Have you been watching Rick Stein‘s India? I have obviously…it is a programme about India and food, two of my favourite things. In this series Rick is in search of the perfect curry and is travelling the length and breadth of the country in search of it. What I think Rick is discovering is that curry as the British understand just doesn’t really exist in India. As the programme has gone on, he has found lots of different styles of cooking and I think has discovered a new love of vegetarian food.
India’s cooking varies so much, not even just from state to state, but even from village to village. I can’t say that I have experienced much in the way of regional variation, as normally I visit Chennai and surrounding areas, with occasionally visiting other places. But I can tell you that the Indian food that we eat in Chennai is vastly different from the things that we might order in an Indian restaurant in the UK. This is partly because most of the Indian restaurants in the UK are Bangladeshi and the food is pretty much the same in any restaurant that you go in, all changed ever so slightly for the British palate.
So lets break it down and look at some of the standard dishes you get in the restaurant you get here, where they come from and how different they are from the original recipe. Most people will understand what they are getting if they order a korma, a vindaloo or a rogan josh. Korma was developed in the 16th century in Northern India during the period of the Mughals. It is a decadent dish and sometimes can be referred as Royal Korma, one suitable for the royal courts.
The flavour of a korma is based on a mixture of spices, including ground coriander and cumin, combined with yogurt kept below curdling temperature and incorporated slowly and carefully with the meat juices. Traditionally, this would have been carried out in a pot set over a very low fire, with charcoal on the lid to provide all-round heat. A korma can be mildly spiced or fiery and may use lamb, chicken, beef or game; some kormas combine meat and vegetables. In the UK when you order a korma, what you get is a mild spiced ‘curry’ thickened with yoghurt or nuts. Whilst they may have ingredients similar, the process of cooking is very different and produces a dish completely different.
Follow the link for a good chicken korma recipe: http://www.vahrehvah.com/indianfood/chicken-korma/
So what about the Vindaloo. The name Vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese dish “Carne de Vinha d’ Alhos,” which is a dish of meat, usually pork, with wine and garlic. The Portuguese dish was modified by the substitution of vinegar (usually palm vinegar) for the red wine and the addition of red Kashmiri chillies with additional spices to evolve into Vindaloo. The dish was created in the West of India where the Portuguese in occupation. Vindaloo has sort of evolved since and will often contain potatoes as the Hindi word आलू “aloo” means potato, although this is not in the original dish. In the UK, the dish is often just a standard ‘curry’ with the addition of extra chilli. It is normally one of the hottest dishes on the menu.
Follow the link for a traditional pork vindaloo recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/goan-pork-vindaloo/
Finally lets look at the rogan josh. Rogan josh is a staple of Kashmiri cuisine originally it was brought to Kashmir by the Mughals. It consists of braised boneless lamb chunks cooked with a gravy based on browned onions or shallots, yoghurt, garlic, ginger and aromatic spices (cloves, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon). Its characteristic brilliant red color traditionally comes from liberal amounts of dried Kashmiri chiles that have been de-seeded to reduce their heat. The rogan josh is an aromatic dish rather than hot and spicy. In the UK the dish has been changed to a tomato-based lamb dish that imitates rogan josh while reducing cooking time and imparting a reddish colour to the dish. Tomato, however, adds a flavour profile that is distinct from that of the traditional dish.
Follow the link for a nice mutton rogan josh recipe: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-09/recipes/31054850_1_garam-powder-stir-fry
So we have seen that the food we order in the UK is different to the original recipes, maybe we should all try something new. Whether that is ordering something different in the restaurant or trying one of the original recipes above, maybe it is about going completely outside your comfort zone and trying something that you may never have heard of before.
One of the things that we do at Chennai Challenge is to encourage people to go outside their comfort zone. We do that in lots of ways culturally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Food is one of those challenges. Whilst we are in India, there is no opportunities for the food that we may normally eat (even the things we may order in an Indian restaurant), everything is different. When we first arrive in Chennai, we like to take people to a restaurant just down the road from where we are staying call Hotel Raj Bhavaan. There we encourage people to try something new and we recommend the mini tiffin. This contains idli and sambah, vadai and masala dosa served with South Indian Coffee. For lunch we might recommend something like a pav bhaji or a tomato oothapam and then maybe for dinner we would suggest a paneer dish served with paratha. You maybe have never tried these things before, but let me tell you, these are some of my favourite Indian dishes I have ever tried.
I encourage you to try something new, take a step of faith, move outside your comfort zone, you never know
, you might like it and you will never know unless you try it.
Some of my favourite recipes:
Tomato Recipe http://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/onion-tomato-uthappam/
Methi Palak Paneer Subzi http://www.tarladalal.com/Methi-Palak-Paneer-Subzi-208r
I would be interested in finding out what your favourite recipes are. Please post them in a reply below.