Having been on Singapore Airlines’ International Culinary Panel for over a decade now, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor has valuable insight into airline meals. He spoke to us about the science of cooking, exciting culinary destinations, underrated ingredients and more. By Sumeet Keswani

Celebrity Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

Tell us about the dishes you cooked at this Masterclass and why you chose them.

The dishes we chose were caprese beet tikki with kasundi cream as an appetiser, prawn dum anari as the main dish, and bhapa doi with strawberry halwa for dessert. The idea was to showcase a cross-section of dishes, and not focus on one region like North India. These dishes represent our philosophy at Singapore Airlines: authentic Indian food with a bit of progressiveness. Also, it was a live interaction, so they had to be easy dishes that people could make at home.

Tell us about the special measures you take to curate SIA’s in-flight food experience.

There are multiple things we consider, including the ability of the caterer to deliver the dishes. The philosophy centres around dishes that transmit freshness. Over time we’ve understood what works and what doesn’t. For instance, slow-cooked dishes with flavours that are not understated work well. The air is drier in the cabin, and you need water for dispersion of flavour. You even salivate less on a flight. So we have to compensate for the lack of water. Also, the food is cooked in the kitchen and chilled—to be reheated in the flight. So it can never be overcooked in the kitchen.

Current or future trends in Indian cuisine?

One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is returning respect for regional cuisine—dishes from smaller regions. For instance, in the last 20-25 years, people refined their food, consuming white rice, wheat roti, and white bread. Local crops like jawar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet), ragi (finger millet) were being considered lowly—even in poor regions. Now, with education, we are starting to see respect for traditional food returning.

Celebrity Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

Any myths about cooking you’d like to bust?

There are many! For e.g., in North India, people ask you not to mix dahi (curd) and fish. That’s not true. In Bengal, there’s a dish called doi maach! Was there some relevance to this adage 100 years ago? Definitely. Both fish and milk are highly susceptible to spoilage. When you combine two potentially bad things, the probability of things going wrong goes up exponentially. But today, we don’t have to worry about that [with cold storage]. Another one: we cook our green leafy vegetables like spinach for 20-25 minutes, killing all the heat-sensitive nutrients. We don’t need to cook them for more than two minutes.

Travel experiences you would love to have?

I recently went to Norway but couldn’t see the Northern Lights. I look forward to having that experience.
Go-to breakfast item: Fruit juice
Favourite culinary destinations: Thailand and Spain
Bucket-list 2020: Chile, Brazil