Stomach of steel: Actor and television host Kunal Vijaykar opens up

If you love food, you might have watched him in his show, The Foodie. Or if you’re the kind who likes their news with a healthy dose of satire, you might have seen him in The Week That Wasn’t. Apart from this, he has acted in several movies, published a cookbook, and is one of the most recognised faces on Indian television.

With his deep connection to food, the ever-funny Kunal Vijaykar was in Chennai over the weekend, aptly to launch Phoenix MarketCity’s Food Guide at the mall’s Design Hotel Chennai. The guide lists details of the 31 restaurants and eateries spread throughout the mall, and will be available free of cost at the information desk.

“While growing up at home, it was always the food of our community — our ancestors had settled inMumbai in the 1300s. The masala we use predominantly is similar to the East Indian bottle masala, so called because it was made in large batches to last an entire year and stored in dark beer bottles. But we used to eat out every weekend, and that’s what sparked my interest in food,” says Kunal. Sampling even something as ubiquitous as butter chicken made him want to find out how it was made and the history behind it.

And it has been quite the journey, he adds. He gets excited while talking about Kashmiri wazwan, especially the dum aloo. He also recounts his initial experience with South Indian cuisine. “The first time I visited Chennai, I ate at Dakshin (Crowne Plaza). That was when I learned that South Indian food extends beyond just idli and dosa and that they even made non-vegetarian,” he laughs. Of course, he now knows about the vast variety that is available just in Tamil Nadu, including the wonder that is Chettinad cuisine. “I do hope to come back to Chennai for a good eating holiday,” he says.

Kunal enjoys watching the MasterChef reality cooking show, especially the “one with the kids. It’s amazing what they can whip up, when we are afraid to let nine-year-olds anywhere near the stove.” He has also cooked with MasterChef Australia judge Matt Preston at an event. “When I was invited for that, I wanted a quid pro quo, and insisted he appear on my show in that case. We had a good time in the markets — more people recognised him than me, even the ones who did not understand English. That’s the kind of universal reach that anything related to food has.”

“I grew up eating from street-side shops and drinking whatever water was available there, and somewhere along the way, I developed a stomach of steel. This means I can get away with eating pretty much anything,” says Kunal. The street food of Southeast Asian countries is among his favourites: “Singapore was really good, as they allocated spaces for hygienic street food. Now, the quality has gone down. But Bangkok is an excellent food destination. Forget the fancy ones — even a normal restaurant has great food.” While travelling, he says he maintains his enthusiasm by learning more about people, and not just about food. “In any case, I would walk an extra mile for a good meal!”

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 6:28:45 AM |

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