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Revealed: Why the FCC’s Indian food is SO good

Casey Quackenbush met up with Indian head chef Pardeep Kumar Ray to find out.

To the unseasoned vegetarian, a plant-dominant diet can seem perplexing. Preconceptions of hunger and protein-deficiency quickly set in, and the furrowed brow says it all: But what do you eat?

Luckily for veggie-friendly eaters at the FCC, there’s no shortage of vegetarian options with head Indian chef Pardeep Kumar Ray around. The Punjabi-born cook started at the FCC in 2000 when the club didn’t even have an Indian kitchen and has played a major role in building the Club’s renowned reputation for its Indian cuisine.

Chef Pardeep speaks at the FCC’s Diwali celebration in October Chef Pardeep speaks at the FCC’s Diwali celebration in October

Now, as meat-consciousness grows, Chef Pardeep is helping to transform the menu once again by incorporating more vegetarian dishes. Chef Pardeep isn’t a vegan — he enjoys his bedtime turmeric milk too much — but he’s a big fan of the club’s chickpea spinach and he dabbles in vegetarianism now that he cooks it so much.

As a chef who started cooking at age 14 and has worked in kitchens all over India and Hong Kong, Chef Pardeep brings plenty of flair, authenticity, and variety to the FCC’s Indian menu, especially for vegetarians. In honour of Veganuary, Chef Pardeep here shares some veggie recipes, the secrets to his curry, and traces the history of the club’s famous cuisine.

How did the FCC get its reputation for its Indian food?

The people here are very powerful you know, it’s a media club! We take care of all the food, hygiene, everything [in the Indian kitchen]. Every year we have to change the menu, sometimes the barbecue dishes, some curry items also. This year we started Beyond Meat (the plant-based meat substitute). Every year we change something.

How long did it take for the Indian kitchen to take off?

I started in 2000. Three months after, it was crazy good. People loved the food. When I started the first day, I had 70 portions of curry. Some people tell me my curry is a little bit thin. I said, “Okay, I do my style okay?” Next day I do my own style and, oh my god, it was crazy good. Every day, 100, 150, nearly 200 orders. Now, with the protests, a little bit less.

Where did you learn to cook Indian food?

In India, from Kashmir to Punjab, working, in small, small places. We know south Indian food, Punjabi food, Sindhi food, Nepali food, and Pakistani food.

What’s your favourite Indian cuisine?


What’s your favourite dish?

Chicken tikka makhani. And onion naan.

What’s the best vegetarian dish at the FCC?

Chickpea spinach. This is very healthy for you. We cook with spinach so it’s more healthy. People care about that, people are healthy. Next maybe we’ll start some new buffet. Always change the food. There’s not just one thing we do here.

Have you ever tried to be a vegetarian?

Now, after cooking it, I start eating like a vegetarian, because my belly is too big!

What’s your favourite alternative to meat?

Punjabi paneer.

When did you first start to cook?

When my mother was getting fat, she didn’t want to make anything! So slowly, slowly I started cooking — egg, chapati — and after that, I loved the kitchen.

What’s the secret ingredient for your curry?

I make a whole spicy blend. That aroma is very good for you. Like cinnamon stick, cloves — very good for the health.

Why did you pick these two recipes to share with us?

Aloo gobi is like homemade food. And my mother made a very good palak paneer. The aroma is very good.

What do you hope to bring to the FCC’s menu?

I always want to bring something new. I don’t like to do the same stuff every day. I always want to change. Change is very good for life you know! I believe in surprises. I don’t want people just coming here and seeing the same old food. There must always be change in life.

Chef Pardeep’s recipes to try at home

PALAK PANEER (Vegetarian)

Palak Paneer Palak Paneer

With thanks to Chef Pardeep’s mother

To serve four people


1kg Spinach, pureed

400g Paneer

400g Onion

20g Green chillies

10g Red chilli powder

200g Tomatoes, pureed

100g Amul butter (ghee)

8g Garam masala

4g Cumin seeds

4g White pepper

20g Turmeric

20g Coriander powder

2g Methi (fenugreek)

10g Ginger (crushed)

10g Garlic (crushed)

100g Oil (ghee, sunflower etc)

Heavy cream (whipping cream) to flavour


Add the Amul butter (or ghee) to a skillet over a medium heat. Keep back just over two tbsp of the butter/ghee for later.

Add cumin seeds and stir until the seeds start to darken and smell fragrant (10 to 20 seconds).

Add the green chillies, onion and half a teaspoon of salt, and cook until the onion is dark brown and soft (approx. 10 minutes).

Add the ginger, garlic, turmeric and methi, coriander powder, red chilli powder, white pepper and 1/2g garam masala. Stir for approx. two minutes, then add the pureed tomatoes, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to look dry (approx. 6 minutes).

Add the pureed spinach, a cup of water and the remaining garam masala (the mixture will become thick).

Simmer for 8 minutes, then stir in some cream and the remaining two tbsp ghee.

Add the paneer cubes and cook until the paneer is warm, finish with some cream as thickening and add a few drops of Amul butter or ghee before serving.


Aloo Gobi Aloo Gobi

To serve four people


400g Potatoes

400g Cauliflower florets

200g Onion

8g Red chillies

20g Green chillies

4 Garlic cloves, crushed

5g Ginger, ground

4g Garam masala

200g Tomatoes

20g Turmeric powder

20g Cumin powder

4g Cumin seeds

20g Methi (fenugreek)

4g Coriander seeds

100g Oil (ghee, sunflower etc)

Coriander to garnish


Pour the oil into a medium-hot skillet and add the cumin seeds. Stir until the seeds start to darken and smell fragrant (10-20 seconds).

Add the chillies, garlic, and ginger. Cook for approx. one minute then add onions and cook until onions are brown and soft.

Add the garam masala and turmeric and cook until brown for approx. one minute more.

Add the potatoes, cauliflower and all other ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Turn down the heat, cover with a lid, and cook until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.

Garnish with coriander.


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