SONA Presents Coastal Indian Flavors by Chef Hari Nayak

First Republic Bank
November 24, 2021

In celebration of Diwali, join Chef Hari Nayak, world-famous author, restaurateur and Executive Chef at SONA NYC, for a journey through Indian culture and cuisine. Chef Nayak bridges food and culture through his Western cooking skills and deep-rooted Indian traditions to provide modern Indian cuisine. Learn how to prepare dishes such as Kerala fish curry, lemon rice and crispy okra, and spice up your Diwali celebration with a delicious meal.

If you would like to follow along, here are the recipes and instructions for the three dishes Chef Nayak will prepare during the webinar.

Sandy Tan - Hi, good afternoon. My name is Sandy Tan. I am a Director at First Republic Bank. I am also the Events Chair and Co-chair Elect for APIK, our Asian and Pacific Islander Kali Community, a group focused on promoting equity and inclusion for those who identify as Asian and Pacific Islander. We are excited to have you join us today as we celebrate Diwali with Chef Hari Nayak. Diwali is India's biggest and most significant holiday and symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. Celebrated each fall, Diwali falls on November 4th this year. It is a five-day-long celebration that marks one of the biggest holidays of the year for those who celebrate. Originating in India, celebrations for Diwali now happen worldwide. I am pleased to introduce Chef Hari Nayak. He started his journey as an international restaurateur, a chef, and an author in Manipal, India, where he studied at the ITC Hospitality Management School, graduating in 1994. As his first job, he joined the ITC Sheraton Group of Hotels as a kitchen management trainee, including at Buhera, before attending the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York. He wrote his first cookbook, "Modern Indian Cooking," in 2007, which was named in Los Angeles Time, cookbook of the year. Since then, Hari has written six more books and been recognized as one of the top Indian chefs and cookbook authors in North America. Today, Hari is Executive Chef of Sona, in New York City. He has his own brand of retail products, in partnership with Whole Foods Market, and he has available at high end retail gourmet markets across the country. Hari is known as the pioneer of modern Indian cuisine, and his vision is to bring Indian culture and cuisine to the forefront on the global culinary map. By showcasing his Western cooking skills, coupled with his deep-rooted Indian traditions. he aspires to provide Indian cuisine an international platform and help it gain recognition as one of the world's top cuisines. Before we start, a quick housekeeping note, you're welcome to submit questions during the demo. To submit a question, please use the Q and A icon at the bottom of the screen. We will try to answer as many questions live. Also, this event is being recorded and the replay will be posted on First Republic's website. Let's give a warm welcome to Chef Hari. Take it away, Chef.

Chef Hari Nayak - Thank you. Thank you guys. Thanks for a wonderful introduction. Thank you. Happy Diwali to everybody who celebrate. Happy belated Diwali. So, Diwali was last week. We had a really amazing time at Sona. It was wonderful. So thank you, guys, for spending your afternoon with me. So a little bit about myself. I'm the Executive Chef at Sona in New York, right now, and what we are doing at Sona, it's been open for a little over eight months now, and it's been such an amazing time to see that New York is back, and our restaurant industry is back booming. So it's been an amazing time so far. So I'm excited to showcase a few of the dishes that you could make at home. And, what I'm doing is, I grew up in India, grew up in South India. So I spent half my life in India and I've been in New York for almost, a little more than 22 years. So the way I cook is the best of both worlds. I, very Indian at heart, but it's very global and very New York in approach. So same at Sona, when we designed the menu at Sona, it's a New York restaurant first, but very Indian at heart. So, what we are doing there, it's very regional in cooking. So for a decade, Indian cooking outside of India has always been about Northern Indian food. So for me, it was an opportunity to showcase that Indian cooking is much more than the, the common misconception about heavy and creamier dishes. So growing up in South India, I never had Chicken Tikka Masala, or I never, the first time I had Chicken Tikka Masala is when I came to New York. So there's so much more to Indian cooking than what you see in the Western world. So for me, it's exciting to showcase something new, something coastal, where I grew up in south India. So the few dishes that I'm going to make today, are Southern Indian. What I'll be making today is a fish curry from Kerala, served with lemon rice and crispy okra. So very simple to make at home. I've made it easier. Again, recipes, you guys have recipes, but for me, recipes just, you can change recipes based on how you feel, at what you have available. So feel free to use the recipe as just as a guideline. So the way I will be cooking these dishes, I would be making the sauce for the fish first. Then I'll be making the lemon rice, and then I'll finish with the crispy okra and then I'll put it all together. So we're going to start, the first thing you're going to make, so feel free if you have questions and feel free to interrupt and I'll be happy to answer, so the first thing I'll be doing is the sauce for the fish curry itself. So this is, like I said, Southern Indian cooking is lighter. We are using coconut milk for the base. It's a very simple curry, that you can make it really quick at 10 minutes. So I'll be using sea bass for this dish. So you could use any whitefish that cooks fast. So I'll be making the sauce first.

