Slurrp Exclusive: Chef Harpal On His Namak-Shamak Fame And Culinary Adventures With Nizams
Image Credit: Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi, As soon as you hear Namak Shamak, you know who we are talking about.

A young boy from a small town in West Bengal, Chef Harpal never knew that the title of a Chef would precede his name in times to come. The bubbly and chirpy chef that we see today on screen was always a fun-loving and jolly person, making people smile along the way. A major switch from engineering to the kitchen happened as a chance encounter and next thing he knew, he wanted to be a Chef. Instilled with foodie genes and a love for all things tasty, Chef Harpal has won hearts not only with his peppy jingle but also his groovy dance moves at a reality show. 

Reminiscing his days of learning from maestros of Hyderabadi cuisine, he has managed to compile all those exquisite recipe under one roof with his cookbook on the same. Sharing his days of making mango pickle at home with his father as well as the comfort that his wife’s delicious food provides him, Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi engages in a an exclusive interaction with us. Excerpts. 

Q1. Since Punjabis are believed to be hard-core foodies, did the foodie gene run in your family too? 

Well I believe so that every Punjabi household has foodie genes and I have witnessed that in my growth as a chef. In my early childhood days, I remember my father would get vegetables and mutton every Sunday and cook for us. We had an annual ritual of pickling mangoes in our house and I have seen my father cut those mangoes into small pieces and I would help drying them up in sun every day for almost a week before they were pickled. My mother would create the proportion of spices and then the day of creating the end product was a celebration. The mango pickle would be mixed in a huge Paraat (a traditional Punjabi huge thali) and the spices that were left would be mixed up with steamed rice and eaten. Now that is something I cannot forget in my life. My mother would cook delicacies that I loved like sund(Almost like a ginger halwa), kala channa with wadi and many such dishes which are like legacy dishes. My brother was very much involved in community kitchen service and in the langar seva of Gurudwara. He would spend nights cooking langar with his group of friends. My sisters were apt in making regional dishes like idli sambhar as we had lot of neighbours who were from Andhra Pradesh. So I would say that those memories are still fresh in mind. It was only when I joined Hotel Management and started cooking that I realised that it was a hidden talent in me which I polished over a period of time. 

Source: Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi 

A home-cooked meal by my wife Aparna is what I would swear by,  made with so much love and passion. It all begins with buying the right ingredient and she would not compromise with the raw material and the process. I would swear by the rajma, kala channa Curry, rice kheer, gehoon ki kheer and many more.

Q13. Does the chef in you start critiquing a dish that you’re having at another restaurant? 

At times, there are suggestions that are passed to chef in the most humble manner so that correction happens for good of the restaurant or dining area. We believe that we all are humans and can learn from each other to grow for good.

Q14. Your stint in the reality show Jhalak Dikhlaja was much appreciated by your fans. Any insights into how that happened? 

This is seriously something which I cannot forget. You enter a dance show when you are 50 years of age and are competing with people about 20 years younger than you is quite an experience. What I actually think is that my fitness regime helped me perform well. 

It so happened that I got a call from Colors TV and went on to give audition which all happened in about 2 hours of time and I became a part of the show. The first twenty-five days went into dance practices. I remember that the first day we did loads of yoga and stretching for six hours and when I was totally exhausted, my choregrapher told me that we had to begin the dance practice now. All my businesses were running on auto pilot and my focus was my dance show. I went upto the fifth round and then got eliminated. However, the experience left an impact across the country. I think it is the focus that matters to achieve something. I remember when I did the movie Bank Chor for Yash Raj, I was witnessing how focused the director was while making the movie. His sole positive thought of making a blockbuster movie kept the entire crew motivated.