Meet Sheeshpal Singh, our Executive Chef at Karma Sitabani resort in India.
A native of Uttarakhand (India), Sheeshpal Singhbeen is considered a culinary magician by many. He is currently expanding our menus to include more immune-boosting offerings, authentic Kumauni cuisine and home-style cooking such as herbal drinks ‘kadhas’ made with tulsi, jaggery and lemongrass. In this interview Chef Sheeshpal reflects on 2020 and inspires us about the year ahead.
How was 2020 for you? Any unexpected highlights and silver linings?
I started 2020 full of hope, joy, and positivity. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic and by March 24th India was overnight in complete lockdown. This pandemic has shaken every individual’s life in some way but this hardship and the challenging times have helped me evaluate my life and allowed me to focus on what’s truly important. When hotels and resorts were forced to shut down, I had the opportunity to return home. There, after many years I was able to tend to ancestral fields in my village where I enjoyed farming and learning authentic rural cooking methods.
How wonderful. Tell us some more of what you learnt about rural cooking methods.
From March to end-August 2020, I spent time with fellow villagers who cook authentic meals. They use all local ingredients and follow authentic rural Kumauni (regional) recipes. I actively participated in cooking sessions with them and tested many of the delicious dishes of the region. I am now excited to add these to the menu at Karma Sitabani.
Sounds so good! We can’t wait! What are some of your favourites?
There are many! But I have to say that Bhuna Meat Shorba is a firm favourite – both to cook and eat. The smoky flavour of the mutton cooked with whole spices is irresistible. Plus, this dish pairs well with white rice, pulav or Indian breads from the clay oven.
We’re intrigued. Tell us more about Uttarakhand cuisine.
India is a land of so much culture and diversity, and each state offers its own cuisine. In Uttarakhand, one is greeted by many exotic aromas. The unique feature of Uttarakhand cuisine is that food is usually cooked over burning wood or charcoal. Traditional dishes of Uttarakhand are simple to prepare, appealing to the palate and highly nutritious. Examples of popular delicious dishes include Chainsoo, Kafuli Jholi, Faanu, Tils / Bhang Ki Chutney, Bhatt Ki Chudkani, Janguri Kheer, and Arsa.
How have people’s eating habits evolved over the past year?
Great question. With many people working from home and placing orders online for everything from groceries to clothes, there has been even less time for physical activities. However, I do feel the lockdown and the pandemic itself has had a major impact on the eating and drinking habits of people. Many of us have become more health conscious and are adopting a holistic approach to health and nutrition.
One thing that we can control is what we eat. Cooking meals at home allows us to use better, fresher ingredients, less oil and spices.
At Karma Sitabani, we have tried to make our food healthier by using the same principles of home cooking. We also have a wide variety of healthy food and beverages on our menu. The Resort itself has wide open spaces to walk about and facilities like the gym and outdoor games and activities encourage all our guests to have some physical activity.
What do you think will be the top 3 food trends for 2021-2022?
- Introduction of healthier food and drinks on menus – people will be drawn to foods that are healthy, nutritious, and good for the immune system.
- Home-style cooked regional food – for example, we are adding more dishes that require cooking on wood fires and in clay ovens.
- Digital Menus and restaurants with seating plans to maintain social distancing.
What’s your favourite dish at the moment? Are you experimenting with any new ingredients?
‘Dangad (Forest) Chicken’ is my signature dish that has been well received by everyone who has tried it.
I’m including more immune-boosting food and drinks to our menu at Karma Sitabani. You’ll see more fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds as well as turmeric, ginger, garlic, mint, basil etc. Whenever possible, I replace refined sugar with better, natural alternatives like jaggery.
I am also adding a few kadhas (herbal drinks) to the beverage section. These will have ingredients like tulsi, cinnamon, black pepper, lemongrass, honey, jaggery etc.
Sounds amazing! We can’t wait for the time when we can travel again and get to sample your creations. Thank you Chef!