Which food memories will always stay with you?
I spent some time as a kid with my siblings at my paternal grandparents’ home in Mangalore and some of my best memories of food were made there. The fragrance of the fresh ground masalas that my grandmother made still comes back to me. She used a lot of fresh vegetables to cook this delicious potpourri that we ate with rice pancakes. I also recall running through paddy fields as a kid when I visited my maternal grandparents, who were farmers. My maternal grandmother was also a fantastic cook and made this jackfruit curry that I will always remember. She served it with rice.
What is the one Indian food that you crave?
Vada Pav. Nothing beats the spicy comfort of a fried vada. I also miss my mom’s cooking. She makes a wonderful roast chicken curry with rice. I grew up on Mangalorean seafood that I also miss sometimes.
Do you cook?
I am not a good cook even though I do cook sometimes. I think cooking is a waste of time. I get a takeaway, or eat out in LA. When I’m in Mumbai, my mom cooks and we have a cook at home.
Do you have any favourite spices?
I love how the bay leaf smells when it is sautéed in oil. So definitely bay leaf and cardamom too.
Do you have favourite places to eat out in the US?
LA has so many different restaurants and an eclectic dining scene. I love going to three restaurants in LA. I go to Jitlada, a Thai restaurant, which serves over 350 dishes, such as a delicious coconut mango salad, spicy curries and catfish. There’s also an Ethiopian restaurant called Meals by Genet, which serves fantastic Injera Bread and stewed meats. For Indian food, I go to Mayura. It’s not a fancy place but I get all the familiar comfort food here: dosas, idlis, vadas, samosas. I also love Italian food and seafood risotto with porcini tops my list. I am always hunting for new Italian restaurants in LA. I also enjoy eating at Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian steakhouse in Beverly Hills. They make churrasco the traditional way, where the food is cooked really slowly until the steak soaks up the flavours and is all juicy.
What are some of the best meals you’ve had across the world.
One of the most memorable meals I’ve had was while I was an anchor for a show called Full Circle on Zee TV. We were shooting in Kabul and were invited for an iftar party. It was a lavish meal with mindblowing meats. Then there was this time when I was craving for spicy, Indian home food. This was in 2014 and I was in Artesia. I was preparing to shoot for Desert Dancer and was put on a strict diet to achieve a dancer’s form and physique. When the pangs for home food became unbearable, a close friend of mine drove me to Little India, which is a sort of Indian enclave in Artesia. The place was full of Indian restaurants. It was unbelievable that some of them served my favourite street foods: pani puri, sev puri, vada and bhelpuri.
What do you eat when you’re dieting?
I try not to eat desserts and I don’t starve. I eat a lot of grilled fish and seafood, grilled tomatoes, fresh vegetables and fruits. I don’t touch cake even though I love it. Cake is not OK even on a binge day because I feel bloated.
What do you like to begin your day with?
I like breakfast to be simple and filling. So I always love to begin my day with eggs, particularly an omelette. I also enjoy oats, paratha, fresh juice and coffee.
What is the one food that you cannot resist?
I cannot resist seafood in any form and I think it’s to do with the fact that I am a Mangalorean. I love seafood cooked all ways and all kinds of seafood: Butter garlic calamari, mackerel, fish curry, fried fish. I also find it hard to stay away from bread and pizzas.
What about sweets?
I love rasmalai and dark chocolate and cannot resist them. Whenever I travel, I buy dark chocolate from every city.