Hot Chef: Aliya LeeKong, Junoon

GONY_HotChef_0418

These days, Aliya LeeKong is dividing her time between developing recipes for modern Indian eatery Junoon, where she’s the restaurant’s Culinary Creative Director, and putting the finishing touches on her first cookbook, hitting shelves this fall. We caught a few minutes with LeeKong, a former banker, to learn more about each of these passion projects of hers.

You’re Indo-Pakistani and East African. How did those cultures influence you when you were learning how to cook?
Growing up, my mom would make something from her side, or I’d be at an aunt’s house and I’d learn something from the African side, and I had no idea that they were different cultures when I was younger.

It was just home cooking.
It was all home cooking. It was all the way I ate. I did realize when I was younger that some of these dishes, I couldn’t get anywhere else. There was no way I was gonna be able to eat that food so I was trying to learn a lot of those dishes, particularly the East African dishes. … I was aware that there was a scarcity factor and that I had to learn them. Otherwise, who the hell was gonna pass them on?

As you’ve grown older and cooked more, have you put a spin on any of those recipes?
Definitely. I think whenever I look at a recipe, I think about all the different types of techniques that I learned and how to change things. Every family does these recipes differently anyway, when you’re talking about home cooking. I always tweak to the technique that works for me. When I’m talking about the East African doughnuts, for example, I use rice flour to create a lighter batter and to create a lighter end result. They’re really good. They’re savory and sweet.

Tell us about your upcoming cookbook.
That’s coming out in the fall, and it’s called “Exotic Table.” That’s my aggregation of travels and cultural experiences [and] my style of cooking.

What about at Junoon — does your menu change often?
We try to add in seasonal elements in terms of accoutrements and the condiments and the sides. We continue to evolve. We really just see how the product is going; we see what people are eating. We try to replace heavy items or heavier items in the summer with some lighter items. It’s very much an organic revolution. It’s very collaborative. A lot of different people weigh in, in terms of the food and what they like.

One last question: Do you woo your husband by cooking for him?
Oh, all the time! He’s extraordinarily simple. It’s very much something layered in a casserole. Beef has to be a component. A good shepherd’s pie and he’s done.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

Local

Paint Nite: Get drunk and make a painting…

At Paint Nite, New Yorkers can drink and make a painting at a New York City bar.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

Arts

PHOTO: Wildlife photographer Marc Mol captures amazing aerial…

This aerial image was taken by photographer Marc Mol who spotted the animals during an air safari in Zambia.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

NFL

5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.