Food Network Giving Desi Love

It’s been pretty serious around the bunker these past couple of weeks, and since I’m finally allowed to change the television channel from convention coverage, to “anything I want.” I’m changing the channel to The Food Network since I like to eat and because The Food Network has been down with the brown, as of late.

A few months ago, Minnesotan and Indian Cook, Nipa Bhatt was a contender on the Next Food Network Star. Nipa made it to the fourth episode, but was eliminated after a poor showing in the fish challenge. I think her bad attitude and limited knowledge of food had something to do with it, as well. I don’t want to undermine her effort though, she did make it through a few rounds, and was the first desi contestant on the show. On top of that, Nipa represented for cooking not often sampled by mainstream America: Gujarati food. I know it was the first time I had seen someone make Sukhi Bhaji (seasoned potatoes) or Rasa Valu Battaka Nu Shak (potato curry in gravy) on American television, and more importantly further promote regional Indian cooking to mainstream America.



I thought Nipa was a good introduction to Indian cooking, but what I’m really looking forward to is tonight’s episode of Iron Chef-America. Tonight’s battle pits one of my favorites, Bobby Flay against Floyd Cardoz, Executive Chef of Tabla, New York’s most famous “New Indian” restaurant. Cardoz was trained in Bombay and Switzerland, and opened Tabla in 1998. The main restaurant features food that is Western in orientation, but seasoned with the Indian aesthetic (think a Tandoori BLT or a Fricasse of Wild Mushrooms accompanied by “Upma” Polenta), while the restaurant’s Bread Bar, features more home-style Indian food that we would expect to see on the menu of most Indian restaurants, like chicken tikka and sag paneer. Given the variety and uniqueness of the ingredients highlighted on Iron Chef, I think the show will be a good opportunity for Cardoz to highlight his fusion of Indian and Western techniques on food that might not necessarily be perceived as Indian food. And for those of you in New York, Tabla is offering Cardoz’s Iron Chef menu starting tomorrow, August 8 through October 31.


p>I’ve never been to Tabla, but I have heard a lot about it, and the restaurant has won several awards. I’m curious to hear opinions from mutineers that have sampled Cardoz’s food, or from those that have had “New Indian” food. I have to admit, as a vegetarian, I’m less impressed with this style of food. I’ve eaten at Devi, the New York City restaurant that won a Michelin star, but outside of having a nice saffron bread pudding, paying $20 dollars for some mediocre baingan doesn’t really cut it for me. For that type of food, I’d rather get my fix from the auntie run chat house, or the hole-in-the-wall desi-joint.

Whether or not Cardoz wins, I’m looking forward to a tv-night in the bunker free of speeches, catchy slogans (“Drill baby drill?”) and half-truths (democratic convention/ republican convention), and hopefully some inspired cooking. Iron Chef America airs Sundays a 9 pm (Eastern) on The Food Network, and is often repeated during the week.

28 thoughts on “Food Network Giving Desi Love

  1. Mmmmmmmm phateta nu shak! Nice to see gujju food on the telly, Even better if she made bhakir and goor. Now that’s a winner. 😉

  2. I thought the upstairs was fine, but not great; downstairs had some really tasty items, esp. lamb and fish, and quite reasonably priced. I would agree with you, though, that it wouldn’t appear to be particulary worth the trip if you keep veg. when eating out.

  3. i ate at the bread bar and while i enjoyed my “masala mary” drink and thought the guacamole was good, i wasn’t too impressed with the saag pizza with goat cheese (although it was a fun concept) or anything else we ordered.

  4. I don’t really care for Tabla, but I’ve only eaten upstairs, not downstairs.

    I thought it was yummy upstairs and exquisitely presented, but somehow neither fish nor fowl. Tabla does Fresh Direct, too, but there are additives in the Shorshay Eeleesh, so I don’t…There was once a restaurant called Shezan next to and downstairs from the Paris Cinema (now renamed the Paris Theater, alas), and that was very Delhi smart decor haute in cuisine, very pure, very Desi– nobody knew what the heck it was, so after a couple pf years it closed down.

    Now, the one I want to see with her own show on the Food Channel is Anjum Anand. Check some videos here. Would that be great or what?

  5. Whoops, Paris Theatre, at least there’s that. Home to all Meera Nair movies as well Merchant Ivory and Topsy Turvy, etc…

  6. hmm.. I dont get how they’re judged. During the live after-taste commentary Floyd seemed to have gotten better reviews than Flay, but the final points allocation didn’t reflect that. Oh well, it was impressive nevertheless.

  7. dang, i missed this. another desi presence on the food network starting this fall is on the new show on Sat. mornings at 9:30 am – “The Cooking Loft.” Shobha Tummala (of Shobha salon!) is one of the students in this class taught by Alexandra Guarnaschelli, the executive chef of butter in nyc. watch video here and more here.

  8. Sajit: Good to see you blog after a long silence:) I have been to “Tabla” in Manhattan. Took my nephew and his girl friend there last summer for Dinner. Cost ~ $ 300 buckraoos. It was not that great food. If you want to pay all that money for Ambience and later brag about whom (local celebrities) you saw while dining then go for it.

  9. btw my wife saw the episodes in which Nipa Bhatt was there. for what it’s worth in her highness’s opininon Nipa had some knid of “attitude” and judges didn’nt like that.

  10. I saw the show last night and Floyd definitely represented! Loved the presentation of “Snail 65” – I thought he far outperformed in terms of originality and presentation. I don’t think his final score does justice to his performance!

