Spicing Up America!
|Fusion was a word not unknown to Floyd Cardoz, the celebrity chef of Tabla, when he was growing up in Bombay in a Goan family with very eclectic food tastes. “What’s known in the West as fusion food – different cultures together on a plate – started for me in the cradle because fusion, was, quite simply, a way of life for our family.”|
Cardoz is the chef partner in Danny Meyer’s noted New York restaurant Tabla. Just as the tabla, the musical instrument, explode with the spice of sound, Tabla the restaurant reverberates with spices, transforming American cuisine.
Everyone from Bill Gates to Bill Clinton to Madonna and Harrison Ford, musicians and sports people have dined at Tabla. It is listed in Adam Platt’s 100 Favorite Restaurants of 2006 and was also in Forbes’ All-Star Eateries in New York.
Like a spice merchant, Cardoz has given a new zing to American cuisine, creating his own signature New Indian Cuisine, his unique take on food, combing the flavors and spices of India with western cooking techniques and seasonal, local ingredients.
In New York he worked in the prestigious Lespinasse under four-star chef Gray Kunz, and increased the repertoire of Indian spices from four to over 15. In the Tabla bread bar, Cardoz has introduces ethnic regional dishes including some from Sind, the native land of his wife Barkha.
“My philosophy is more about introducing the western world to the flavors we Indians love,” says Cardoz. “We love the sweet, tart, spicy, salty elements of Indian food and in my food I try and bring across all these flavors in all that.”
He is constantly adapting American produce with Indian spices. He says, “Asparagus is not really a part of Indian cuisine, but I’ve been able to cook asparagus south Indian style with mustard and coconut, and it has worked very well.”
Now he has published a new cookbook, aptly titled One Spice, Two Spice: American Food, Indian Flavor’ written with Jane Daniels Lear (Random House), which reveals how Indian spices can transform American food. He says, “This food is also appealing on another level: it’s healthful. I use very little butter or cream to enrich dishes, relying instead on good stocks, a whole variety of fresh vegetables, spice (which give many health giving properties, and aromatics such as ginger, shallots and chilies – my holy trinity – to make food satisfying and delicious.”
Lobster pan roast with coconut sauce, Kashmiri greens and roast chicken with fenugreek are some of the dishes in the book that fuse American and Indian. He says: “I wrote the book to introduce people to Indian food and to show them that it is easy to cook with spices. The next logical step is to cook Indian food and that’s where I want to take them.”