Chef Hari - So for the fish curry, we always start with the tempering of the spices, but in this case, the flavor for the curry, it comes from ginger, fresh ginger and curry leaves. So I've got sliced onions. The heat comes from green chile. Again, the green chiles, you can add as much or as little as you want, depending on how spicy you would want the curry to be. This curry is from Kerala, a Southern part of India, amazing seafood dishes from Kerala. So this is inspired by one of the dishes from Kerala called, "Fish Molee." It's just basically a coconut milk and turmeric, curry that's flavored with ginger and curry. I'm going to start with frying the onions, green chile.

Carolyn Carranza - Hi Chef. Are fresh curry leaves widely available or do you have any recommended substitutions?

Chef Hari - There is in fact, no substitution for curry leaf. It has a very unique flavor. South Asian grocery stores, Indian, it's very commonly available in Indian grocery stores, but I've seen curry leaves now in Whole Foods Market. So it is becoming more common to use curry leaf, but there is actually no substitute. You need to find something fresh, you can freeze it and use it. So I have ginger, onions, green chile and fresh curry leaves. So I grew up every side in South India, like I said, every South Indian home has a little curry leaf tree in their backyard because we use it in all, everything that we use. It has nothing to do with the curry powder or anything. Curry is such a mis... term, a misused term, because in India, every dish that they cook, it's some sort of a curry. So this curry leaf gives you a unique flavor to this sauce. So I'm trying some onions, ginger, green chile, in oil. In South India, we would use coconut oil, but you could use any oil that you would want, but definitely no olive oil. Olive oil does not work with Indian cooking. The only spice that I'm using in this dish is turmeric, which gives you a beautiful yellow color. And it's great for you, this, so Indian cooking does not have to be complicated. It does not have to have 20 different spices. You can see that our dishes, which will have 20 different spices in a, in a recipe, maybe a Biryani or something more complex, but Indian home cooking is very simple. We use very little and bring out the flavors from as little as we can, using as less spice as we can. So in this case, turmeric is the only spice that we are using. I'm adding salt. I'm adding some coconut milk too. This is a simple yellow curry. Again, the flavor is ginger, green chile and turmeric, very simple. If I'm doing this at home, if you're doing it at home, you don't, in this case, when I'm cooking in a restaurant, I would cook the fish separately, make a nice filet, sear the skin, cook it separately and make it look fancy. But if you're at home, I would, like, my mom would just cook it, whole fish. She would cut it into pieces and drop it right in, in the sauce right now and let the fish cook right in the sauce, so that's more flavorful. In restaurants, what we do, is we would add a little bit of fish stock to this, just to give a little more seafood flavor to the sauce. But again, recipes are just a guideline. You could use shrimp here. You can use scallops. You could use muscles. Any kind of seafood work perfectly with this sauce. So if you're using muscles, like I said, muscles, I would just drop muscles here. I would add shrimp at this point and cook it for about five minutes, while the sauce is simmering on the side. I will...

Carolyn - Hi Chef.

Chef Hari - Yes.

Carolyn - So I saw that you added coconut milk. Could you substitute that with coconut cream, by any chance?

Chef Hari - Coconut cream, you could, but you would have to thin it down with water or a fish stock. You would need to have coconut milk, cream might be too much, too heavy. Coconut cream, you would want to add a little water to thin it down.

Carolyn - Great. Thank you. And also, is there a type of green chile you recommend?

Chef Hari - I would, I would use little, the Thai bird's eye chile, but if you go to an Indian grocery store, you would have this unique, small little green chile, which is similar to a Thai bird's eye chile. That's what is ideal, but if you don't find it, that's perfectly fine. Jalapeno would work. If you don't have chiles, a little bit of red chile flakes. So again, for me, recipes is just a guideline and use whatever you have in your pantry. Black pepper might work, but if you don't have any green chiles, I would use a little bit of red chile flakes to spice it up. So it's that simple, two minutes and this sauce is going to be ready to be used. I'm going to cook the fish separately and plate it, but like I said, if you're at home, if you don't have the time, I would just cut up some fish and just add it right into the sauce, fresh shrimp, scallops, mussels, any seafood. So while that is simmering and reducing, about five minutes, I'm going to make the next dish. That's the lemon rice. So one thing, probably it's not on the recipe, a little bit of lime, a little bit of lemon. A lime is always, works perfectly with the sauce just to finish it. So it's Indian food, or any food, it's all about balance of flavors. So it's, the sweetness comes from the coconut. The spice comes from the green chile, the ginger and the curry leaf adds great flavor, but that little bit of tartness from the sauce, it works perfectly to finish the sauce. So that's it, that's the curry, that's the curry for the fish. And while, before I go to the next step, staying with the recipe for fish, I'm going to quickly marinate the fish. Fish does not need to be marinated for too long, before I sear it. Here, I have a beautiful black sea bass, wild-caught sea bass, two filets. This is about five ounce piece of filet. I have two pieces. This recipe would work good for four people or for two. I'm making a curry for two right now. So I'm going to quickly marinate this with a little bit of salt, little bit of lemon juice, little turmeric. Very, very little, but... and then, the spice blend that I'm using to marinate this fish, is a little bit of red chile flakes. Again, you can totally skip it if you don't want heat to this. So I'm adding a little bit of cumin, cumin seeds and coriander seeds. Again, what I've done to this, these two spices, are I've toasted it.

These spices probably have been sitting in your pantry for a long time so you will have, it's always good to toast spices before using it. So I lightly toasted it on a pan. I crushed it. I don't, I didn't make a fine powder. I like the coarseness of the spices. When you sear the fish, I like a little bit of crunch, that adds to the fish. So that's, a little bit of limes, a little bit of salt, some spices, and I'm going to keep it aside before I'm going to sear. If you notice, I've just puts the spice crust on the, not on the skin side. Again, skin is optional. If you don't want the skin, you can marinate the whole thing. So why that is marinating, I'm going to jump in and make the rice. This is lemon rice. It's one of the most common rice dishes in South India. I grew up eating this rice. It's perfect picnic food. My mom would pack lemon rice as a meal. It works well. It doesn't have to be hot. It's works well, even tastes good when it's cold. It's a perfect lunch box item. And one good thing about lemon rice, is you don't really have to cook. It's great with leftover rice so you can, if you have the time, you can cook, as the recipe says, you can cook fresh rice, white rice, but here, I've cooked a little rice ahead of time. Like I said, it works perfectly well with leftover rice. The rice is cold here. It's similar to making fried rice, but it's a little different, has South Indian flavors to it. So I'm going to add, in South India we would use coconut oil, and using coconut oil is very common, in South India, gives great flavor. So I have a little oil in the pan. I'm going to temper this oil with spices. So this technique is very common in Indian cooking. It's called, "Tadka," T A D K A. Tadka simply means, you're tempering spices into hot oil. It could be, the common ingredients could be mustard seeds, could be cumin seeds. So this is the way you would bring in flavor into the dish. When you're using mustard seeds, it's critical that, you need to make sure that the oil is hot. So to temper this dish, I'm using a little bit of mustard seeds. So when you're adding mustard seeds into the oil, you have to make sure the oil is hot, and you have to hear the mustard seeds jumping, and that's the sound, the crackle of mustard seeds is very important, otherwise your whole dish is going to be bitter. So this is, it breaks up the mustard seeds. It releases all its flavor into the oil.

