Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chef of the Week-Veena Arora

As the great Indian summer begins to shine, Chef Veena Arora, Chef de Cuisine, The Spice Route, The Imperial Hotel, New Delhi introduces her soup creations at the iconic restaurant to keep you light from 11th April-20th April 2014. Cool yourself with this special menu filled with the goodness of herbs and spices such as Mint, Cilantro, Fennel, Turmeric, Basil, Cardamom, Dill and Cumin in lots of refreshing flavours, inspired from the kitchens of South East Asia. 

We thought this was just the right time to profile the hugely talented Chef who has also been awarded by the former President of India, the honour of being the 'Best Lady Chef for the Year 2012' by Ministry of Tourism, India!

Chef Veena Arora

Chef Veena Arora was born and brought up in Thailand in a small town named Phathalung situated in the south of Thailand and close to the sea and the Malaysian Border. Her father was in the Indian National Army and posted at Burma ( Now Mynamar ) during the second world war from where he travelled to South of Thailand and settled in Phathalung. Therefore, though being an Indian by origin, she grew up amongst Thais as they were the only Indian family in that town. Her family, therefore virtually lived on Thai food, which she cherished.

Following her marriage to an Indian, Veena settled into India in the year 1980 and ever since then she has been living in India. They had a small restaurant in Thailand and therefore, it was easy for Veena to learn about Commercial Thai Cuisine. Her husband and her two children also developed a palate for Thai Cuisines and thus cooking Thai food at home also become a pleasure.

Chef Veena joined Holiday Inn (now The Lalit) at Babar Road near Connaught Place, New Delhi as a Thai Food consultant during the year 1994 for their Thai restaurant, Silk Orchid. Thereafter she was sent to England for a couple of months by the management to train for their new restaurant, Blue Elephant that replaced Silk Orchid in the year 1996.

Veena then joined The Imperial hotel as their Consultant Chef for the yet to be opened Spice Route – The South Asian Restaurant, in the year 1996.

Ever since then Chef Veena Arora has been attached to the Spice Route Kitchen as their Chef De Cuisine creating various menus for different seasons and occasions all round the year. She also continues to create different versions of the cuisine for the Neo-Thai food lovers, owing to the ever increasing popularity of the cuisine. She is proud that today The Spice Route is amongst  the best South East Asian Restaurants in India and is also well known all over the globe. We get the dope from the lady herself:

 1.      What is the latest addition to your menu?
I have introduced light soup creations at The Spice Route to compliment South East Asian delicacies, this April. The special menu filled with the goodness of herbs and spices such as Cilantro, Fennel, Turmeric, celery, Basil, Cardamom, Dill and Cumin in lots of refreshing flavours is inspired from the Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian kitchens.

While 'Thai Soup with Minced Chicken Stuffed in Cucumber' is a healthy and filling option, one can choose a 'Fine Melange of Vegetables and Meat with Cabbage Roll soup with Chicken and Prawn' sprinkled with black pepper, which is a cooling Vietnamese variant. The soups are not only a perfect combination with appetizers but also make the main course, delectable.

2.     The hottest selling item on your menu.
Kaeng Kheow Waan kai- Chicken in signature Thai Green Curry with Pea and Krob Aubergine.

3.     One dish you are extremely proud of creating.
Pineapple Delight.

4.     Which is the oldest dish on your menu?
Sate Bali- Indonesian chicken sate served with traditional peanut sauce.

5.     Most expensive dish on the menu?
It is one of the lobster creations- Kung Nang Phad Khing-Stir-fried lobster with ginger and Thai black mushrooms.

6.     Name some celebrities who frequent your restaurant? 
Amitabh Bachhan, former president of India Mr. K.R. Narayan and his wife, Chelsea Clinton- daughter of Bill Clinton, Sheila Dikshit amongst others.

7.     The dish on your menu that gives the most value for money.
I think most of the dishes on my menu are value for money and make the guests experience varied and authentic South East Asian Cuisine.

8.    The best thing about being a chef.
The privilege to delight the guest with a cuisine that he cherishes for years is the biggest satiating factor of being a chef. Creativity, fame and a decent salary comes along with the profession.

9.     The worst thing about being a chef.
It is not glamorous, even though many chefs have achieved a considerable standing in the industry and are well known. Also long and strenuous hours require lot of commitment.

10.The best home cooked dish you enjoy. Who makes it?
It has to be the Mutton Curry made by my husband.

11.  If you were not a chef, what would you have been? And why?
I would have been a lawyer then, as I like to be firm and truthful while taking a stand against trouble makers.

12. One chef you really admire and look upto?
Chef Vincent Joseph who has been my inspiration for many years and with whom I started my career.

13. What’s the USP of your restaurant?
The Spice Route at The Imperial serves 6 cuisines under one roof in an ambience soaked in breathtaking art.

14. What do you like about the city you are in-Delhi?
Delhi is a land of foodies and is filled with people who love to experiment with food and explore new cuisines. I love the greenery and wide roads too which is a rare sight in most of the other metros.

15. One guest you wish to be able to create a dish for. Who would that be? And what would you serve him/her?
It has to be none other than the Thai Princess. I would love to offer her something from Kerala cuisine like Chemeen Thoran-Kerala style prawns, stir-fried with coconut, curry leaves and black tamarind, flavoured with mustard seeds or Meen Arvat Anjj -Fried fillet of sole stir-fried with curry leaves and Kerala masala as she is very fond of Indian flavours and is always willing to try something new with Indian spices.

16. Would you like to share a special recipe or two with our readers?
This is a special dish I'd like to share:


QTY                INGREDIENTS             

ONION (chopped)
COCONUT (grated)

METHOD  :  Cut  prawns  into  small  pieces. Marinate  prawns  with  turmeric, chilli  powder, salt, ginger & garlic paste.
Put oil  in  the  wok, add  cumin  seeds, then  chopped  onion, grated coconut and  curry  leaves.
Then  add  marinated  prawns and tamarind juice.
Garnish  with  grated  coconut  and  fried  curry  leaves.

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