Cooking It Up at the Indian Culinary Center

I was intrigued, but slightly skeptical when I signed up for a cooking class at the newly-opened Indian Culinary Center a few weeks ago. What could I, a vegetarian who has been cooking desi food pretty regularly for the past couple of years, learn that was new and interesting in an Indian Vegetarian Delights Class? A lot, it turns out.

The ICC is run by Geetika Khanna, a former psychologist and graduate of the French Culinary Institute who has been charting a path in the food industry for the past 10+ years. I really felt like I was walking into another world when I rang the buzzer of 131 W. 23rd St., which turned out to be the Chelsea Inn, a cosy bed and breakfast whose ground floor industrial kitchen turned out to be the cooking school of the now-defunct culinary arts program of The New School, where it turns out, Khanna used to be an instructor.

On this particular Tuesday night, nine of us had signed up to spend the evening learning how to cook with Khanna, a tall, relaxed, and skilled instructor who weaves anecdotes about her family in with technique tips and practical approaches on how to make Indian cooking a part of your culinary repertoire, instead of something exotic and inaccessible. For those like me, who generally cook at least one or two Indian meals a week, it was the practical tips like how to clean your spice grinder — run a piece of bread through it — and the ease and humor with which Khanna made cooking a six-course meal seem doable (from scratch, using mostly fresh ingredients) that was the tipping point. Plus, I enjoyed her running commentary on colonialism, the evolution of the Indian “curry,” and the Food Network –and she gave me the courage to fry my first pooris, a big deal for a gal who has always had a fear of deep frying. There were also a few surprises along the way, like the fact that she uses cayenne pepper in her masala dhaba. [Click on the narrated slideshow above for a walk-through of the class and a look at our full menu.]

The three and a half hour class cost $55, and was followed by a delicious six-course meal. A pretty good deal for an evening out in NYC where you’re learning, eating, and meeting a bunch of interesting people. (Other NYC cooking classes range from $100 to $200 per person).

At present, Khanna offers classes every month, and has plans to invite other chefs of Indian cuisine to teach at the ICC. With all the regional variations of Indian food (Indian Chinese, West Indian, and Indo-French, as well as the wealth of Indian chefs in the New York area, I’m sure there are many more yummy lessons and treats to return to at the ICC. I’ll definitely be going back.

Oh, and if anyone is interested in interning with Khanna, she’s looking. Drop her a line.

47 thoughts on “Cooking It Up at the Indian Culinary Center

  1. Sacrilege! What happened to Indian red chilli powder? Isn’t cayenne pepper for wimps?

  2. my experience is that chili powder is weaker than cayenne. i speak as someone who enjoys http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp/&sa=Search“>habanero hot sauces. what is red chili powder made of? various hot peppers have “units” attached to their spice level. cayenne is a pretty hot one, somewhat hotter than thai i think, and way hotter than serrano.

    re: “indian cuisine.” how coherent of a category is this? i kind of get irritated when people query me in detail about particular indian cuisines they’ve encountered, but how am i supposed to know about other regions of south asia when the brown cooking i know is my mom’s? (bengali muslim) i’ve learned a bit more hanging out with a few american brown people.

  3. have people tried olive oil with brown cooking? my mom uses olive oil. of course bengalis also use mustard oil ;-)

  4. Razib, Good question–don’t know how prevalent it is, but I’ve been able to switch my Mommy over to olive oil for most cooking, for what that’s worth. . . .

  5. Looks nice, but that use of Crisco scares me–that stuff is really unhealthy–long live lard!

    It wasn’t Crisco shortening (which would have scared me too!) but a neutral oil, canola, I think.

    have people tried olive oil with brown cooking?

