Zafran's Ankur Chakraborty

We meet a Dubai chef in our weekly Chef Confidential column

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Describe your personality.
I’m very energetic, spontaneous and passionate. I love to meet new people and learn about their culture and food.

Tell us about your cooking style.
I’m a firm believer in ‘MF, MF’: minimum fuss, maximum flavour. In all my years as a chef, one thing I’ve learned is to keep my cooking simple and to focus on the tastes and textures of the main ingredients. That is why choosing the right ingredients, and understanding how to prepare them, is very important. Food, for me, is sacred.

What was the last dish you cooked for yourself?
Keema khada masala – a very light recipe and easy to make at home. It consists of lamb mince and potatoes, flavoured with black cardamom. It’s great with bread such as focaccia, steamed rice or Indian roti.

What would you eat for your last meal on earth?
I’d choose a homely meal cooked by my late grandmother. She used to make such unique Bengali-style dishes.

What dish would you be happy never to eat again?

I saw Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain eat the heart from a live snake in Thailand. I sampled the same dish and managed to gulp it down somehow… but it was once in a lifetime for me. Never again!

Which dish will you never cook again?
Rabbits. I had pet rabbits as a kid.

Italian or French?
Italian, purely because of the rustic and simple approach towards cooking. This method is very similar to my cooking technique.

Describe Dubai’s dining scene in three words.
Stylish, competitive and polished.
Zafran is open daily noon-1am. Unlicensed. Mirdif City Centre (04 284 0987).


Ankur’s recipe of the week, in 30 minutes or less

Watepa (grilled fish, ‘naga style’)
‘“Nagaland” is one of the north-eastern states of India, bordered with Myanmar and Assam, and the region’s cuisine has been under-explored. This is a very simple recipe featuring rustic and authentic flavours.’

Ingredients (for four)
For the fish
800g white fish fillet (John Dory, hammour or crème dory), skinned and deboned
200g roughly chopped red onions
50g whole coriander stems
40g finely-chopped ginger
Two to three green chillies (remove seeds if you want to reduce the spiciness)
1 pinch of baking soda
1 banana leaf or Thai pandan leaf (for wrapping the fish)
20ml corn oil
2 lemons or limes
For the gorkha chutney
400g tomatoes
20g green chillies
30g garlic
10ml lemon juice
20ml fresh coriander, finely
chopped
Salt, to season

Method
1 Wash and pat dry the fish fillets.
2 Place them on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt.
3 Place the coriander stems, chopped green chillies, ginger and diced onions on top of the fish and sprinkle with a pinch of baking soda.
4 Chop and pound the entire fish and the rest of the ingredients together until everything is well combined.
5 Make small parcels by wrapping the fish mixture in the banana leaf (available in Lulu and Spinneys; alternatively use Thai pandan leaves or, as a last resort, greaseproof paper).
6 Fry the parcels in a non-stick pan for 10 minutes on each side (the idea is to trap the juices of the fish inside the parcel while frying).
7 Serve with chutney (below) and a wedge of lemon.

For the chutney
8 Chargrill the tomatoes in a preheated oven at 200˚C.
9 Once the skin is black and charred, chop the tomatoes and mix with the green chillies, garlic and fresh coriander.
10 Season with salt, lemon juice and finish with olive oil.

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