That is the key when tempering in oil, especially when using mustard. Other tempering ingredients could be cumin seeds, cumin seeds does, can, needs to be toasted. In this case, I'm using a little bit of dry red chiles, similar to chile de arbol in Mexican cooking. There are so many different chiles in India, which came from Mexico, by the way so, you know, before, about chiles... People don't know that it's the Portuguese brought in potatoes. The chiles came from Mexico. So a few centuries ago, Indian cooking, Indian cooking never had chiles. So these are all the things about Indian cooking which makes it very interesting. So I'm using red chiles, mustard, a little bit of chana dal, it's a lentil, gives you a little crunch into your rice.

Carolyn - Chef. What is the difference between black mustard seeds and the other colors of mustard seeds?

Chef Hari - Most common that we use in South India is black mustard seeds. In India, I've never seen any other color, but I've seen more like yellow mustard seeds here. I think it's the majority of the mustard seeds, but for Indian cooking, always use black mustard seeds. It's available in an Indian grocery store. So you have to make sure the chana dal is nice and toasty. And lemon rice, you're using turmeric again, to make, gives you a beautiful color for the rice. I'm adding a little bit of lemon juice, a little bit of salt. The thing about Indian cooking, is you have to make sure the spices are cooked through. That's when the flavor comes out in any dish. So I'm adding cooked rice to this dish. One thing I did forget to add is curry leaves. I won't be able to add right now, but curry leaves are part of the tempering of this dish. You notice, it's very simple, very quick, it has flavors of lemon, salt and turmeric, that's it. It's a very simple dish. Add a little bit of salt. The recipe calls for peanuts, but you can use any nuts. I'm using a little bit of cashew nuts, a little bit of peanuts for this dish. Gives a little crunch. You can add a little bit of cilantro when finished, but you don't have to. That's it, The lemon rice is ready. Always taste your food and make sure you're not, it's salted correctly. It should have the right tartness from the lemon, a little bit of heat from the chile, but not too much. So I have the lemon rice, I have the sauce for the fish, is also ready. So the next, I would cook the fish in the end, the finished dish, but the, I was going to make crispy okra. So this adds, for me, this adds a little bit of texture to the dish, but crispy okra is a dish on its own. It's a great snack, okra fries are a bhindi, like we call it, bhindi okra is a very common vegetable we cook in India. Excuse me. It's all the spices in the tempering. So I'm going to make the crispy okra next. So like I said, okra is a very common vegetable we use at home, simple to use. A key to make good okra dish is getting fresh okra, young okra. When it sits in your refrigerator for too long, it's pretty nasty. It's rubbery and chewy. It's very important to use fresh, good okra, that you get.

Carolyn - Chef, when is the prime okra season?

Chef Hari - I think right now, summer. It's summer and fall, like I was in a restaurant that is close to Union Square Market, and lucky enough, just three blocks. I was just walking, walk into the restaurant, and I saw fresh okra from South Jersey. It's amazing that it's available year-round, I think, but I think the prime season is late summer and fall. But it's winter, I mean, this is a tricky, it feels like, today, it feels like fall and I went to the market and I saw amazing okra, in the market today.

Carolyn - Yeah, and do you ever use frozen okra?

