17 November 2020

Five minutes with Mini Gaundar, owner Rama’s Fiji Indian Restaurant

| Michelle Rowe
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Mini Gaundar

Mini Gaundar, owner of Rama’s Fiji Indian Restaurant in Pearce, has been serving the Canberra community since 1991. Photos: Supplied.

Who is Mini Gaundar? I’m the owner/manager/maitre d’ at Rama’s Fijian Indian Restaurant in Pearce

Best recent dining experience: My best friend and I have had lobster on our bucket list for years. We finally ticked it off the list at Jimmy’s Place in Dickson. We started with spring rolls and the most beautiful fresh steamed scallops with ginger and shallots, which we had with plain rice. The highlight of our evening was our whole fried chilli rock salt lobster. The lobster was fresh and tasty and exceeded our expectations.

Another great dining experience recently was at Rubicon at Griffith shops. Everything was perfect, from the warm atmosphere to the service and the menu choices. Highlights were the prosciutto scallops for entrée, roasted duck confit for main and caramelised crème brûlée for dessert.

Most embarrassing pantry item: Junk food – bhuja mix, salted peanuts and Cheezels!

Must-buy ingredient: Chilli, onion and garlic. These three ingredients are the essentials for the foods I cook.

Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: I rarely go out for breakfast but I do like the breakfast at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra and brunch at Farmers Daughter café at the Yarralumla shops.

My Canberra food secret: Torrens Takeaway for a delicious pizza and Mawson Halal Market at Mawson Shops is my go-to for fresh produce when I’m cooking at home.

Biggest culinary influence: Without a doubt my mum and sister. In our Indian culture, we start cooking from a very early age. I was cooking from the age of nine and learnt all the basics from my mum. In recent years my sister, Daya, who is the head chef at Rama’s, taught me a lot about cooking. She is a curry queen who cooks with one main ingredient – love.

Rama's Fiji Indian Restaurant

Daya, head chef at Rama’s Fiji Indian Restaurant.

Favourite cookbook: I haven’t used a cookbook in a long time but the main one I refer to is The Women’s Weekly Dinner Party Cookbook for its classic sticky date pudding recipe, which is a family favourite. Even though I’ve cooked this recipe for years, I still can’t cook it without referring to the book!

Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: Chef James Mussillon from Courgette because I have followed his career from dining at Atlantic to Aubergine, Artespresso, Water’s Edge, Sabayon and now his current role at Courgette. I enjoy his influence of modern French/Australian cuisine on the Canberra scene and have had many beautiful dining experiences at the restaurants he’s been associated with.

James Mussillon and executive chef Zac Elliott

James Mussillon and executive chef Zac Elliott in the kitchen at Courgette.

What’s on the menu this week: Our mango lassi is a popular drink heading into summer. We’ve also noticed the potato saag curry rise in popularity after adding it to the menu for our vegan customers. Also, you can’t go wrong with the pumpkin and coconut roti parcel – our most popular entrée!

Where I’m going next: I’m hanging out to go to Bar Rochford in the city. Previously they weren’t open on the nights Rama’s was closed but now they are open on Sundays so I can’t wait to try it. I’ve heard great things about that place.

Rama's mango lassi

Rama’s mango lassi is a popular summertime drink with customers.

Death row meal: Definitely a hot and spicy chicken vindaloo with hard-boiled eggs served with plain rice and chopped tomato and onion and pappadums. Or my sister’s delicious home-style chilli mud crab.

My COVID-19 response: We were very lucky that we already had an established takeaway and delivery model at Rama’s and relied on this during the lockdown to serve our customers. We have to thank our amazing new and regular customers who overwhelmed us with their support by ordering takeaways and keeping the business going. Canberrans really got behind a lot of businesses and we even gained new customers through word-of-mouth during this time.

Cook like a professional … with a really simple recipe: My quickest and easiest recipe is Indian scrambled eggs. All you need is three eggs, a quarter of a small onion (thinly sliced), two green or red chillies (cut lengthwise), a few fresh coriander leaves (optional) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add all ingredients to a bowl and hand whisk. Pop enough olive oil in a frypan to cover the pan, and make sure the oil is well heated before adding the egg mixture. Cook the eggs for a maximum of two minutes and serve with roti or bread of any kind.

Rama’s Fiji Indian Restaurant has been a fixture on the Canberra dining scene since 1991. It is located at Pearce Shopping Centre on the corner of Macfarlane and Hodgson Crescent. It’s open from 5:30 pm Tuesday to Saturday and for lunch on request from Tuesday to Friday (minimum 10 people).

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