À La Carte is a new series to give our readers a peek behind the swinging doors of London's best and busiest kitchens – read about when we went behind the scenes at The Kitchen At Holmes. We’ve been talking to the people cementing London as one of the world's tastiest cities, finding out what makes them tick and making sure that our readers are given access to their favourite recipes. We made the journey recently to Soho because we’d heard so much about Fatt Pundit.
Owned by Huzefa and Hamza Sajawal, two brothers from Mumbai, Fatt Pundit serves up Hakka food. Hakka is an Indo-Chinese combination that melds traditional Chinese ingredients and techniques such as wok cooking with bold Indian flavours. This culinary fusion originated in Kolkata when the Hakka people migrated from the Chinese province of Canton to India.
Having worked in hospitality for seven years after moving to the UK, Huzefa was shocked that he hadn’t seen anywhere serving the Indo-Chinese fusion that he had grown up eating. In partnership with his brother, he made it happen in a stylish, contemporary setting that appeals to European and Indian audiences.
We happily ate our way through the rich, tender kid goat momo – essentially a dumpling – with garam masala, signature crackling spinach, salt & pepper okra, Bombay chilli prawns, shredded chilli venison with mantou bread, lollipop chicken and a set of mouth-watering lamb chops. As we sat back, perhaps overly satisfied, Huzefa wandered past and we managed to catch a moment with the man himself to talk Hakka.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Huzefa Sajawal, I am responsible for the food and concept development for our restaurants and the founder of Fatt Pundit in Soho.
What do you do?
My main focus remains on concept creation, menu designing and all aspects of M2H Hospitality, the parent company.
Fatt Pundit is a very new dining experience for us, how would you describe the food at Fatt Pundit?
Our speciality is comfort food – I just love feeding people and making people happy through food! There is nothing more rewarding than watching someone truly savour the food you've served them. Cooking is all about heart, and if you don't have your heart in the game, you won’t love what you're cooking and people will taste that.
What inspired the fusion cuisine at Fatt Pundit?
My entire childhood was spent watching my grandmother cook delicious Lucknow food, she would serve us home-cooked food filled with love and care. It made me realise I wanted to work in the restaurant industry and share my passion for food. It felt like a natural step for me. I grew up loving my grandmother’s food and the food of the city I lived in, I wanted people to experience the unique flavours and dishes in London. The menu is also very much inspired by the memories of my high school and university days.
If you could recommend one dish, which would it be?
Crackling Spinach! It is my favourite dish at Fatt Pundit – crispy spinach, sweet yogurt with date and plum sauce and pomegranate – it’s a must!
He’s not wrong, the crackling spinach is a fresh explosion of flavour, much like the crispy salt & pepper okra for which he kindly entrusted us with the recipe.
· 500g fresh okra
· ½ cup cornstarch
· 1 tsp ground white pepper
· ½ tsp himalayan salt
· 2 red chilli pepper seeds removed and thinly sliced
· 2 scallions thinly sliced
· fresh ground black pepper
1. Wash the okra and pat dry with a cloth. Slice okra into 1-inch diagonal slices.
2. Add about 1 inch of oil to pan being used for frying. Bring to medium heat.
3. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, white pepper and salt. Add in the sliced okra and roll it in the flour mixture, gently add water to form a batter and evenly coat the okra.
4. When oil is hot, add a few pieces of okra and fry until crispy on all sides before removing. Because you are using cornstarch instead of flour, the battered okra will not change that much in colour when finished. Instead of a golden brown, the okra will be a pale yellow gold.
5. Repeat with remaining okra until all is fried.
6. In a wok heat 10-15 ml oil until it smokes, add chilli peppers, scallions, fresh ground black pepper and then quickly add in the okra, tossing it with all the smoked spices.
7. Serve it hot on grease-proof paper with a dip of your choice (sweet chilli dip or chilli soya dip)