Updated: Jul 2, 2020
When I reflect upon my family dinners growing up in Chicago's west suburbs, I can't say I remember much variety. No offense to my parents, it's just we did not dabble much in international fare, with the exception of an American spin on food from our Scandinavian heritage. It was not until I began watching Food Network as a teenager that I became a food enthusiast, fascinated with experiencing the flavors of the globe.
When I learned that fellow ChefPassport Chef, Zurath Kamdin, would be hosting a public Indian online cooking public class on Saturday 27 June at 12 pm Hong Kong Time and 1 pm Tokyo time - perfect for people located in Asia and not for people like me based in America - I knew that I would have to explore Indian cuisine flying solo this time around.
Craving authentic curry, I reached out to Kaush - a good friend from my line cook days - to get her two-cents worth before recreating the flavors of India from my home. In this episode, I want to share with you what I discovered in my Indian cuisine self exploration.
My Guide’s Advice
We spoke about the traditions of India, and how many dishes are made as an offering to the gods. I was struck by the intention of India's cuisine; how food acts as a vehicle for spiritual realization. As a ChefPassport Home Chef who craves all things butter, I came to the swift conclusion that my first foray into Indian cooking probably would not spur a spiritual experience, but alas, I would try anyway!
I settled on four dishes for my Indian feast: a Chicken Curry, Roti (an Indian flatbread), Raita, and cumin scented Basmati rice. Surprisingly, I was able to find most of the ingredients in my parents' local grocery store in Holden, Massachusetts, with the exception of a garam masala blend. Of course, when I returned home I found I only had a fraction of the curry powder I needed... to make CURRY! Ugh! Onward I pressed...
Starting in mid-afternoon, I began with Raita. A delicate dish with a simple base of yogurt. It took only five minutes of scooping, chopping, and mixing to prepare. I then rested it in the fridge for the flavors to meld and transform into a cool zesty dipping sauce. Next, I made the Roti. A dough of flour, water, butter, and salt - the recipe could not be more simple to execute! As the Raita and Roti settled closely next to one another, I began the Curry. With a generous amount of vegetable oil, I seared the chicken on both sides until I noted the fabulous golden sear. Next, I sauteed the aromatics: onion, garlic, and ginger. The spices followed after a few moments: coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, and turmeric blending into a strong and pungent wind passing me by as I stood focused in front of the stove. With the curry bubbling away, I melted some butter and toasted some cumin seeds, until they were 'sizzly' (as Kaush advised!) Basmati rice tumbled in the toasty butter until I added water for it to slowly cook on the back burner. Eagerly, as all the flavors of an Indian table filled my kitchen, I ran to the fridge to grab the Roti dough. To finish my feast, I fried each piece in a frothy buttery blend.
With a cool New England breeze filtering through the porch, I set the table, and it was time to dig in.
Chicken Curry: Spice paradise. Originally, I thought the amount of spice would be overwhelming, but I was proven wrong. The savory chicken acted as a canvas for the turmeric, coriander, cayenne pepper, cumin, and curry powder to color the vibrant dish. After one bite, the fragrances transported me to a beach in India. It felt like I was basking in the sun and dipping my toes in the waves. The spiciness was cut by the sweetness of the tomato and the creaminess of the yogurt: a joy for the entire palette.
Raita: A fragrant cool-down. After the heat of the curry, it was a pleasure to plunge the Roti into the Raita. The yogurt's smooth base was further cooled by grated cucumber, yet gently scented with a whisper of cumin and coriander. This spice encounter interacted with the soft punch of cilantro and scallion to make a succulent dip.
Roti: Crispy, velvety, comforting. Like a tortilla, the Roti acted as a vehicle to enjoy the other parts of the feast. Though, I could have easily eaten five of these delicious rounds of fried bread on their own! The juxtaposition between the Roti's chewiness and its crunchy air pockets resulted in an exquisite bread to munch on.
Cumin Scented Basmati Rice: Mildly spiced and luxurious. The aroma of the Basmati rice interacted beautifully with the toasted cumin seeds for a perfect "breather" after a bite of delicious curry.
While I don't believe my take on these fabulous Indian dishes would please the gods, my parents and I finished the feast feeling quite content. My palette appreciated the unapologetic strength of the spices and the combination of textures each item brought to the table.
I look forward to trying more Indian dishes in the future that - with fingers crossed - would make Kaush proud. Just keep in mind that if you don't have a friend like Kaush to learn how to create the authentic tastes of India, and you are looking to experience a spicy digital adventure full of live interactive culinary guidance from a professional, make sure to tune in to Chef Zurath Kamdin's 'Curry in a Hurry' online cooking public class on Saturday 27 June.
I encourage you to attend and be sure to leave comments below on what you learned! I am eagerly waiting to hear your verdicts of your Indian cuisine explorations.