Amazing Menu

Chef Daria's Amazing Menu — Northern India

Long-time readers of this column may have noticed that for TAR7’s visit to Argentina, I simply recycled my TAR5 column. TAR5 also went to India, but this column is different from the one I wrote for TAR5 (the first section is repeated, but that was good information!). As one would expect from a large country with a complex history, there are significant regional differences in Indian cuisine. TAR5 visited Calcutta, in the state of West Bengal. The advance information for TAR7 indicated that the racers visited Delhi and points north, and possibly the states of Rajasthan and Punjab. Whether they go there or to some other region, this week we’ll take a look at the cuisine of northern India.


Introduction
Northern India has access to some of the world’s best rice, from the Kashmir region.
Northern India has access to some of the world’s best rice, from the Kashmir region. This part of the country was long subject to Mughal rule, which is evident in the cuisine’s Persian influences – complex spice combinations, lots of fruit and nuts, and liberal use of dairy products. The Punjabi people eat a lot of wheat, have a variety of chicken dishes, and originated the tandoor method of cooking. On the other hand, the people of Rajasthan have a long history of hunting (and few vegetables). Look there for lamb dishes, especially barbecue.

And here’s the handy conversion calculator link in case you need it.


Beer, Spices, and Mickey D’s (the only recycled section)

I used to visit a little hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant in the Washington, DC, suburbs, where the food was excellent and the service informative. One night, a young couple at the next table over asked the waiter to recommend a wine. He replied, “The best wine to drink with Indian food is beer.” So now you know what to drink. Two Indian beers that come highly recommended and are relatively easy to obtain in North America are Golden Eagle and Kingfisher. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that if you like Samuel Adams, you’ll probably like Golden Eagle. Kingfisher, on the other hand, is a bit odd. There’s an incongruous taste element – fruitiness, or something like that – that makes it taste a bit off when drunk by itself (in my opinion, of course). However, it tastes great with food, and it’s perfect with spicy food. So if you’re drinking socially before your meal, try the Golden Eagle. If you’re looking for something to match up against hot chiles, you definitely want Kingfisher. Your mileage – and tastebuds – may vary, of course.

A general discussion of Indian cuisine explains that northern Indians spice their foods with less heat than do southern Indians, are less likely to be vegetarians, and eat more bread than rice. A term I came across repeatedly was “garam masala.” Garam masala is a spice mix, and you can make it yourself. Normally, this column has only recipe links because of bandwidth and copyright concerns, but this is so fundamental that I am providing a recipe anyway:
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
3 teaspoons ground cardamom
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Mix thoroughly, and store in a tightly sealed container. Other parts of India add black pepper, by the way. Real, freshly ground black pepper, that is, not the grey dust you find in pepper shakers. You might add some if you like more heat with your food.

If you would rather eat out, there are Mickey D’s in India, 23 in Delhi alone! These are the first beefless McDonald’s, where the menu includes McCurry Pans, the vegetarian Paneer Salsa Wrap, and Chicken Mexican. Viva la cultural diversity! Or however you say that in Hindi.


Appetizers/Eggs/Soups

There has been some speculation that the racers fly into Delhi, where this this spicy hummus recipe originated. It requires a lot of cooking time; you might want to buy commercial hummus and add the spices yourself. Keema potli is sort of the Indian version of little hot dogs wrapped in pastry, only substitute ground lamb for the hot dogs and spice up the pastry a lot. And this spicy scrambled egg dish sounds related to the infamous Denver omelet. If chicken soup is good for a cold, Punjabi chicken soup might be worth testing for its healing effects. It’s certainly spicy enough!


Meat And Fish Entrees

This recipe for masala king prawns couldn’t be simpler. Rajasthan lamb chops with nuts and saffron incorporates the Persian influence through the use of pistachios. And Jaipur chicken curry is another Rajasthani recipe – watch out, it’s hot!

From the Punjab, we have chicken murga, with tomatoes and onions. Chicken is a Punjabi mainstay, and chicken dilruba is an option for those who like things hot. Because of political conflict, it’s unlikely that the Race will go deep into Kashmir, but it’s possible to go close by, in which case the racers might get a taste of Kashmiri meatballs or Kashmiri lamb casserole, both of which use the more fragrant spices for which the region is known.


Vegetarian Entrees

As usual for India, there are lots of vegetarian recipes. This recipe for mixed vegetable palau calls for “white pumpkin,” but you can probably substitute anything from the squash family. Mixed vegetable korma includes onions, potatoes, mushrooms, and eggplant. And speaking of eggplant, this stuffed eggplant recipe is suitable for vegans and looks like one of the better vegetarian recipes I’ve come across yet.

From the Punjab, we have Punjabi vegetable curry. And you’ll need a pressure cooker or crock pot for Kashmiri red beans, turnips,
and tomatoes
. “Zeer” is the same as cumin seed, by the way.

This site for vegetarian recipes from India includes a section on Northern Indian cuisine and also rates the recipes by level of difficulty.


Desserts
We only have two desserts this week, but they’re both pretty interesting – definitely not something you’d find often in North America.
We only have two desserts this week, but they’re both pretty interesting – definitely not something you’d find often in North America. Gajar halwa looks like a sticky sweet, like the more familiar halva, with carrots, cashews, and raisins. And these coconut squares made with crushed cookies look like something a 5-year-old would dream up – total comfort food, in other words.


More

India is a big country with a complex history and a large population, meaning we have lots of web sites this week for those who want to explore Indian cuisine further. Bawarchi’s site alone could keep you busy for weeks. India Express is another site with a range of dishes from the region. And the always-reliable Sue’s Recipe Server presents many Northern Indian recipes, using the recipe conventions and measurements found in North America.

The Indian Mirror site focuses on Northern Indian cuisine, with recipes from the Punjab and Kashmir. Koshur Saal offers a comprehensive collection of Kashmiri recipes, along with a glossary and explanations of the cuisine. Food Down Under also has Kashmiri and Punjabi recipe collections.