Chef Hari - I do, when you, if I'm making a stew. In India, we make something called a, "Sambar," or any saucy dish, then I'm adding okra to that. Frozen is okay, but fresh for a dish like this, a crispy okra, I don't think a frozen would work, but if you're making a simple stir-fry, like a home, a home-cooked meal in India, is a simple okra dish that is a stir-fry, you could get away with using frozen, yeah.

Carolyn - Great. Thank you.

Chef Hari - So I'm going to fry some okras. Okay, so this, I'm going to have to do it on a back burner. So to make this, so I have fresh okra here. I've sliced it up. So you don't... Yeah, I've done it as I have, but if you don't have to cut the head, if you're frying, I'm just cut it into a diagonal slice, very thin, as thin as you can. That's the key, to make okra really thin. So that's when you'll get really a crispy okra. So I have some okra here. Okay, so I'm going to add the ingredients for this, to flavor and to bind this. The main ingredient for this is besan. Besan is a chickpea flour. It's a flour that we use very commonly in India to make anything fried. There are a lot of dishes that we use... This is gluten-free. It works really well, when you, if you've heard of, "Fritters," or, "Pakodas," in India, besan is a very key ingredient to this dish. So here, add a little bit of besan, the chickpea flour. I like to mix in a little bit of rice flour. That gives that crisp texture to the okra. So I have made the chickpea flour, rice flour, a little bit of salt, a little bit of chile powder, turmeric, and I'm using a little bit of chat masala. Chat masala is a spice blend that we use, great with anything fried. It has ingredients like dry mango powder, black salt. It gives a great tanginess to the dish.

Carolyn - Hi Chef.

Chef Hari - Yeah.

Carolyn - Did you remove the okra seeds?

Chef Hari - No, I did not. You don't have to. No, you don't have to. When you're frying it, no, you don't have to. So I'm going to fry it in the back here.

Carolyn - Hi Chef. Also, Do you make your own chile powder or do you have a brand that you recommend?

Chef Hari - No, I don't like, make chile powder, but I think for me, Indian markets, there are so many different variations, but there's a brand called, "MDH," which is very common in Indian holes. So that's fine, yeah. The only thing that I do, in terms of spices, people ask me, what are these few essential pantry ingredients, if you want to start Indian cooking? So for me, the few things that you would want to have in your pantry is red chile powder, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder, and the garam masala powder. That's a few ingredients that you need to play around, to make Indian cooking at home. So I'm going to fry, I know it's, you know, you guys cannot see it, but I'm going to fry okra in my back burner here. You have to make sure the oil is hot to get a real crispy okra. So while I'm waiting for the okra to be fried, next thing I'll be doing is searing the fish.

Carolyn - So chef, regarding the fish, how long would it take to cook the fish, if it was cooked in the sauces versus the pan?

Chef Hari - I think, if you're cooking it in the sauce, it'll, depending on the size of the fish, if it's a small dice, five minutes, that's all you need. Yeah, and bring the sauce up to the boil and just cook it for five minutes. And if you're a searing a piece of fish like this, a five ounce, I think, you're searing skin-side down for about, about two minutes and then flip it over, cook it for two minutes on each side. Depends again, depends on the size of the fish. This piece of a four-ounce filet of sea bass, you can cook it in under five minutes.

Carolyn - Great. Thank you. And did you cut the okra a day before, or soak the vegetable in water to remove the sticky substance?

Chef Hari - No, I did not soak this. If you're frying okra, try to cut it just before you're about to fry it. And the sticky, the okra, it's usually, if you're frying it, you won't feel that.

Carolyn - Great. And did you toss the okra with an oil before dusting with the chickpea flour?

Chef Hari - Nope. No, no oil at all. Definitely. No. You want to avoid moisture, as much as possible, with okra or any vegetable. So all it needs is dry ingredients, all the dry spices, the chickpea flour, the rice flour. And once you toss it, you don't want it to sit for a long time, because the, again, it's going to be sticky. So you just want to fry it as soon as possible.

Carolyn - Chef, everyone wants to know, is there any chickpea flour that you recommend?

Chef Hari - A brand?

Carolyn - Yes.

Chef Hari - No. There's nothing specific. I never look for a brand when I'm frying chickpea flour, no. So I would go with maybe chickpea flour that's available in an Indian market. Chickpea flour is generally available, I haven't seen much of chickpea flour in a lesser market, but if you go to an Indian market, you'll find chickpea flour. There's, I think most, most grocery stores buy in bulk and they repack it with their own brand. So you really don't know what the sources is. It is coming from India, we know that, but each of these grocery stores, repack it in their own brand. I won't be able to recommend any particular brand of chickpea flour. So the, I have my rice ready, I have my sauce ready. The okra is getting fried. Only thing I need to do now is to finish cooking the fish, and then you're going to plate it. And then you're going to be ready to serve, and I'm going to be ready to answer any other questions that you might have.

Carolyn - Chef, growing up, did you make these dishes for your Diwali celebrations?

Chef Hari - Growing up in India, I grew up in India, I left India in 1996. So Diwali for us was not about these dishes. It was more about, "Mathris," which are sweets and savory snacks. And my mom would make vegetarian dishes. There was a, yeah, we would eat fish, but on a Diwali day, it would be more vegetarian dishes, vegetarian meals would be common. But definitely something festive, something home-cooked, and lots of sweets. That's how we celebrated Diwali. And we look forward, we woke up in the morning, that's the only day we could have sweet dishes for breakfast. So it was always fun, we were looking forward to that.

Carolyn - What other Diwali traditions do you observe?

Chef Hari - I'm sorry?

Carolyn - What other Diwali traditions do you observe?

Chef Hari - I think, Diwali, for me, one, other than food, we used to always look forward to fireworks, and the end of the day, and always, my mom used to make some homemade sweets, and we used to talk about giving gifts. So we used to give homemade sweets and savory snacks, pack it in nice bags, and just give it to our neighbors and friends and my family. And so that's my memory of Diwali. And we tried to follow as much as we can back here. And in, but it's, I think this, this Diwali, I was busy working and we had a great time. And so, so there you are. This is crispy okra, has nice crunch, nice golden brown color. It took me about four to five minutes to make and chaat masala is a spice that I would, it's a finishing spice, so I would add a little bit of chaat masala, right on, when it, as soon as it comes out of the fryer, you would toss it in, chaat masala. That's, that's, it's so simple. The goodness of the mango, the black salt, it makes it really flavorful. I have my crispy okra. I have my lemon rice, I have my fish curry here. All I have left is to cook the fish, and we'll be ready to plate. So I have a marinated fish. It's been about about five minutes. That's more than enough to cook fish, or marinate fish. You don't need to marinate it for too long. So skin-side down.

Carolyn - Chef,

Carolyn - Yes. a question about the curry. Do you need to keep the curry simmering to separate the oils from the coconut milk?

Chef Hari - Nope. You don't need to. I don't need to, this, you don't have to separate the oils in this case, we just have to simmer it for long enough to get the flavors kinda going in, all the flavors and the spices and getting into the coconut milk. You don't need to separate the oil from the coconut milk. I mean, if you're, I know if you're doing a Thai curry versus an Indian curry, you would want that separation of oil, but in this case you don't need to.

Carolyn -Great. Thank you. Also, do you marinate both sides of the fish?

