to explore quirky and unusual ingredients to offer guests an extraordinary Pan-Asian dining experience. In his present professional engagement as the Chef De Cuisine, Zega, Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel, he is responsible for curating unique menus and overseeing culinary operations. He has organised several food-popularising events in his glorious career. A few notable ones are Thai street food, Indonesian food, Singaporean food, Asian Grills, Asian Noodles, wrapped and steamed Dimsums, and Sushi wrapped and rolled. 

Benjamin is a staunch believer in innovation and often keeps surprising by creating exquisite dishes. When asked: Is there any secret ingredient he has made that works magic?

He replied candidly, "I have a secret recipe of mixed spice powder, which includes roasted golden garlic powder, grounded togarashi, gochugaru powder and a few more ingredients. I use it to spice snacks and crackers, which are unusual and flavorful." 

Recently, he hosted a Korean food fest. It was a hit despite being a completely alien taste profile for Hyderabadis. Such responses from his guests fuel his passion for bringing innovative dishes and untried cuisine to the patrons. With a brimming smile, he says: "It sums up my future plans."

In an exclusive interview to Slurrp, he spoke about revival, restore, and innovate a few cuisines and dishes.


Q.What interested you in getting into cooking?

Firstly, it was driven by my passion for culinary art. Next, the endless adventurous journey, the discipline and the fame which this profession offers; got me into cooking. 

Q. When did you start your journey as a chef?

I have obtained master’s degree in International Hospitality Management from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, UK through International Institute of Hotel Management, Kolkata. I started my Kitchen journey as an Operational Trainee in 2007 at The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata.

Q. Is there anyone who you idolise in this industry? 

Many Indian chefs have become popular and famous worldwide. But I admire how Chef Ranveer Brar cooks and tells stories out of the dish he is cooking. 

Q. Do you feel cooking is boring anytime?

Cooking is an adventure. It involves creating innovative dishes, exploring new recipes, learning new cooking techniques and unique presentation styles, connecting with new people who share a mutual interest, and discovering unexplored cultures. It also gives one the knowledge to understand the nutrition of ingredients. And the process goes on seamlessly. Why should anyone feel bored when their job is so venturesome and immersive?  

Q. What do you observe as a chef in people's eating or dining behaviour and preference these days?

People are becoming more health conscious than ever and following a strict food diet. Therefore, as a chef, it is essential to anticipate and be able to cater to our customers' needs. Balancing various choices and serving authentic, scrumptious and well-presented food at the right portion, temperature, and time is what people expect across all age groups.

Q. Your comfort food?

A big bowl of soupy handmade noodles with strong and flavourful chicken stock. 

Q. Have you revived or want to restore any lost recipes or food?

As a Mizo from Mizoram, I've seen many of our heritage and native food lost due to modernisation. Blame modern cooking techniques with contemporary utensils. I always wanted to revive those lost recipes and improvise them while keeping the traditional way alive. Mizo conventional cooking includes smoking, grilling, stewing, frying, boiling and steaming. Nowadays, fermented yellow beans wrapped in a giant wild leaf called Hnah Kiah, and fish cooked in bamboo tubes etc., are known and practised only in remote villages.

Q. Anything new you have invented?

Yes. I dearly call it Zega Chicken. Not boasting, but it's the top-selling chicken starter from our menu. The second one on the list is Tapioca fried crispy mushroom dumplings.

Q. Which cuisine is your forte? 

Mizo, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian and Malaysian.

Korean Bibimbap (Mixed rice), Image Source: Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel

Q. What is that dish which you make the best?

If I have to pick just one, it is Khao Man Gai, the Thai version of Chinese Hainanese Chicken Rice. It is comfort food, and a complete meal. Usually, it is served warm on a bed of rice cooked in chicken broth with a thick, spiced soybean paste and cucumber slices on the side.

Q. How did you master Korean cuisine?

I've learned a few authentic Korean dishes from a home-cook Korean couple. They also run a Taekwondo School in Kolkata. They helped me host a Korean national day get-together for about 150 odd Korean people and served authentic Korean food back in 2018. 

Q. Any misconceptions about Korean food that you have observed?

It is one of the least-known cuisines in the entire pan-Asian food segment. Kimchi, for example, has over 100 varieties in Korean fare. But how many of us know about it. Further, sadly, the original method involves the fermentation process spanning over days and might take longer. What we usually eat in most eateries is a misrepresentation of authentic kimchi. Often, vinegar is added as a quick fix and turns into an instant dish. 

Those interested in trying the traditional taste may prepare it at home. I am sharing one of the popular Korean kimchi recipes.  


Korean Kimchi, Image Source: Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel


  • 1 kg Nappa cabbage/Chinese cabbage                  
  • 30 gm sea salt                                                               
  • 30 gm sticky rice flour                                                
  • 150 ml water                                                                 
  • 15 gm sugar grain                                                        
  • 10 gm garlic chopped                                                  
  • 10 gm ginger chopped                                                
  • 150 gm Gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)          
  • 50 gm Gochujang (Korean chilli paste)                               
  • 10 gm radish julienne                                                 
  • 10 gm spring onion                                                      
  • 10 gm carrot julienne                                                 


1. Wash the cabbage thoroughly. Cut the leaves crosswise into bite-size pieces. Keep it in a large bowl.

2. Add the sea salt, mix properly, and let it soak for 2-3 hours.

3. Rinse with water 3-4 times, and wash out the extra salt. Squeeze out the excess water and keep it in a large bowl.

4. Combine the glutinous rice flour and water in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat.

5. Stir until the mixture begins to bubble till slightly translucent, then remove from the heat and let cool.

6. Add garlic, ginger, spring onion, carrot julienne, radish julienne, Gochugaru and gochujang. Mix well and keep aside.

7. Now add the above mixture to the squeezed Nappa cabbage bowl. Mix properly. 

Transfer to an airtight container or glass jar. Ferment it for three days by leaving it at room temperature.