The Chef: Louis Tikaram in West Hollywood, by way of Australia and Fiji.
On His Eclectic Upbringing: "I grew up in Fiji, in the eastern part near the capital city, Suva, but we went back and forth between there and Australia. We were in Sydney for a while, but my parents wanted to get out of the city so we ended up settling in a cool coastal town called Mullumbimby. It's very popular now, but back then it was just an old farming town."
His Biggest Culinary Influence: His multicultural background, of course. "My grandfather was Fijian and Indian, and my grandmother was Fijian and Chinese, so you would never really know what was going to be on the dinner table," says Tikaram. "In Fiji, there wasn't any TV until about 1996, so before that it was just hanging out and eating and sharing food. The whole evening really involved a big meal every single night."
On Defining His Style of Cooking: First, please don't call it fusion. Tikaram landed his first influential restaurant gig after driving to Sydney when he graduated, knocking on the door of place called Longrain, and begging the chef for a chance to show him what he was capable of. "That's really where I fell in love with Thai cuisine and Southeast Asian flavors," Tikaram says. "I've now come to call my food 'Modern Asian,' and the 'modern' part comes from the methods and techniques being a little bit smarter and a little more sustainable."
A Dish From His Fijian-Chinese Grandmother: "It would have to be nama sea pearls. It's actually a dish on my menu at the moment," says Tikaram. "Nama sea pearls are a type of seaweed, which I used to collect with my grandmother in the river, or it used to be at the markets on Saturday mornings. The dish is almost like a Pacific-style seaweed ceviche, with freshly squeezed coconut cream, seasoned with just a touch of salt, some lime, and aromatics."
A Dish From His Fijian-Indian Grandfather: "My grandfather and my father always loved eating curry," says Tikaram, "so there's one on the menu—a turmeric and coconut clam curry."
The Australian Ingredient He Misses Most: Fresh green peppercorns from the rainforests of Far North Queensland. "They're really great stir-fried, but I just haven't seen them here—and I've looked high and low."
The Fijian Ingredient He's Trying to Find: Taro leaves, not just the root—that already makes appearances on his menu. "I can't seem to find just taro leaves," laments Tikaram. "In Fiji, we make a dish called rourou, which is almost like creamed spinach, using the taro leaves."
The Fijian Speciality You Need to Cook Now: Kokoda (pronounced ka-kon-da), a Fijian-style ceviche with red snapper, fresh coconut cream, and tons of lime and chili. Continue on for Tikaram's step-by-step video recipe!
For more on Louis Tikaram and E.P. & L.P., see eplosangeles.com.