April 9, 2020

Just over a year ago, I went out on a “date” with Gaggan Anand, the chef most well-known for revolutionising Indian cuisine, at the plush Sühring. We plowed through spätzle festooned with black truffle, relished sweet vinyl tunes with Compass Box whisky, and whiled the night away with rum cocktails at the whimsical Tiki bar, Tropic City. It was a blast.

Today paints a totally different picture for the charismatic vanguard, one that’s plagued with the aftermath of Bangkok restaurant closures to curb the spread of Covid-19. “I’ve started writing a book. I’ve always enjoyed writing but kind of neglected that because of my career,” he says. While many restaurateurs are living from day to day, Gaggan remains buoyant that much good will come out of this confinement. “You start to do things that you usually don’t have the time for, and I treasure spending time with my 4-year-old daughter, Tara,” he adds.

But the first few days of sheltering in place weren’t easy. It’s coming to 3 weeks now since the Thai government ordered most businesses to close (similar to Singapore’s “circuit breaker”) on March 22. “Everybody goes through an emotional period, a void almost during this lockdown,” Gaggan confesses. “I was very depressed for a while as I reflected on life and my emotions.” Over a phone call, he also shares the importance of communicating with others during these trying times: “I’ve begun talking to people, calling up friends of 22 years that I’ve not interacted with in years. It’s a great time to be reconnecting with people.”

Gaggan eventually believes that when the virus blows over, people will spend a lot more on food, because they are so deprived now. Currently operating Ms. Maria & Mr. Singh, a happy mash-up of Mexican and Indian fare (Gaggan Anand Restaurant formerly known as Gaggan, Meatlicious and Wet have all closed down), the iconoclast-cum-culinary-maestro shares with us what he consumes to feed his mind, body and soul during his quarantine.

Hight Net Worth: What are you watching?

Gaggan Anand: I generally avoid the news. It’s so depressing. Apart from cooping myself up in the room to write my book, I Netflix sometimes. I’ve just started watching Tiger King, and it’s a documentary about this guy called Joe Exotic who owns a private zoo of exotic animals. I’m expecting things to really heat up with those bigs cats, it’s wild.

What are you reading?

I don’t read. In fact, I’m focusing on pouring my emotions right now onto paper. These are interesting times and I really want to document that.

What are you listening to?

Foo fighters. It helps me to focus on my writing. There’s this ‘Have a Cigar’ cover sung by Taylor Hawkins with Dave Grohl on drums that’s pretty awesome.

What are you playing?

The drums. You might not know this about me, but in my teens, I harboured dreams of becoming a rock musician. I’m spending this quarantine period revisiting my childhood dreams.

What are you cooking?

Mostly vegetarian. I embarked on a vegetarian diet for 10 days just to purify the body. Here is my roasted cumin and cauliflower recipe that you can easily recreate at home: Heat up a little oil in a cast iron pan. Throw in about a teaspoon of cumin powder in there to allow the spices to release their essential oils. Shred ginger and cook it with the cumin.

Cut your cauliflower, preferably organic, into small florets. Add that into the pan with chopped green chilis, turmeric powder, salt and a handful of coriander leaves. Slow roast the cauliflower over the smallest flame for about 15 minutes. The cauliflower should be tender and browned at the end of this. Season with salt and pepper, stir gently, and try not to break up the florets. At this point, you can add cilantro or fresh tomatoes if you want, but that’s optional. Enjoy it with paratha or toasted bread.