Express News Service

The ritzy stretch of Assagao in North Goa has, in recent times, become a hotbed of culinary activity. Chefs, mixologists and well-heeled residents of luxury villa owners populate the neighbourhood. The recent entrant to the scene is chef Amninder Sandhu, whose new outpost, Bawri, has just opened its uninhibited, green spaces to hungry cognoscenti. She used to run the popular eatery Arth in Mumbai in 2017. It is not impossible for artists to subconsciously replicate previous successes, and Sandhu is a culinary virtuoso. Some of Bawri’s dishes were once hugely popular at Arth—her signature butter chicken, nihari, kakori kebabs, raan biryani, chicken khurchan and bheja masala.

Chef Amninder Sandhu

“There’s no point in making something new just for the sake of it,” says the chef, who follows a clean, healthy and sustainable approach to her kitchen. There is no refined oil in the food—only cold-pressed coconut oil, olive oil and ghee. All cooking is in heavy-bottomed copper vessels and cast iron pots. Arth, too, had a famously gasless kitchen. Food was cooked on sigdis, charcoal, tandoor and sandpits, and the staff used mortar and pestles and silbattas to hand-grind the spices.

Having said that, Bawri is not just a recreation of old and classic. The restaurant has introduced a host of new and highly researched dishes—mainly interpretations of foods from the far-off corners of India, which somehow do not feature on the culinary map. Sandhu is perhaps one of the few chefs who draws heavily from the Northeast, where she spent most of her growing-up years.

For example, taking cooking secrets from the Fakiyal tribe in Naharkatia and the Mishing tribe in Majuli—both in Assam—she created her pièce de résistance: Deomali mutton; it is also her favourite item on the menu. Then there are successful experiments born out of her travels. “I am doing the guti aloo with potatoes which you can only find in Assam, besides a Manipuri black rice dosa with chicken. And, of course, a serradura ice-cream sandwich—an ode to the much-loved dessert in Goa,” declares Sandhu, who counts the French chef Daniel Boulud and American baker Nancy Silverton among her epicurean inspirations.

food at the restaurant

She admits her cloud kitchen Ammu in Mumbai and Pune, which recreated dishes of her childhood using black rice from Manipur and pearl potatoes from Assam, was “an extension of her persona”. A highlight of her other Mumbai cloud kitchen in Mumbai, Barfi and Sons, was ghee-loaded Indian mithai: a “guilty pleasure”.  

“My food is an extension of my personality and journey so far,” reveals the chef, who has travelled the length and breadth of India learning regional cooking during her career of 22 years. “To get Indian cooking right, you have to travel to learn the real deal. Before opening Bawri, I did a trip down south. My most memorable meal was in Coorg. There I learned to make wild mango curry,” she recalls, pointing at the flavour-filled recreation made using local gota mangoes from Goa. Mangoes which are neither raw nor completely ripe are one of her favourite ingredients to cook with. 

“I discovered that Coorgis also cook using wild mushrooms and bamboo shoots,” says Sandhu. Which ingredient does she consider the most important? “Honesty,” says the super chef who is now planning to open a branch of Bawri in Mumbai this year, and in Delhi in 2024.

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