  11. Tabla does some great Goan dishes which are difficult to find anywhere else. For the BBQ in the summer his stall was selling Goa sausages and potatoes.

  12. The brother represented… I don’t get the judging. maybe the flavors were relatively new for the judges, the WWF wrestler seemed a little overwhelmed.

    Tabla does some great Goan dishes which are difficult to find anywhere else. For the BBQ in the summer his stall was selling Goa sausages and potatoes.

    I really have to check this out now.

  13. I went to Tabla in 2001 and saw the Sex in the City crew shooting outside the entrance! It was too hard to eat vegetarian there.

    We have a “New Indian” place in Houston too — Indika. I like it but I have to prepare by telling myself before going not to be annoyed at the non-family style presentation.

  14. Nipa did have an awful attitude. While she seems to be familiar with Guju food, she presented herself like an idiot with respect to all else. The way she handled and wasted the fish in one episode was just disrepectful.

  15. Tabla is just amazing. I was wowed by Flyod’s creativity. I had dinner with 4 friends and 1 girl was vegetarian. We all had the tasting menu but ordered different things. For $75, it was worth it. Very tasty food. Very creative presentation and preparation. Yum!! Try the tasting menu if you go.

    Bread Bar is good too. You can find some really good Malayalee dishes like Fish Molee and Goan dishes that you won’t find elsewhere. I am a fan!

  16. I was bummed Floyd didn’t win – but I still loved watching him cook and present his food. It looked awesome.

    I couldn’t stand Nipa – I wouldn’t watch her in a regular Food Network show. She did get Gujurati food some airtime, but otherwise I didn’t feel like she made Indian food approachable at all. She was horribly awkward on the camera. She also made Indian food seem, for the most part, what non-Desis think it is: Lots of spices, little to no technique, and it’s all the same. It was such a great opportunity to show the Food Network audience out there that there isn’t just “Indian” food the same way you don’t speak “Indian”. She could have shown India as having culinarydiversity, varying from refined to rustic, in the same way Italian or Spanish food varies as you travel North to South, East to West. Only the ingredients aren’t just different, the language, culture and methods of preparation are different. Instead she was like, ok here’s some lamb doused in “exotic” spices, and here’s some aloo subji. Lame. Maybe her “culinary POV” was limited or maybe her cooking skills were. It didn’t seem like she had the knowledge to pass on to a TV audience anyhow.

  17. @ Yo Dad: Thanks! and I agree with her highness–Nipa did have an attitude. Walking out in the middle of the judging portion is probably not a good thing.

    @Fuerza: Nipa didn’t come across as confident on camera or in explaining her culinary point of view (accessible Indian) expertly on the show. If you aren’t well-versed in the subject, and it didn’t appear to me that Nipa was, explaining the different Indian spices and their uses to a television audience is not going to be easy. I did enjoy her trying to give Bollywood dancing lessons though! Even for those who know a thing or two about food seem to get tripped up by Indian spices–and Alton Brown was a clear example of that yesterday. I’ve watched the show a few times, and have never seen Alton Brown so flummoxed!

    I too don’t understand the judging of the show. Nothing against Bobby Flay and I didn’t taste the food, but I don’t get how Chef Flay with his pasta and pizza dish beat Chef Cardoz in originality? Cardoz used pawa and a plethora of fresh spices and still lost in the originality categories.

  18. Sajit, I agree with you. That’s what I was trying to get at in general. If she did know what she was talking about, then she didn’t do a good job of making that come across. If she didn’t, well, she was trying to get a job at Food Network teaching people how to cook Indian food! Wth – if she didn’t know she shouldn’t have tried out.

  19. I agree with Fuerza Dulce. Nipa was completely unlikeable. It almost seemed that she was on the show against her will. In addition to it, she did not come across as an authority on food, even Indian food (which was her POV to begin with). A good chef can do so much with Indian spices and it would have been amazing if we had seen some breadth of knowledge in her cooking (I mean look at Chef Cardoz, he made it work with – secret ingredient SNAILS!!).

  20. Sajit, ‘I totally agree with the judging BS. First, I gotta say that Floyd didn’t make sorpotel ( and as a mumbai goan, thats -10 already)! He did’nt bring out any bottle masala (a staple of goan cuisine)(-10). He gave props to his wife about making him poha every morning (plus 10). One of the judges was a wrestler, and giving him “curry”? He should have just burnt some stake and put it on that bed of spices. A lil bit of salt and pepper and said voila thats good for you. Bobby Flay goes on and on with his curry spice blends on other battles. What a pussy! Any jackass can make Carbonara and win. Put pancheta or smoked pork cubes in any dish and the American palette is bound to go gaga. I doubt these “judges” understand the hard part of blending spices. Alton Brown needs to shut up! Skill set:: 1)How to break a coconut on live TV.. tack-tack half-crack.. (My peeve..HE THREW THE COCONUT WATER AWAY..he should have done shots with it…)! 2) If your tapioca soup gets too briney.. use chicken stock to get it back to taste. ( Learnt something new.) 3) Server soup in the “non-eye” containing part of the coconut shell. Awesome.

  21. Are nahi’re Sunil baba, aishappath ,I’m not taking any credit from the East Indian aunties. Just, apna boy is on TV man. I’m sure he’s used it at home and nothing like dumping some bottle masala and seeing Alton Brown flummoxed and going ..I don’t know what he just added ..just a whole lot of curry! You can see the smiles on the desi viewers faces all the way from here!