Chef Mohammed Ghouse Lazam brings the best of Andhra cuisine to the city for Vivanta by Taj, Vazhuthacaud’s Andhra food fete

If you love a lot of spice, here is a food festival for you. Vivanta by Taj, Vazhuthacaud, is holding an Andhra food festival till June 2. The man helming the kitchen is Chef Mohammed Ghouse Lazam, who has travelled all the way from Visakhapatnam.

“Andhra cuisine is perhaps the spiciest and hottest of all Indian cuisines. It is a chatpatta cuisine, flavourful because of its fine blend of spices and exotic seasonings. As you have all the flavours in there, it tickles your taste buds. The food is region specific and I have chosen the pick of the lot from these regions for the fete,” says chef Mohammed.

The daily dinner buffet will see a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items.

Inspired by mom

“The dishes are all authentic Andhra dishes,” says Mohammed who feels that his passion for cooking comes from his mother, Allima Biwi’s food.

“She was a phenomenal cook who turned ordinary ingredients into gourmet dishes. As we come from a large family, our house was always bustling with guests and relatives. Hence, meals at our home were always feasts,” says Mohammed, who speaks Hindi and Telugu and only a smattering of English.

Although he specialises in Andhra cuisine, his preparations, he feels, in terms of taste, have not reached the level of his mother’s. So are his recipes based on his mother’s? “No. She never allowed me to enter the kitchen stating it was too hot in there. I used to watch her cook chupke, chupke. The funny thing is I have been working in a hot kitchen for the last 21 years now. It is my bread and butter and I love it,” he says with a guffaw.

The amiable chef, who has been working with the Taj for 12 years now, picked up tricks of the trade from his brother Shaik Syed Ahmed. A chef at The Park, Visakhapatnam, Shaik taught Mohammed the ABC of Andhra cooking. The rest Mohammed learnt on his own.

“Hooked by the flavours behind my mom’s dishes, I try replicating the taste of her food and must be succeeding to a certain extant judging by my steady clientele.”

So, hasn’t he ever felt like dabbling in any other form of cuisine? “I did want to try Chinese but realised that my heart lay with the food of my childhood,” says the chef who was born and raised in Visakhapatnam.

On the menu

At the fete in the city, Mohammed, on his first visit to the city, promises to serve customers a gastronomic fare. Royala Igguru (prawn roast in a thick gravy), gonguru mamisan (mutton cooked with sorral leaves), chappala pulusu (spicy fish curry), pesarratu (moong dal dosa), tomato pappu (dal curry with tomatoes) and bellemgarelu (Andhra styled doughnuts) are some of the highlights of the festival. As rice is a staple food for Andhraites, there are a variety of rice preparations starting from the comfort of curd rice to exotic biriyanis.

The dinner buffet which starts at 7 p.m. and ends at 11 p.m. is priced at Rs. 1,250 plus taxes per person.