Celebrity chef and founder of Ministry of Crab, Dharshan Munidasa has been hosting popups in India for a while. But does he visit often? Nearly not enough, which is probably also why each of his India popups are an event. A big proponent of fresh ingredients and recipes that are rooted in tradition, Munidasa has been in Goa for the past two weeks, serving up his delicious creations to those who think and dream seafood. Between the kitchen and meeting guests, the chef also managed to squeeze some time out for a quick tête-à-tête with Zee Zest.
“I've been coming to India to present my dishes for a very long time, initially with Japanese dishes from Nihonbashi with some amazing ingredients flown in from Tokyo, and then with Ministry of Crab, even before we opened the restaurant in Mumbai,” he reminisces.
The Mumbai outpost has definitely been a blessing for his popups. “We have the support and the bandwidth from the restaurant in terms of logistics and supplies,” he adds.
But what took him so long to come to Goa? “I have no clue why it's taken me this long, but I’m glad that we are here now. The perfect moment arose with an invitation from W Goa, who we partnered with for this pop-up. The synergy between W Goa and Ministry of Crab, coupled with the current festive season, culminated in an ideal scenario for our arrival,” Munidasa says, adding, “This is our first pop-up at a resort and it is a welcome change from being in the city. Goa looks like Sri Lanka in terms of vegetation, temperature, climate and look-and-feel, and it is amazing to have that ‘at-home’ feeling.”
Munidasa has been collaborating with various leading hospitality brands across the world, from Abu Dhabi and Australia to India and Tokyo, to name a few, and is quite clear on the fact that collabs are a great way to understand other cultures, restaurants and local palates. “I love coming for pop-ups and meeting new hoteliers, guests and sharing what we are really good at, and that is crabs! This particular partnership with W Goa has been quite rewarding so far. Such collaborations offer a rich platform for learning and growth, not only for chefs but also for operational teams; it’s a splendid opportunity for Goa's locals and visitors alike to indulge in our unique dining experience,” he says.
Keep it fresh
Proud of his legacy and of course his staunch belief in fresh ingredients, Munidasa follows “no freezer” policy quite seriously.
“We are blessed in Sri Lanka to be able to have a restaurant without freezers. The crabs come to us live and the freshwater prawns are brought to use daily on ice. We take this philosophy and practice to our outlets in Bangkok and Maldives where this is easily manageable, and in India where the produce is local. However, in China, due to import restrictions on freshwater prawns, our no-freezer policy is based only on the live crab. All restaurants at one time had no freezers, many years ago and I am just trying to revive that notion that the freshness of an ingredient can be guaranteed if a restaurant makes such a bold statement. Ministry of Crab has always been about local ingredients. It was a celebration of Sri Lanka’s crab and the freshwater prawn became a big part of our menu, churning industry to meet our demand. Apart from olive oil and wines we are already on local ingredients and my awareness of low food miles is how this was born.”
Munidasa’s legacy is rich. He’s inspired professional and aspiring chefs from across the world, the testament of which is in his sheer popularity. But what are his three most lessons from being in the kitchen? “Communication, communication, communication. This is probably the most important aspect of being in a kitchen. Communication is about listening, reading, observing and creating an organised memory of these inputs. You need to be able to recall all your experiences and memories, and that is going to help you in the kitchen regardless of what cuisine or type of dishes you will be preparing,” he signs off.
The Ministry of Crab is being held at W Goa till December 31.