The foodie lions of Punjab are here in Bangalore — Jiggs Kalra and son Zorawar Kalra have thrown open the doors of their signature restaurant, ‘Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra' to entice you into an exotic world of fine Indian dining — give tandoori duck a try while daintily sipping some wine, or feast on salmon tikka — get the idea?
The 63-year-old food enthusiast and consultant Jiggs Kalra, who first stepped into the kitchen when he was 22 (“just to prove to myself that hotels were overcharging”) combines his years of delicious food-concocting experience with MBA-schooled-son Zorawar's zeal for the restaurant business. Jiggs very visibly dotes on his son, and says all his other consultations have taken a backseat, “Now Zorawar is top priority. As my son, he has top right over my work. He can add or change recipes as he wants. He sometimes tells me, ‘Dad this is not going to work'…and that means he's truly arrived,” beams Jiggs.
Jiggs Kalra has been a Bangalore regular since he first came in 1968, as a journalist with the The Illustrated Weekly of India. He kept returning to cover military establishments here and HMT. “I always thought of Bangalore as my second home,” says Jiggs, who, despite being confined to a wheelchair for the last few years, brims with cheer and warmth. He has also had a long-standing relationship with Bangalore-based MTR Foods (before they sold to a Norwegian firm), having whipped up their packaged north Indian curry recipes.
A constant campaigner for Indian food, specially its image overseas, Jiggs says, “I don't think Indians are willing to give up their murgh malai tikka for some fried chicken,” referring to MNC food joints. Both father and son believe Bangalore is the testing ground for most new culinary ventures. “The diner here is most sophisticated, so this is our first venture in south India and our seventh restaurant in three years,” says Zorawar. Jiggs and Zorawar talk of the hard work that's gone into pairing their food with wine. “The idea is to evolve Indian food to version 2.0. We're the only Punjabi restaurant to do tandoori duck,” Zorawar offers as an example. “For that matter any duck!” chuckles Jiggs. (Their opening evening offered duck samosas!) And then Jiggs jumps on to his favourite subject — kebabs — and their history as seen in the times of Rajput kings of the fourth century who went hunting and cooked ducks on spitfires.
Jiggs believes Punjabi cuisine is a runaway success because it's “the new boy on the block” that replaces Mughlai cuisine. Again, in a sort of stream of consciousness mode, Jiggs takes a dig at how “Bangladeshis in London have ridden piggyback on Punjabi cuisine and called it Mughaliya”.
Talk veers towards television cookery shows and Jiggs shows a contempt for most shows, and its watchers. “You shouldn't create a dish just for the sake of creating one — you can't put a gulab jamoon and ice-cream together and call it ‘gora-kala', or throw together spinach and paneer and call it ‘saanj-savera'! How can I watch such garbage?”
He's known to have turned vegetarian, but that, Jiggs insists was because of seeing his father turn vegetarian. “But by design I'm not vegetarian. I've tried everything except snakes, alligators and kangaroos — these are things I won't like to see eaten, and would rather admire in their natural environment.”
While earlier he would walk into restaurants and have the chefs make something to his liking (he does not like chillies in his food), Jiggs Kalra says he's now a home-food eater. “My comfort lies in sandwiches,” he declares. Zorawar pitches in: “From our chef at home, he has whatever home food he wants, cooked to his taste.”
“I have my own low-fat recipe for every thing — be it a daal or a vegetable. I use just one or two ingredients. Dal is my favourite dish and coriander my favourite herb… the Europeans have only now woken up to this herb now…” trails off Jiggs before detailing his recipe for home-style daal. A completely self-taught cook, Jiggs says “anything self taught is the best”. He then trails off again to talk of how in his initial days he was trying to create and establish systems — “from one lamb I could easily make eight to 10 dishes”.
With food running in the veins of both father and son, talk shifts to Zorawar's memories of the smells and sights of his father's cooking. “As a kid, I remember he used to make the best cheese omelettes — with, I think, a pound of cheese, fresh oregano and sausages…,” beams Zorawar. “And his Sunday barbecues…he even used to make his own sausages, and we would have 60 people in the house for this monthly event,” he remembers. “They talk to me about it even now,' adds Jiggs, visibly proud.
Their restaurant is at SJR Primus, Ground Floor, Koramangala, 7th Block (opposite Forum Mall). Call 40902161.
Keywords: Bangalore restaurants