The chef brings Indian-Chinese food to central London

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Originally from Mumbai, Huzefa Sajawal and the Fatt Pundit family were inspired to bring their grandmother’s traditional cooking to London (included).

Huzefa and Hamza Sajawal, the brains behind Soho’s, have been transporting guests from Guangdong to Tangra since 2019 Fat expert, start a new adventure in Covent Garden. The new restaurant will tell the story of the special melting pot of cultures found in India’s Chinese immigrant community.

Borrowing cult classics from Berwick Street, the new Fatt Pandit brings fresh dishes and a new drink concept to the fore with a signature lead cocktails inspired by the flavors and spices of India and Chinaand an unusual wine list that celebrates small organic producers from all corners of the world.

Steeped in history, Indochinese cuisine was created by those who emigrated from Canton and Guangdong in China with their rich gastronomic culture and settled in Kolkata and Mumbai, where they began incorporating Indian spices into these dishes. Fatt Pundit’s new menu will celebrate this unique diaspora cuisine.

We have five minutes with co-founder Huzefa about this fascinating cuisine, his recommendations from the Menu and his favorite food.

Put simply, what is Indochinese food? What are some of the key flavors, ingredients, or dishes you can expect to find?

Simply put, the food is prepared using Chinese cooking techniques with spices and ingredients of Indian origin. A Brief History: A small population of Chinese migrated to India from Calcutta, India, bringing with them their culinary treasures and style of cooking. Over a period of years, they began cooking Chinese dishes like dim sum, noodles and stir-fries using local Indian ingredients, creating a whole new range of dishes bursting with flavors never seen or tasted before.

The original Soho site had an almost cult following. What are you hoping for from the Covent Garden opening and how will it differ?

With Soho, we knew from the start that it was going to be about the food. We wanted to introduce this no-frills cuisine to London and recreate an experience that diners would have on the streets of Tangra, ie Chinatown in Kolkata. And we have been blown away by the response and love we have received from all of our guests.

With the Covent Garden site, we wanted to create a slightly larger space where we could further complement the Fatt Pandit experience by telling the story a bit more, with more detailed decor and an improved range of drinks to go with the food (which we’ll stay the same, if not better). We also wanted to be able to serve larger groups (which we couldn’t do at the Soho location as space is a bit restricted).

How is the restaurant scene in Mumbai?

Well, Mumbai is now officially allowed to open 24/7 with a new policy and the restaurant scene is livelier than ever. On the one hand you have the best street/local food India has to offer as well as international fine dining restaurants like Hakkasan and Yauatcha opening there.

Indo-Chinese is an ‘assimilation cuisine’ (when immigrants adjust to cooking in a new home) – how have you adapted to UK cooking?

Working in a French restaurant and in one of London’s best steakhouses with some very passionate chefs has influenced me a lot. I become very open to trying new restaurants and cuisines with them. I also learned the importance of sourcing good ingredients.

So now I take as much pride in making a dry aged côte de boeuf or croque monsieur as I take in making a slow-cooked Suffolk lamb biryani.

If I visit Fatt Pundit tonight, what should I order?

Well, it’s hard to choose…we usually recommend 6-8 dishes for a table of two so you can experience a variety of flavors. Although a few must-haves are: You must start with momos. Kid Goat Momo are my favorite! Some other favorites include crispy spinach, lamb chops dusted with black beans, and monkfish curry with ginger rice.

A must at the restaurant are the Kid Goat Momos (Joe Howard)

A must at the restaurant are the Kid Goat Momos (Joe Howard)

Tell us about some of the excellent producers that feature on the menu and wine list.

Sourcing is extremely important to us at Fatt Pundit. Our suppliers work very hard to get us some products that are regularly hard to come by.

For example, our kid goat meat comes from Cabrito Meats, who supply us with goat meat from British dairy farms, which is rarely eaten in the UK. Although with more awareness of how delicious it actually is, there is an upward trend.

For our Kala Khatta Mojito (Blackcurrant Mojito) we supply a special blackcurrant syrup from Maharashtra in India which is not available here in the UK.

We have a few Chinese wines on the menu that paired beautifully with our meal. For example Chateau Changyu Moser XV, Cabernet Sauvignon. This Blanc de Noir is definitely the first white Cabernet Sauvignon from China. And it pairs beautifully with the Malabar Tiger Prawn Curry at Fatt Pundit.

Domaine Wardy Beqaa Valley Red, Lebanon is an amazing new organic red wine without oak.

If you could merge two other kitchens, what would it be?

My partner is Italian and a wonderful cook; I can’t help but think that the Indian-Italian fusion could result in some creative and flavorful dishes as both have a very similar base when cooking with lots of garlic, tomatoes and fresh herbs.

You have five ingredients. What are they and what do you do?

Since I have a sweet tooth, I would cook one of my favorites: rice pudding using my grandmother’s recipe.

These ingredients are key to this simple dish: whole milk, Kolam rice (short grain rice), Kashmiri saffron, jaggery (cane sugar) and green cardamom (freshly ground).

After a long day at several restaurants, what is your favorite meal? (No judgement, I promise!)

Would have to be a simple home cooked meal (ideally made by mom) with some lentils, veggies and rice.

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