Meet consulting executive chef Manju Choudhury of Cardamom, the new contemporary, pan-regional Indian restaurant that’s taking over the nearly 30-year-old India’s Oven space on Beverly Boulevard. Billed as one the U.K.’s top restaurateurs, Choudhury was brought on board to inject some life and diversity into Indian food as we know it in Los Angeles. For Cardamom, this equates to serving dishes like jhinga patia, spicy-sour prawns favored by the Parsi religious sect, or shahee jhinga, lobster cooked in a creamy tomato-mushroom sauce typically reserved for royal members. We caught up with Choudhury to ask him about Indian food at large and the details behind his latest project.
What’s the significance behind the name Cardamom?
“The green of the cardamom represents freshness. It’s used in our starters, mains, sides, desserts, and drinks. Cardamom gives great flavor and fragrance to any dish, and also has medicinal properties. It’s one of my favorite spices.”
How does Indian food differ in the U.K. vs. the U.S.?
“Indian food in the U.K. Is taken very seriously: it’s national dish is curry. British people have been enjoying Indian food for more than 250 years, and many top chefs from India come to the U.K. to test their skill. In the U.S., many Indian restaurants are not taking any risks. They’re not making changes or using innovative ingredients due to the fear of failure.”
You travel to India a few times per year to stock up on spices for the restaurant. What are these trips like?
“India surprises me every time I travel there. Spices lose their freshness in the damp cargo hold of ships on long journeys, and there are always delays at the ports. Grinding the spices in-house means the dishes explode with flavor. I buy the famous chiles from Kashmir for their freshness and flavor. And according to the different regions and weather, I select my coriander seeds, cumin seeds, star anise, cardamom, bay leaves, and black pepper.”
What makes the charcoal-powered Tandoor oven such an important feature for Cardamom?
“Using a Tandoor oven is the best and most natural way for healthy cooking. The layers of natural clay heated up by charcoal cooks the food evenly without damaging the nutrients. Oil is therefore unnecessary.”
Cardamom, 7233 Beverly Blvd., Mid-City, Fairfax District, 323-936-1000