Himanshu Saini: a thousand facets of India

The chef from Tresind in Dubai, guest at Identità Golose Milano, has perfectly illustrated the rich culinary culture of his country. And the possible blends with many other influences

14-10-2021
Himanshu Saini, 34, from New Delhi in India, chef

Himanshu Saini, 34, from New Delhi in India, chef at Trèsind Studio, Indian fine dining restaurant in Dubai 

Of the Indian chef Himanshu Saini Gabriele Zanatta has already written a few months ago (see: My name is Himanshu and I work to give Indian cuisine the role it deserves ). Thirty-four, originally from New Delhi, Saini now signs the food offer of three establishments in Dubai: Carnival, the fun dining restaurant in the financial centre; Trèsind, on the second floor of the Voco Hotel; Trèsind Studio, a small fine dining restaurant and the treasure chest of Himanshu's dreams.

His cuisine, quoting Zanatta, is «a colourful vocabulary of specialties from Punjab to Tamil Nadu, from north to south. Pani purikhakragheerasam, chaat, poppadum… Recipes in which the incredible selection of spices plays as a substitute for salt, a builder of sapidity that gives structure and deliciousness to vegetables and sauces».

The audience of Identità Golose Milano had the opportunity to taste this mosaic of colours, traditions, regional identities during a special dinner that brought Himanshu Saini to Via Romagnosi with a six-course menu designed for the occasion: a fascinating, tasty, fun journey. It also offer the chance to continue Identità Golose's chat with this new talent of international cuisine. 

Himanshu, your menu tells us, from the first bite, about your passion for India's culinary culture. How did this passion begin?
I was born in one of the most ancient neighbourhoods of Delhi and any Indian will tell you that food is a crucial part of those places. Street food, intense flavours, colours, rites connected to cooking: growing there allowed me to understand how rich and important this culture is, and ever since I was a child I felt an interest in food grow in me. To this day, in what I cook, there's a very strong connection with those traditions, with that way of cooking and presenting street food, even though our take is more elegant and contemporary. And steers away from stereotypes.

For sure Indian cuisine is known around the world only for a few specialties, the stereotypes, but has a much richer and more varied identity...
Exactly: sometimes it annoys me when I hear people talk of Indian cuisine and it feels as if it was only made of chicken tikka masala. But that's not Indian cuisine! The truth is that every one hundred kilometres in India you will find very different traditions and culinary identities: languages change, ingredients change, customs change. It is very hard for us to condensate this richness in just one menu, this is why our offer changes often, to offer our clients a growing knowledge of what we can call Indian cuisine. I'm also interested in feeling free to use ingredients that aren't strictly Indian: have you any idea how many people asked me why I used Parmigiano Reggiano in some of my dishes?

And what's your answer?
As for Parmigiano Reggiano I say that though many people don't know, the Sikh community is largely responsible these days for the production of this world-famous cheese, as documentary Sikh Formaggio explains very well. Others are surprised that I serve tortellini: in our culture filled pasta is very common, why shouldn't I play with these influences to created new dishes? But I could also make pasta: India was a British colony for many years, and when soldiers fought in Italy, they returned home and to India too, bringing some spaghetti and maccheroni with them. There are stories, connections, that are fun to explore: this applies for instance also to some Portuguese influences in the region of Goa, or the French and Dutch ones in other regions of India. 

Bao with pumpkin, coriander pesto 
Steamed bao filled with sweet and sour pumpkin purée served with a pesto of coriander chutney

Bao with pumpkin, coriander pesto
Steamed bao filled with sweet and sour pumpkin purée served with a pesto of coriander chutney

Indeed, the Chicken Ravioli you served at Identità Golose Milano were extraordinary in that the pasta was very similar to the Italian standards, but the explosion of aromas and flavour brought by the broth and the spices was deeply Indian...
I love playing with these mixes. A dear friend, with whom I worked for many years, spent a year in Italy to learn your cuisine, and he taught me your recipes. Plus Riccardo Camanini was recently guest chef at our restaurant, and I asked him to explain some techniques to the brigade, then we created together a dish of spaghettoni. It was thrilling. 

Salad – Shiso Khakra, mousse of yogurt, raw mango chutney, fresh herbs
Papadum with shiso leaf, with yogurt, raw mango chutney and fresh herbs

Salad – Shiso Khakra, mousse of yogurt, raw mango chutney, fresh herbs
Papadum with shiso leaf, with yogurt, raw mango chutney and fresh herbs

The most extraordinary thing in those ravioli/tortellini that you presented here in Milan for me was the broth, which is the real protagonist of the dish...
It's exactly like this. It's the broth that leads the aromatic balance. To make it we used tomato and water of black lentils, which adds thickness to the broth. And then there's the spices: fenugreek, cardamom, coriander, cloves. And finally I used the liquids from the tandoori cooking of the chicken. 

There's a real contemporary feel in Himanshu Saini's take on cuisine, in the lightness and immediate simplicity with which he enhances his culinary roots, mixing them at the same time with other influences. We await him again soon in Milan to continue our chat.

Soup – Chicken Ravioli, broth of lentils and tomato 
Essence of tomato di pomodoro cooked with lentils from black lentils fermented with cloves, cardamom, fenugreek and coriander seeds, served with chicken ravioli

Soup – Chicken Ravioli, broth of lentils and tomato
Essence of tomato di pomodoro cooked with lentils from black lentils fermented with cloves, cardamom, fenugreek and coriander seeds, served with chicken ravioli

Roasted lobster with ghee, burnt cinnamon 
Lobster cooked in a blend of Southern spices like star anise, wild fennel, black pepper, dried chilli pepper, served with a burnt cinnamon stick

Roasted lobster with ghee, burnt cinnamon
Lobster cooked in a blend of Southern spices like star anise, wild fennel, black pepper, dried chilli pepper, served with a burnt cinnamon stick

Slow-cooked Lamb Pie, mousse of potato purée, pea pods 
A crispy pie filled with slow-cooked lamb, seasoned with 16 different spices

Slow-cooked Lamb Pie, mousse of potato purée, pea pods
A crispy pie filled with slow-cooked lamb, seasoned with 16 different spices

Coffee coral, ice cream of miso caramel, chocolate ganache 
A filtered coffee rose presented like a cone

Coffee coral, ice cream of miso caramel, chocolate ganache
A filtered coffee rose presented like a cone


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