Gaggan: Indian cuisine at molecular levels
It’s not the kitchen packed full of water baths, tanks of liquid nitrogen and condensers that make chef Gaggan Anand and his culinary style stand out.
Nor is it his mind-bending approach to Indian cuisine, or even the painstaking effort that goes into every dish, from designing the recipe to finding individual ingredients, including spices from Kerala, and fresh foie gras imported from Hungary.
What defines Gaggan's food is his boundless enthusiasm for his art.
His energy is utterly infectious. Spend five minutes talking with the Kolkata native about food and he’ll take you on a whirlwind journey through the history of spices, India’s regional cuisines, culinary techniques and the potential that can be unleashed by taking a radical approach to traditional cooking.
It's because of this energy and enthusiasm that Gaggan will likely succeed in his mission to drag Indian cooking from its traditional confines of curry houses and sumptuous but safe chicken tikka massalas and lamb biryanis onto the world stage as a vibrant, evolving modern cuisine.
Molecular gastronomy goes Indian
Gaggan’s, situated in a converted colonial Thai home, is the venue for this formidable challenge.
While Gaggan earned a solid reputation for culinary creativity in the four years he’s spent in Bangkok -- he was the brains behind the contemporary Indian cuisine at Red on Thonglor and more recently worked as chef de cuisine at Lebua -- last month’s opening of Gaggan’s marks a paradigm shift for the chef, Bangkok’s dining scene and, he hopes, Indian cuisine in general.
The 32-year-old’s unconventional approach to his native fare went into hyperdrive early this year when he studied for eight weeks in Spain under one of the world’s greatest chefs, Michelin-starred chef Ferran Adria.
It was in Catalonia that Gaggan, as the second Asian and first Indian to enter Adria’s culinary research laboratory, learned the techniques of what has become known as “molecular gastronomy.”
While not particularly fond of the term -- “If you want to know how molecules work, talk to scientists” -- Gaggan did learn the deconstructive approach to cooking that emphasizes creating an experience that appeals to all of the senses.
Applied to Indian, the approach sees the traditional raita “spherified” by using alginate as a setting agent to create a kind of jellified egg, which bursts in the mouth delivering the full flavor of yogurt and Indian spices in one go. Mutton bhuna ghosh is pot roasted in a copper vessel then vacuum packed and simmered in a water bath for 24 hours (a technique known as sous vide) to yield an unbelievably succulent and tender curry. Bhutta chaat, a street salad made here from sweetcorn kernels and shallots, is served with a dry dressing of freeze-dried tomato and sweetcorn; and cocktails are made edible by freezing them with liquid nitrogen.
The aim is to fully engage all five senses.
“If I ran a rotissiere, I would just roast all day,” Gaggan says. “But this stuff makes me crazy with ideas.”
Some 50 dishes, ranging from the experimental “Three Acts of Foie Gras” to more traditional crab claws with chili and garlic, are available on the a la carte menu.
The best way to experience Gaggan’s is to try the 10-course testing menu (starting at 1,600 baht). Despite the high-end nature of the cuisine and the resplendent colonial surroundings, Gaggan’s is devoid of the pretentiousness that often permeates such restaurants.
Throughout the course of a meal diners are offered the chance to tour the kitchen and watch the chefs at work -- a highly recommended experience.
Gaggan's friends in Spain said that "the seeds of a new approach to Indian cuisine were being planted in him.” Those seeds have clearly taken root. Watching them blossom and grow over the next five years will be fascinating for Bangkok's lucky diners.
68/1 Soi Langsuan (opposite Soi 3)
Tel: +66 (0)2 652 1700