Like many professional chefs and restaurateurs, Farrokh Khambata isn’t a very frequent visitor to his home kitchen. When he does work the griddle at home, it’s to make eggs for Sunday breakfast with his seven-year-old son Hushaan. “I also love to grill steak and seafood such as lobster, sea bass and prawn. We do that quite often,” says Khambata, when we meet at his south Mumbai home after he finishes his shift at Joss, his Asian restaurant at Kala Ghoda.
The 37-year-old chef also manages a professional catering business; he’s usually on call for United Breweries Group chairman Vijay Mallya’s bashes, where he’s treated guests to caviar stations and imported seafood.
Khambata planned his home kitchen himself. Photograph: Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
The Khambatas are a seafood-loving family, so when we asked for a Parsi speciality, he picked Kolmi no Saas, or prawns in spicy white sauce. Khambata loves the sweet, sour and spicy dish; it’s a favourite at Parsi weddings (with pomfret instead of prawns).
Khambata gathers all the members of the house to help in his professionally kitted-out kitchen (a Kaff cooking range, a well-lit platform and a stock cupboard which pulls away from the wall, filled with condiments used in Thai, Japanese and other cuisines).
Hushaan, in a red apron and atop a stepping stool (to see over the counter) has been given his favourite task of cracking the eggs. The domestic help has been entrusted with washing a few ingredients, while wife Dilshad directs the proceedings. She reveals that she doesn’t cook at all; the family has a cook who prepares their meals.
Kolmi no Saas can be eaten with chapattis. Photograph: Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Khambata’s training at a catering school in Mumbai and stints in France show through. He starts out the way professional chefs do: laying out the ingredients on the counter. He sharpens his chef’s knife and starts chopping.
While he gets the prep done, Hushaan starts on the eggs. Three eggs are on the counter, though the recipe calls for only one. We soon realize why. In his enthusiasm, Hushaan gives the egg a solid crack, and it plops in a mass at his feet. After it’s cleared away, he starts again, then beats the egg with a fork to make it fluffy.
Dilshad reveals that the family isn’t usually home for Navroze; they try and go on a short family holiday. This year, it’s Goa. If they are in town, it’s dinner at Frangipani at Trident. “Hushaan loves it, but we go there so often, we don’t know what to order anymore,” Khambata says with a laugh.
the dish takes only 25 minutes to prepare, from chopping to serving. Photograph: Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
A heavy-bottomed pot is on the stove and Khambata starts crackling the aromatics. One by one the ingredients are added to the pot, with him stirring and tasting at each step. The whole process, from gathering the ingredients to chopping and cooking, takes about 25 minutes.
Khambata serves it the traditional way—on a banana leaf, with carrot and date pickle and crispy rice wafers or sariya as accompaniments. The plump pink prawns are coated by the almost translucent creamy sauce, with cherry tomatoes, green coriander and curry leaves. It’s a piquant mix—tart and sweet, with a mild heat, flavoured by the aromatics.
Kolmi no Saas (Prawns in a spicy white sauce)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp shahi jeera (black or royal cumin seeds)
1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
A few curry leaves
2 tbsp maida
1/2 litre water
3 tbsp sugar
3 tsp cane vinegar
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
Salt to taste
15 large prawns
Chop the onion, garlic and chillies. Mix maida in cold water to make a smooth paste. Heat oil in a pan and fry the cumin seeds. Add curry leaves, onion and garlic. When the onion is translucent, add chillies. Pour the maida paste into the pan and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring continuously. Add sugar and salt. When the sugar has dissolved, add vinegar, prawns and cherry tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes and take off the flame. Whisk the egg with a pinch of sugar, salt and a few drops of vinegar. Add it to the main pot in a slow stream, stirring continuously. Add coriander and serve with chapattis.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
• Khambata has invested in a heavy iron steak pan because his family eats a lot of grilled food. The pan has a non-stick coating, and raised grooves, which mimic the action of a grill. “All the oil gets left behind in the pan and doesn’t coat the meat,” he says.
• His favourite professional gadget is a blow torch. “I use it a lot at the restaurant for gratinating desserts, risottos and paellas. It’s great to burnish meat at the last minute as well,” he says.