This rockstar is making a case for 'Latindian' cuisine

Indian-American musician Anand Bhatt on his Latin Indian cuisine fusion cookbook Rockstar Recipes, and how he infuses music into his passion for food

By Laraib Anwer

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Published: Thu 30 Mar 2023, 5:13 PM

Last updated: Thu 30 Mar 2023, 5:14 PM

The fusion of Latin and Indian cuisines is unheard of. With the crackle of a tortilla, combined with the hit of garam masala, this rockstar has curated his own book of Latindian recipes. Anand Bhatt is the first Indian American to walk the Latin Grammy red carpet. The musician is known for his internationally recognised music as both a solo artiste and frontman for celebrated heavy rock group Anand Clique. With a strong passion for cooking, the musician has gone on to host the cooking show Rock Star Recipes on Amazon Prime in the US.

His latest venture, a book called Rockstar Recipes, brings together a list of Latin and Indian fusion dishes as he intertwines bold colours, rich flavours, and a hint of music into his dishes. From the likes of Pani Puri Nachos, Aloo Mofongo, to Churro Gulab Jamun and Butter Chicken Enchiladas, the rockstar has invented them all. The singer shares his journey into the world of food and how his childhood influences led to the creation of his book. Edited excerpts from an interview:


Where do you hail from in India, and how did being an Indian fuel your love for food?

I was born in the United States. My parents are from Gujarat and New Delhi. Food is an essential part of every culture, and Indian culture is no exception. We love to eat. Indian cuisine is known for its rich and diverse flavours, and it is often considered one of the most flavourful and aromatic cuisines in the world.


How has your personal relationship been with Latin culture?

I feel very fortunate to be so accepted by the global Latin community. Initially, I started singing in Spanish to impress a girl, and it eventually morphed into an entire career move. My first time at the Latin Grammys was amazing, I didn’t expect such a warm response from everyone. I am very grateful for the love from my Latin fans and colleagues.

Aloo Mofongo
Aloo Mofongo

Latin and Indian cuisines are similar, yet very diverse from each other in nature. What common element do you use to make these fusion dishes?

Cumin or jeera for sure. Same goes for mirchi (chillies). Also, both cuisines rely on fresh herbs and vegetables to add flavour and nutrition, so incorporating these ingredients creates a harmonious blend of flavours and textures.

How does music impact your love for food?

I think it is the “experimentation” mindset. So often when creating, a lightbulb goes off in my head that says, “Let’s try this and see if it works!” Also, when I was on the road a lot for music in the US, it was hard to find food that had any significant flavour. Most parts of the States don’t really season their food, so I developed a habit of making my own food and bringing it with me. Just like my music, my food ends up being Latindian style.

Butter Chicken Enchiladas
Butter Chicken Enchiladas

What is your favourite recipe in the book and why?

Pani Puri Nachos! My father invented it. He used to eat out a lot, but during the pandemic he started making his own meals. Over time he got quite good at it. One day, he went into the pantry and pulled out some pani puris. Instead of making the water etc., which is what I thought he was going to do, I walk in and see he’s topped it with melted cheese and salsa and sour cream and some BBQ. I burst out laughing. I think he did it because he didn’t want to bother making pani puri water. Turned out to be a genius move flavourwise. Plus, pani puris are better vehicles for toppings! I shared a pic of it on Instagram and it got a fun reaction. Over time we developed an elevated version, like the recipe you see in the book.

When did your journey with cooking start and how has it been going?

I actually started cooking when I was nine years old. I would get cookbooks from the library and try stuff out. It was fun. Then as I got to college, my grandmother taught me how to make sheero (she was afraid I would just live off pizza I think, so wanted to impart some skills to me). That is when I really started getting into making Indian food. Indian food takes more skill than most things we cook in the States. You have to be precise with the spices and sometimes even add them in a specific order, or you change the taste completely. I started a fire while trying to cook chhole for the first time. It’s gotten much better since then. On the Latin side, I’ve lived in Jalisco which, in my opinion, is home to the best Mexican food you can find anywhere. Especially their versions of “dhabas”. It is there I learned how to make birria, etc, and really started incorporating more Latin flavours into my cooking. Since then, I’ve learned some more in my travels and life in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, etc.

Chicken Biryani Burrito Bowl
Chicken Biryani Burrito Bowl

Why is it named ‘Rockstar Recipes'?

It came about when I wrote the original book, which was about my experience of being a rocker on the road with fun anecdotes that include members of Motley Crue and other colleagues and heroes that I had met/worked with on the way. It had a bunch of fun stories, plus a large collection of recipes that I used while travelling in order to stay healthy (and keep the flavour level up). The book took off, was well received, and grew into endorsements and eventually culminated into a TV show on Amazon in the US and the UK. This new version Rock Star Recipes: Latindian Style Edition is a brand-new collection of Latin plus Indian fusion recipes.

If there’s any other cuisine that you would like to experiment with, what would it be and why?

I’ve noticed that African cuisine melds well with our Indian taste buds. While mainly north and west African, there also seems to be a lot of cool foodie content from Indians coming out of South Africa. And my favourite cuisine so far from my travels has been Vietnamese. Not sure I’d know how to meld that into something else, though.

Samosa Empanadas
Samosa Empanadas

What was the inspiration behind this book of recipes?

My music has been “Latindian Style” for quite some time now. It was just 100 per cent natural for this dual-culture style to blend into my cooking. Fusing Latin plus Indian food is also fun. The creative possibilities are endless. From Samosa Empanadas to Tres Leches Ras Malai, I had a blast creating for this book.

How do you incorporate healthiness in these recipes, considering the richness and (sometimes) excessiveness of both these cuisines?

Ha! I don’t. That is indeed the challenge. These are not recipes I get to eat often in my day-to-day life. It isn’t exactly Daal plus Tofu, although, the Vindaloo Tacos are pretty healthy — the Churro Gulab Jamun, not so much. And replacing paneer with tofu works often. However, as opposed to the original Rock Star Recipes content, the Latindian Style edition is pure indulgence.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com

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