MP ki Beti to a Bihari Bahu, Chef & Anchor Pallavi Nigam Sahay


Beginning from your graduation from ICIF to becoming a well-known chef, author, columnist, TV host and a food consultant you have come a long way. Chef, please walk us through your journey and tell us how has it evolved you into a person that you are today?

Chef Pallavi Nigam:– It has evolved me into a person with stronger faith in myself and in my dreams, into a more positive and more persistent person. I studied Economics (HONS) in under graduation then post graduated in Economics from Mumbai University and was working as economist with a very good salary, in an Insurance company, when I finally decided to give up surety in life and follow the uncertainty.

I faced all kinds of resistance there can be, my parents were not very much in favour of it, you can very well understand the position with parents in law, rest of the family only person who was more sure about me than myself was my husband Kunal. 

At times his confidence in me, made me confident about myself. As a daughter-in-law living in joint family, working in a professional kitchen in Grand Hyatt was far more challenging than pursuing the culinary course in Italy. With the course everyone was sure, that okay she is doing it out of passion, once the course will get over she will be home.

But after I joined Hyatt, nobody was sure, where it is going, my parents-in law were like “we can’t let her continue like that, she can’t be out at such odd hours and cooking in some hotel’s kitchen” every moment was difficult. And I had just started to make my place inside Celini, the Italian restaurant in Grand Hyatt and suddenly one day Kunal tells me that he has been offered a prime role in the Investment Department of National Bank of Oman, it was a big opportunity for him, we couldn’t miss it, I managed to stay in India for sometime and continue with Hyatt but I belong to very conventional family and married into an even more conventional one, so both my parents and my parents-in-law were like, you have to go and join Kunal, otherwise we will go to take care of him. Anyways, as they say “ki jo hota hai acche ke liye hota hai” while I was trying to get through the long hot days in Muscat, making Kunal  and myself fat as there was nothing else to do but to get into kitchen and cook.

One day kunal saw me referring to a recipe in my diary, it was a traditional recipe which I had taken from his aunt, so he suggested why not write a book so that everyone can refer to it. So that’s how book happened, it was basically my recipe diary after becoming “bahu” in a Bihari family getting converted into a formal book. After the book’s Success, I got a call from the TV channel LivingFoodz, that’s how show happened, and yeah, while I was writing the book, I was also writing recipe columns in Times of Oman and was a consultant in a restaurant in Muscat.

Chef, what role do you think travelling plays in a chef’s life? How has yourtravelling from Muscat to India influenced your cooking?

Chef Pallavi Nigam:– Well, as you travel you get to explore the cuisine more, so experiencing creativity definitely inspires to be more creative. Travelling from India to Muscat has shown me many ways that how one can be immensely creative with just few simple ingredients. Arabic Food is all about just few simple ingredients in a simple combination which turns out be amazing in flavors.    

3. Mumbai and Muscat are connected through the Arabian Sea. Please talk about the similarities which you find in Indian and Muscat cuisine?

Chef Pallavi Nigam:– Both cuisines know the perfect usage of spices. Both have curries, pulaos, Biryanis, kababs, tikkas, rotis, Parathas and desserts so actually both cusines are very similar. Plus in both the countries, moms still cook for the rest of the family.  

Chef, tell us something about the unexplored authentic cooking cuisines of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar?

Chef Pallavi Nigam:– There’s a lot to explore and experience. Especially in Madhya Pradesh, believe me im being unbiased here and not saying just to favour my Mayka (although, I really don’t have any problem in doing that) Madhya Pradesh is called Madhya Pradesh because it is at the Madhya or centre, so it has it’s border Gujrat, Rajasthan, UttarPradesh, Hyderabad, Orrisa, Bihar, Chattis Garh and Jharkhand so you will get to see a huge influence of all these estates on the cusine of M.P. Plus, especially in Bhopal you will experience richness of Nawabi flavours. So cuisine of M.P is a beautiful medley of, sweet, sour, spicy, mild and raw flavors which has come from all over the country. 

Bihar is all about being spicy, strong robust flavours devleped in Mustard oil. Cuisine is very diverse it is actually divided on the basis of spoken language, people who speak Maithili are fish lovers and eat less spicy as compared to Bhojpuri speaking who are basically Lamb lovers and prefer very hot food and when it comes to Magahi speaking their repertoire consists of more vegetables and spiciness lies somewhere between Maithili and Bhojpuri. But, may be because of being vegetable based, recipes in Magahi speaking area are more varied.

Enlighten us about your book, The Bhojpuri Kitchen which has won the Gourmet Award under the category of Easy recipes? Why the chef should read this book?

Chef Pallavi Nigam:– Because, every once in a while chef’s need to cook something to feed the family, and that something has to be simple and easy.

6. You quote your journey from being MP ki Beti to a Bihari Bahu. Please tell us about the regional dishes of both the states that you like to cook?

Chef Pallavi Nigam:– From M.P- Bhopali Rezala, Mungauri, Chane ka Saag, Farah, urad daal-kaddu ki bari ki sabji, saabudaane ki khichdi. 

Bihar- Bihari Halwai style Mutton, Dhuska, Tehri, Bachka, Chicken curry, Sattu ki Kachori.

7. Many experts say that fusion cuisine is nothing but confusion. What is your take on it?

Chef Pallavi Nigam:– Well, I’m honestly not big fan of fusion, but if someone can pull it off and put something delicious on my plate, then why not.  

8. How different it is to cook on-screen and off-screen?

Chef Pallavi Nigam:– Honestly not very different, it just that we have to talk continuously, I love talking anyways and have often found myself talking to myself while cooking inside my kitchen. So actually, it is better to have someone to share all that what’s going on in mind, mostly nostalgic memories for me.