Chef Hari - No, I just, the skin side, I did not marinate. I just want the crisp texture of the fish, of the skin. I just marinated, I just have a little spice crust on the other side, not the skin side of that. If it was a skinless filet, then I would probably marinate it on both sides. And you don't have to, personally, I like the texture that cumin and coriander gives when you're biting into the fish. But if you don't have to, you can simply add cumin powder, coriander powder, to your plate. That will do. We can finish it in an oven or you can just continue cooking on a pan. So in a restaurant, if I was cooking this in the restaurant, I would add a little bit of butter right now, and just baste it, give the fish filet a butter bath. It makes it a little more beautiful and creamy, and just flavorful. Butter makes everything better, right? That's what we do. It's best when you're cooking fish, you can add a little butter and just makes it juicier and perfect. But in this case, if you're cooking at home, if I was doing this at home, I would probably just, don't even do this. I would just add it right into the sauce and finish it.

Carolyn - Great. Can you tell us more about your restaurant? What are some signature dishes that you have and display there?

Chef Hari - When designing the menu at Sona, what we kept in mind is, we wanted to showcase regional cooking of India. So we have, we picked the best of the dishes from showcasing the regions of India, from north, south, the west coast, everything, and we've given it a New York flair. So I call it, "Indian dishes with a New York state of mind." We use a lot of local farmers, local produce, and seasonalities come into play, but it's all, for me, it has a lot of influences about who I am. I grew up in India, and I lived in New York for more than half my life, so it has the best of both worlds. We use a lot of influences of the city itself. It has a lot of global approach, but it's very Indian at heart. We might use a new technique to cook. We might, but it's very, very much Indian. So some of our popular dishes are, we have a fish, a Goan fish curry, which is similar to this. It's not as easy as this fish curry, but Goan fish curry, you will need to make a a spice blend or a spice paste, by toasting red chiles, a lot of different, coriander, cumin, fennel. And so you make a spice paste and finish it the same way with coconut milk. That's a little complicated, the Goan fish curry, but with the same sea bass, we do that with a little bit of clam, we add clams into the fish curry. So Goan fish curry is one of our signature dishes and it's been popular, but we have so many amazing dishes. We make the roasted oyster, which is one of my favorites, which you don't find in, well not so common in Indian restaurants. We have Malabar Chicken Biriyani, it's in Malabar, it's a state region in South India, in Kerala. We make a biriyani with that. So biriyanis are these rice dishes. In the Western world, it's usually made with basmati rice, where it's common. What we wanted to showcase, some dishes that are not so familiar in the Western world. So we use a rice, a short grain rice, called, "Kaima rice," which is only available in south of India. So we are bringing all these ingredients, and showcasing to the Western world, that there's more to Indian cooking than a samosa, which is, of course we have a great samosa on the menu, but we wanted to showcase a lot of dishes that are, probably, you've never seen before. But yeah, we are cooking Indian food, I think, from our heart.

I think that we have a great team. And if anybody's in New York, we would love to have you over. So to finish the dish, again, in a restaurant setting, if you want this sauce to be really smooth, and without all the curry leaves and onions, and I like the whole rustic approach to that sauce, I don't mind the ginger, you can bite into the ginger and the onions, but if you don't want that, if you just simply strain the sauce, and with a strainer, and just use a smooth sauce on it. So you would... You have a little bit of the sauce. If you want, like I said, if you want more seafood flavor into the sauce, I would, if you have fish stock in your, if you want to, you can add a little bit of fish stock to get a little more flavor into this dish. You could add clams to give, while cooking the sauce, you can add a little bit of clams to give that flavor of seafood. So a little bit of this lemon rice. I think, if I plate it here, you might be able to see it better.

Carolyn - Chef. Do you usually cook with butter or do you make ghee?

Chef Hari - I prefer cooking with ghee than butter, yeah, while cooking Indian food. Yes. It depends on what I'm making, but yeah, I would, I would use ghee. Ghee has a higher melt and smoking point. You can fry with it. You can do a lot of things, but I like the flavor of ghee. So I have the sauce. I have the curry. I have the seared piece of fish. Again, this has a lot of the flavors from the cumin, the coriander, and I've kept the spices whole because I like the crunchiness, the bite that you get from whole spices. And then, this is a 30 minute meal. You could take this meal, I chose this dish because it is something that you can make at home very quickly. Of course the okra is optional. If you want to impress somebody and make it for a get together, you could add this garnish. But again, this, I like the crunch that okra gives for this, for this dish. But then you can make this dish cause it's a great snack on its own. Crispy okra, you can't go wrong with it. I have a little bit of crispy okra, fish, and there you have it. This is my Kerala fish curry, with lemon rice and crispy okra. That's it. How long did that take? It was probably thirty? Okay. So that's good. There you go.

