Chef Siddharth Kalyanaraman, who heads the kitchen and is the Australian men’s cricket team’s official touring chef, adapts local ingredients to typically Indian recipes. Aside from popular fare, there are also ‘lost’ traditional dishes on offer.
Indian cuisine, with its mélange of ingredients, cultural influences and use of spices, has become increasingly popular across the world in recent years. Australia, with a sizeable Indian community, is one destination, for instance, where Indian food and restaurants abound. Now, a new restaurant, Foreign Return, at Sydney’s Surrey Hills is looking to change the perception towards food from the subcontinent.
Foreign Return is the brainchild of Javed Khan, Gaurang Gahoi and Kunal Patel. At the helm of the kitchen is Chef Siddharth Kalyanaraman, the Australian men’s cricket team’s official touring chef since 2017. Born in Chennai and raised in Delhi, Kalyanaraman has a broad understanding of the complexities of Indian cuisine from across regions. He uses local ingredients but adapts them to typically Indian fare, something he picked up while training under Chef Atul Kochhar.
Despite the numerous Indian restaurants in Australia, the chef finds their menus to be largely identical, monotonous and not an accurate representation of the various cuisines from across India. His charge is to showcase the diversity of Indian cuisine, and towards this, he presents his own, slightly different take on popular dishes such as butter chicken. While there are dishes such as nandu kuzhambu, a Chettinad crab curry, kosha mangsho, a spicy meat dish from Bengal, or prawns koliwada from the west coast, Foreign Return also has a ‘lost recipes’ section which presents traditional Indian dishes that you wouldn’t usually find even in India itself.
Some examples would include the koldil duck, an Assamese specialty made using banana flowers, nimona, a mung bean fritters and ground green peas curry from Uttar Pradesh, and lauki mussalam, a recipe from Hyderabad that has stuffed bottle gourd in a spicy, fruit and yogurt based gravy. Even laal maas, one of those trademark Rajasthani specialties, is classified as a lost recipe by the chef. The reason being that when the dish originated, it was cooked using game meat but today, it’s lamb that serves the purpose. Foreign Return uses venison, returning to the roots of the recipe.
Open since January this year, Foreign Return, makes you feel ‘right at India’ with its marble tables, murals of the Taj Mahal, suspended fishing nets and shelves lined with brightly coloured dabbas. If it’s Indian cuisine you want in Sydney, this restaurant is a must-visit.