Ask chef Arjun Ranabhat about his childhood in Pokhara, Nepal, and the first thing out of his mouth is food—momos and Duck Ko Choila—and a memory of a festival called Dashain.
“We pray to the goddess Durga for a healthy and happy family, and we eat beaten rice and slaughter a goat for goat curry,” said Ranabhat.
The 15-day-long festival is universally important in Nepal, with whole goats, chickens, and pigs on tables in every town. Pokhara, though, had its own effect on Ranabhat’s culinary development.
“I liked trying different cuisines as a child in my tourist-swarmed hometown. This got stuck in my brain,” he said.
His memories of hungry tourists came with him when his family moved to Chennai, India, and inspired him to pursue a degree in Hotel and Culinary Management from Vels University. As chef de cuisine at Cuisine Solutions, Ranabhat still cooks with hospitality in mind.
“My joy is in seeing people happy when they eat,” he said. “I enjoy making food that tastes natural.”
In India, he learned lessons in spices and how to make a killer biryani. Today, he keeps plenty of turmeric in his pantry and shares both Nepalese and Indian dishes with his 2-year-old son.
“He loves momos—it’s a dumpling with meat and spices,” said Ranabhat. “Normally, I cook too much at work, but when my son and wife love a dish, I make it for them.”
Duck Ko Choila, Ranabhat’s favorite Nepalese dish, motivates him to break out the grill, too.
“The duck meat is marinated for two or three hours in turmeric powder, garam masala, and other spices,” he said. “You cook it on the charcoal grill to give it a nice char.”
And it works beautifully with sous-vide, too.
Sous-Vide Duck Ko Choila
For the Duck:
1 Cuisine Solutions Char Siu Duck Breast
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp red chili paste
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp ginger garlic paste
½ tsp timur
1 Tbsp black salt
2 scallion stalks
1 green chili, sliced
3 garlic cloves, julienned 1 inch fresh ginger, julienned
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Salt to taste
For the tempering:
2 Tbsp mustard oil
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
For the Duck: Open the duck breast and grill it on all sides until there is an even char. Remove from the grill and place the meat in a mixing bowl. Pull apart the meat in the bowl, add all the remaining ingredients (except the cilantro), and incorporate them with the meat.
For the tempering: Heat the mustard oil in a pan over medium-high heat and add fenugreek seeds. When it turns dark, switch off the heat and stir in the turmeric powder.
To serve: Pour the oil over the picked duck meat. Mix well, then let it rest for 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve.