Editor’s note: “Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are,” famously quipped the wise 19th century gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. A witty epigram we at Firstpost have taken to heart. Today we have the dashing Rahul Khanna telling us of his love for coffee, English breakfast and dirty martinis.
Break That Fast
First thing in the morning I have: A sachet of Emergen-C water-soluble vitamin C in a tall glass of water
I love: good coffee. There’s a saying, “A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” I had tried specialty coffees in tons of fancy coffee houses all over the world but none really thrilled me. Then a Cuban friend of mine, who also takes her coffee very seriously, sent me a Bialetti stovetop espresso maker. It was so simple to use and produced the tastiest coffee I’d ever had. So now I never have to travel further than my own kitchen for a delicious cup of coffee. I make 1-shot using Illy dark roast espresso, which I then pour into a quarter cup of steamed skimmed milk. Nowadays I even pack a Bialetti for long trips.
My breakfast usually is: A big egg white omelette, fresh fruit and sometimes a slice of whole grain toast when I’m at home. When I’m traveling, though, there’s nothing I love more than a hotel or airline that does a spectacular full English breakfast with eggs, baked beans, hash browns, blistered tomatoes, mushrooms, smoked salmon, etc., etc. Bring it on! However, if someone tries to serve me a continental breakfast, there’s a good chance I will get violent. According to me, a continental breakfast isn’t breakfast. It’s table dressing.
My favorite kind of bread is: I like breads that taste and smell homemade, with that slight yeasty flavour. I also love French croissants. A few years ago Singapore Airlines was trying out baking fresh breads on board for long haul, overnight flights. They’d put them in the oven during the flight and they’d bake in time for breakfast. I remember one particular transatlantic flight where, a couple of hours before landing, I was woken up by the aroma of freshly baked croissants coming from the galley which were then served with scrambled eggs and caviar. Unfortunately, I don’t think they do that any more. Recently, I’ve been working out with a new trainer who has taken me off wheat. So, other than the occasional piece of toast, I haven’t been eating any bread lately and am, strangely, not really missing it.
When I eat in, the ghar ka khana I love most is: The simpler the better. At my house, it’s always a daal, some steamed rice, a chicken or fish preparation, one vegetable and a salad. Everything is prepared very lightly with minimal oil and spices. I like tasting the flavours of the actual ingredients rather than spices.
When I eat out, my favorite place to lunch is: The Willingdon Club. I love the old-school, colonial atmosphere overlooking the lawns and golf course or by the swimming pool. The menu, too, is colonial and reminiscent of a bygone era. The chicken patties and waffles with melted butter and honey are decadent indulgences.
If I get hungry between meals: I usually snack on fresh fruit, a boiled egg-white salad with bean sprouts and vegetables or nuts and dry fruits or a dreaded protein shake which is vile but I’m told is good for me.
My favourite street food is: I have yet to find street food that has any trace of hygiene. If I am craving things like bhel or paani puri, I eat it at the home of someone who has a superb maharaj, at a club or order in from Swati Snacks.
Dinner is served
When I invite guests over: I don’t personally cook but my cook makes her special smoked daal, which is a complex preparation made with several subtle ingredients including the smoke of burning charcoal. It’s quite intriguing to watch the process.
My beverage/cocktail/wine of choice is: My favourite cocktail is a dirty martini. A shot of salty olive brine is what makes it “dirty” (and extremely delicious). I also love a glass of red wine with a meal. And, of course, on hot days, there’s nothing like an ice-cold beer. But my all time favourite beverage is Champagne. Apart from being delicious, there’s a festive and sophisticated aura about it. Dom Perignon and Armand De Brignac are my favourites.
My most memorable meal: There’s this tiny Afghani hole-in-the-wall in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City, which serves delicious, hearty, home-style food from Afghanistan. My family, friends and I have been going there for years. When 9/11 happened there were worries about a backlash from the public. Instead, all the local residents came out in a great show of solidarity towards the understandably concerned proprietors and staff. I remember eating there shortly afterwards with the window facing the street completely covered with cards and ribbons of support from regulars and neighbours. It was quite an incredible experience.
“Ma ke haath ka khana” that I most often crave is: Unfortunately, my mother does not cook. The only speciality she makes is a phone call to Meals-On-Wheels.
The best tip I have about staying healthy is: Moderation. Don’t deprive yourself but be vigilant and aware of what you’re putting in your body and make sure you balance the calories going in with the calories you’re burning via activity and exercise. With the plethora information and knowledge readily available nowadays, there’s really no excuse to eat unhealthily.
My favourite festival food/treat is: I have an insatiable sweet tooth so festival times are dangerous for me. I lose all restraint and self-control around all the beautiful traditional mithais. Nowadays people also send chocolate and brownies and cupcakes and, being a certified chocoholic, that is just fine by me, too.
My favourite restaurant outside India is: A small joint in Singapore that’s in the courtyard of a hard to find and rather ugly concrete government housing estate but serves the most delicious local seafood.
If given a choice, I’d want my last meal in this life to be: That’s a tough call. I think it would be a contest between the spicy tuna on crispy rice sushi at Katsu-Ya in Los Angeles or the paper-thin crust pizza made with fresh mozzarella & basil in the coal fired oven of Patsy’s Pizzeria in East Harlem, New York City. There are branches all over the city but if you ask the owners why the pizza in this particular branch (which is the oldest) tastes so much better than the others, they tell you with a wise smile, “It’s because this oven has a soul.”