Welcome to Fridge Tours, where we peek inside the personal refrigerators of chefs, bartenders, and food world personalities to see how they eat off the clock, in the privacy of their own homes. For our latest invasion of privacy, we visited Asma Khan, chef and founder of Darjeeling Express.
I am about to set off for Asma Khan’s home in South Kensington, West London when I receive a panicked email asking if we can rearrange for an hour later because she has to take one of her sons to a last-minute doctor’s appointment. “He’s fine,” she assures me. “An overreacting teenager who could’ve gone to school, more like!”
Alongside juggling family life, Asma is a self-taught Indian chef who runs the hugely popular all-woman restaurant, Darjeeling Express, in London’s Soho. She also just published a cookbook, Asma’s Indian Kitchen, and was recently announced as the first British chef to star in an upcoming episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix.
Suffice to say, Asma is a busy woman and I’m surprised she has time to keep such a well stocked fridge.
Name: Asma Khan
Job: Chef and owner of Darjeeling Express
Lives in: South Kensington, London
How long?: 22 years
Your fridge is quite an unusual shape … “Oh god, I hate my stupid fridge—it’s too small! When me and my husband inherited this flat from [his] mother 22 years ago and renovated the place, the builders didn’t leave enough space for the fridge. That’s why it’s really narrow with a lot of wasted space on the top . Because it’s so narrow, there’s only one model that fits in this space.”
What’s the oldest thing in your fridge? “This peach- and basil-flavoured apple cider vinegar at the back of the fridge. I don’t really like it very much, it tastes a bit weird. That’s probably why it’s at the back of the fridge.”
What’s the best thing in your fridge? “I love jam! I have such a sweet tooth there’s probably about five or six jars of jam in here. I’ve got all different flavours ranging from strawberry to pineapple. I slather it on paratha, which is an Indian flatbread that’s kind of like a roti and it’s a lot lighter than having it on toast. I have a slight jam obsession and I think my sweet tooth developed from not being able to have stuff like this back home in Calcutta.”
Speaking of sweet things, tell me about this big, heavy box on the middle shelf? “Oh this? It’s gulab jamun. It’s a sticky-sweet doughy Indian dessert that’s made with cardamom and pistachio. It’s a dessert that no one really bothers to make at home because it’s so time-consuming and only the crazy, dedicated people would do that. Please, I insist, take this box home, try it and let me know what you think. It’s super comforting when you serve it warm. I recommend microwaving it for a few seconds and then serve with double cream. Make sure it’s double and not the single stuff, otherwise it’s like pouring on milk.”
What’s a typical fridge situation for you? “Lots of halal protein, fruit, and vegetables in this household. I try to be as balanced as I can. Although I have a son who’s into being lean and working out, the other doesn’t like spicy food. What kind of Asian son doesn’t like spicy food?! That’s why there’s so much yogurt, which I’ll probably make a chicken korma for the family with tonight.”
What do you always have stocked in your fridge? “Tomato puree is my essential. I use it for absolutely everything. Doesn’t matter what brand it is really, but because it’s such a concentrated amount, it adds so much flavour to your base and sauces. I can’t use a tube because my family goes through so much of it.”
I see you put eggs in your fridge. Aren’t you meant to leave those out? “I have two egg cartons in rotation. One in the fridge and one out of the fridge, so I have the best of both worlds and you never know when they come in handy.”
What’s your favourite condiment? “I love honey mustard, it’s such a necessity. It’s the perfect balance and combination of flavours that go well with so many things. Also ketchup is a must-have too, and I’m a person that keeps ketchup in fridge.”
Finally, tell me about the side door situation. There’s a lot of liquids... “I have no idea what all this stuff is—it’s probably my husband’s.”