What are meal times like for you usually?
It depends on what kind of a day it is but, when I am shooting, I usually carry a dabba. I begin my day with some warm water and a cup of tea without sugar. It’s mostly oats and fruits such as papaya for breakfast. I eat a few chapatis, dal and egg whites for lunch and drink some green tea after. I have some dry fruits if I want a snack late in the afternoon. I eat an open-faced avocado sandwich with multigrain bread for an evening snack. For dinner, it’s usually salads and any kind of grills for protein. I avoid complex carbs after 7 pm and have more green tea after dinner. Processed food is a definite no for me.
What’s comfort food?
I would take rice, dal and some aachar any day, or Spaghetti Bolognese.
What are the staples in your fridge?
Fresh veggies, fruits, lots of eggs, cheese, yogurt, and dark chocolate.
What are your childhood memories of food?
My mother cooking classic Hyderabadi fare — Khatti Dal, Nihari — and Spaghetti Bolognese are some of my earliest memories of food. And to think that the she told my father when she first met him that she had no idea about cooking.
Do you cook?
Yes, I began cooking when I was seven while I grew up in Hyderabad. I think I was pretty decent at it at that age too. I found my own feet in the kitchen when I started living on my own in Mumbai. I cook a mean Kachchi Biryani. Sometimes I bake it too. My husband Sahil (Sangha), is as big a foodie as I am. He reads and collects recipes all the time.
Which is your favourite spice?
Garam masala. It’s got to be a blend of spices for me.
Did you stumble upon any food secrets while shooting for Ganga — The Soul of India?
There were so many all the way from the Himalayas, following the route of the Ganga to the Bay of Bengal. I had some superlative vegetarian food in Punjab and Uttarakhand, which was memorable. The Aloo Gobi in particular stood out. The food in these regions is so much more flavourful and different with so many unusual textures that are so different from what we eat in the plains. You also understand the social role that food plays much more when you’re far away from urban India.
Which region of India is a culinary favourite?
Hyderabadi food is really close to my heart because it is what I grew up eating, but it is difficult to pick a favourite. I’ve tasted — Oriya, Malabar, Maharashtrian — all coastal fare and love them.
Do you like desserts?
I have 32 sweet teeth. Everything from chocolates to panna cotta to Khubhani ka Meetha and Double ka Meetha are all favourites. Weekends are my cheat-days when I have sweets.
Do you have favourite restaurants when you travel?
I love going to new restaurants when I travel with Sahil. We love the Fig & Olive in New York. Hakkasan remains to be a favourite in London.