I was born in New Delhi, India, but was quickly whisked off by my parents to grow up in Manila, the Philippine Islands. The country was a rare combination of Asian warmth and hospitality with a western influence on food, language and fashion. My love for Asian food and flavour memories were created through the smoky aroma of pork barbecue, Java rice with achuete and hot pandesal with sweet melting butter in our school canteen, accompanied by the citrus tang of kalamansi juice. Moving to the US (Cambridge, Massachusetts) to study engineering at MIT was really what spurred my desire to cook. It wasn’t passion; just the need to evade the sloshy egg foo young on Monday and fried fish on Friday! After two years of surviving on salads and ice creams and a secret stash of Tabasco, I just craved for a spicy chicken curry and some coriander chutney sandwiches. Armed with new pots, Pierre Franey’s cookbook, and a recipe card each week from my Mom in Manila, I forayed into the world of researching and developing culinary masterpieces!
I met my husband Ajay in business school, and found myself married and in Mumbai, starting life with a new last name that meant “PepperMan!” Ajay’s grandfather had been a leader in exporting pepper from India to the world. So, the junior kingpin of the pepper world and I soon moved to Kerala, God’s Own Country of Spices, so he could grow what soon became a huge food ingredients business.
Working with seasonings, spices and both chip and fast food companies, gave me an opportunity to play with food and flavours in fun ways – in a pizza, on a pizza, on burgers and in sauces. I created a gourmet spice brand called “Bombay Tiffin,” a fun and innovative brand of spices and seasonings from across the world. The experimentation with diverse foods and aromas created a growing passion.
The unique cuisines of Kerala also created imprints in my brain, later inspiring me to infuse the ingredients and fragrances of fresh coconut, fried banana fritters, masala grilled prawns and the unbeatable, totally-delectable Mutton Ulathiyatu in my own creations, too. I’m now back in Bombay and shuttle between this city, Cochin, Delhi and visiting my sons in New York, Durham and Chicago. I have developed an interest in tastes and ingredients of regions and how they evolve gradually as you move across the world. I believe in authentic flavour profiles, simplified to make recipes easier to experiment with. I also want to bring more of the rich Indian regional cuisines to the readers of this blog and share my experiences and knowledge.
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