Dalai Lama pens forward to Chef Vikas Khanna's travelogue

Published Jan 13, 2014, 7:30 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 6:13 am IST
Chef Vikas Khanna dons the writer's cap yet again chronicling his culinary journey across the Himalayas in a new book.
New Delhi, Jan 13: Michelin starred Indian chef Vikas Khanna dons the writer's cap yet again chronicling his culinary journey across the Himalayas in a new book.
Containing a foreword by the Dalai Lama, "Return to the Rivers" is the newest book from the chef set to launch in the US with a limited edition release in India early this year. 
Based in the US, Vikas, who won  his third Michelin star in October 2013 for Junoon, the Indian fine dining restaurant in New York City has authored 13 books previously.
"If I don't do anything groundbreaking now then when will I do it?," asks the 41-year-old professional cook whose tome amalgamates recipes, photos, and memories of places in the
Himalayan region.
Vikas travelled across the Himalayas, seven years back and the book is a collection of his travels, the food that he discovered in his culinary journey, the history, the unique Himalayan culture and his own memories exploring the great Himalayas from Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Tibet, Western China, Pakistan and then Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh in northern India and parts of North East India like Sikkim.
"I could have called this book anything from Vikas Khanna's Himalayan kitchen to Exotic dishes by Vikas Khanna but I was adamant on the name Return to the Rivers, which does not simply gives away that its a cookbook, and it is not, its literature," the chef told PTI in an interview here recently.
He says he has tried to capture the simplicity and hospitality he witnessed in the mountains. The dishes are simple and pure at core like eggplant fritters with ginger, spinach and cheese momos, pressed rice with yogurt and almonds, Tibetan scallion pancakes and Nepalese black lentils with rice.
"It would have been easier for me to write this book today with all the technology and comforts available but it was six years of struggle that goes to make this book authentic and unique," he says.
Vikas has dedicated the 360 page tome to an unknown woman from Tibet. "The dedication is addressed to a woman whose name I don't know. I was traveling in Tibet and misplaced my laptop containing more than half the recipes I had collected during my travels. She stopped the bus in which I was travelling and returned the computer. I offered her some money, but she simply said 'anyone would have done it',".
"The book captures this simplicity and innocence of locals there," says Vikas  who did all the food and travel photography himself.
The foreword has been penned by the Dalai Lama who the author says has has played "a very significant, rather life-changing role in making of the book."
"It was after Purnima, my restaurant in New York closed down that a friend called me up informing me that the Dalai Lama was hosting a  seminar and wanted to meet me. I was not sure that I would go, but when I did, something astounding happened. He simply came to me and put a white cloth he had around his neck, around mine, and touched my forehead blessing me," recollects Vikas.
"What happened next was life altering. My friend called me again and told me that the Dalai Lama had said to tell Vikas it is the end, things are just changing their form," he says. 
This experience was the exact push Vikas says he needed to follow his passion more vigorously.
The Amritsar- born chef whose career has seen him host events and dinners at the White House as well as host famous fundraisers for President Obama and President Clinton still considers homemade food better than any cuisine.
The new book, he says is expected to be both informative and engaging, "There are no spice shops in Tibet, spices are available in medicine shops which is a very surprising thing for us to think," he says.
The inclusion of word 'River', which doesn't exactly says 'cookbook' has story of its own. The writer was inspired by Indian mythology, where rivers are often referred as "maa" (mother) and also is the origin of the human species.
"I was in Kolkata when a man offered me Boondi (sweetened snack), he was there to perform his mother's last rites. He reminded me that how ashes are scattered over a river and how it is water which is the source of all living being," he says.
Confident that the book will make space in the hearts and minds of the readers he says, "It is my Mount Everest", referring to Tenzing Norgay, "I don't know if I will be able to recreate anything like it again."
Priced around Rs 2500 the book is set to be launched on January 19 at the Jaipur Literature Festival where Vikas is scheduled to speaking about his new venture.
This is Vikas's first book that will be launched in India before US, where he is based. "My Great India", "Flavors First" and "Savour Mumbai" are some of his previous books.
Also his new solo TV show, for which he is currently shooting is also set to be aired on FOX Traveler starting this month.