Carolyn - Chef,

Carolyn - this looks really delicious.

Chef Hari - Thank you.

Carolyn - For our vegan guests, do you have any vegan ingredients that you work with for this type of cuisine?

Chef Hari - Yes, Indian, I mean, this, again, Indian cuisine is very diverse, got a lot of vegan, vegetarian ingredients. I would, for this particular sauce, you could use roasted vegetables, say, anything that's available in the market. Right now, it's fall season, any squash, pumpkin, butternut squash, I would, if you want to use similar flavors, I would roast some fall root vegetables or mix it with some squash and pumpkin. I would roast it, put the same flavors, turmeric, coriander, cumin, a little bit of garam masala, oil, and red chile flakes. I would just roast all these vegetables, and I would serve nice roasted vegetables with the same sauce and crispy okra on top. It would work well. Definitely.

Carolyn - Great. That sounds delicious. Also, how and when do you use lemongrass?

Chef Hari - Lemongrass is not so commonly used in Indian cooking, but it's more for Thai curries, but I have cooked the same sauce with a little bit of crushed lemongrass, which just gives you amazing flavor, but it's not so common Indian ingredient, lemongrass. It's more Thai. But there is a part in India, it's Malabar, which I've seen people using lemongrass into sauces like this. Coconut milk, lemongrass, [indistinct], lime. It's a great match. I think it'll work well, but traditionally, those are not very common Indian ingredients.

Carolyn - Got it. Also, can we add green chile paste to lemon rice?

Chef Hari - Green chile paste to lemon rice. Yeah, why not? You could, instead of the red chile, the whole red chiles that are used during tempering the lemon rice, it does not give you heat to the dish. Lemon rice is just, it's not spicy at all, but if you want to make it spicy, I would definitely use chopped green chile paste. If your tempering, paste will not work, it might burn with hot oil. I would use chopped green chiles.

Carolyn - Great. Thank you. And lastly, what inspired you to get into cooking professionally?

Chef Hari - Well for me, you know, growing up, my grandfather was a restaurateur. I did not get to see it, see him and his restaurant when, it was my parents, who I would hear stories about my father growing up in that world, helping him. He did not get into the restaurant business, but I would hear stories about my, the restaurant that my grandfather had, and how my dad would help. It was always in my mind, but then I went to a hotel and restaurant management school in India. And the first time I saw a professional kitchen, I kind of felt like, "It feels good to be in this kitchen. It feels good to be in a chef coat or chef whites." And that's how I kind of got into it professionally. And then, I decided to find the best cooking school in the world, and that's how I ended up in New York. This was 22 years back, 25 now, I think.

Sandy - Well, thank you so much, Chef Hari, for demonstrating this cooking and also sharing your story. We greatly appreciate you for making today's event a memorable experience and teaching us more about Indian cuisine to celebrate Diwali. And to our attendees, thank you for being with us today. As a reminder, this event was recorded and the recording will be available on our website towards the end of next week. We will also send a follow-up email with the recipes, instructions, and a link to the chef's website, where you can learn more about Sona and purchase gift cards. Please visit our website,, for a schedule of our upcoming webinars. Take care and be well. Happy Diwali.

Chef Hari - Thank you.

Sandy - Thank You.

The guest speaker(s) is neither an employee nor affiliated with First Republic. Opinions expressed by the guest speaker(s) are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of First Republic. This information is governed by our Terms and Conditions of Use.