    I use olive oil a great deal in my Indian cooking, something that Khanna recommended not doing because of its strong flavor, but honestly it has never bothered me before.

    and, last, but not least:

    re: “indian cuisine.” how coherent of a category is this?

    ah, the million $ question. the menu for that day’s class was what khanna referred to as a typical Sunday breakfast meal that her North Indian-Punjabi household would eat in Delhi. In my Sindhi home, it would be dinner or lunch and there would be many more fried foods! So yes, the variation is incredible, but here in the US, there are common denominators and certain lines do, I think, get blurred. Like, when I first started cooking, I made dishes based on recipes I find online (because it’s easier than trying to get my mom to talk to me about measurements) and so, they were always slightly different than what I grew up eating – and now I’m starting to figure out how to adjust the spices and ingredients so that they taste more like my grandmother and mother’s food. I enjoyed learning some homestyle Punjabi cooking at ICC, infused with French culinary training that carried over into her chopping and cooking style.

  6. Spices, spices, spices… its all in the dang spices. Buy asafoetida here in the US and you can pour half a bottle into your food and wouldn’t notice it. Get some from India (from a place your mom knows about) and a pinch does the trick. The same is the story with “garam masala” and other spices. I like how in India, the shopkeepers pick up the ingredients in front of you, then grind them right there and you get amazing smelling spices. The masalas at desi stores here are a joke.

  7. Great post Sandhya! That six course meal is impressive…I can’t imagine I can do that all on my own…max 2 dishes in 1 hour.

    have people tried olive oil with brown cooking? my mom uses olive oil. of course bengalis also use mustard oil ;-)

    I have used olive oil (not extra virgin) once in a while, and its typical smell usually is not perceptible if it is heated enough. Whether olive oil is more healthy than all others: I think one should take that with a pinch of salt too, given that all the marketing goes with it. Try looking for how harmful or beneficial coconut oil is, and you will find extreme opinions/results. Razib, mustard oil is a must in most bengali cookings (and some Punjabi, Bihari and UP dishes), and gives its distictiveness….unfortunately it cannot be sold in US as edible oil (but ok to call is massage oil) because of some nefarious chemical that have not caused any problems to the desi population!….so yes…a lot of it is marketing. I would consider Suffola or some such oil has healthier than OO, and they have a higher smoking point which is imp for desi cooking (OO has the lowest) and also no typical smell.

  8. Wow! I love cooking Indian food (and even more, eating brown food)! I have a cookbook written by Madhur Jaffrey, and there are a few good recipes there, but some of these recipes indicate to me that Madhur has had too many soma-infused matzo balls from her violinist husband. I have a few gripes about Indian recipes online or from cookbooks. I don’t like the fact that a recipe requires 1/8 tea spoon of some not-so-widely-used ingredient. When a recipe requires this, I skip this ingredient. You won’t notice the absence of this. Basically, the cooks over-complicate the food’s recipe. Madhur Jaffrey and others would typically have 2-4 cooking techniques for something simple, and this is not necessary or doable in Western and emerging India due to our hectic work and social life.

    I believe that the best recipes and food should: 1. Be made of fewer and common ingredients. 2. Be focused less on spices. If it requires spices, it should have be from whole spices. For example: I like the idea of fresh herbs VS the dried versions. It’s more expensive and high-maintenance due to its short shelf life. But it’s so much better. 3. There should be less processing of the food. Another words – the foods should not be over-cooked, but MINIMALLY cooked. Indians tend to over-cook meats and fish, or simply, we have no clue on how to cook meats/fish. 4. Our foods should evolve. I’m sick and tired of tandoori this and that. Heck, I appreciate that the tandoor came from Central Asia with the Turko-Mongols, but it’s time that WE INVENT. Let’s invent new techniques and foods! Butter chicken is gross, and it’s basically KFC for browns.
    5. Indian recipes tend to obscure and lie about how the food was prepared!
    6. There is this one hilarious chef on youtube named Vah Chef. However, his knowledge of foods borders on the superstitious and shamanistic (i.e. he claims that the lid should be lifted when cooking spinach to release the acids and chemicals.). So Indians should understand their techniques and nutritional values a little better and be better at explaining them. 7. Finally, Indians should explain the measurements and cooking times a little more precisely.

    Here are some novel ideas that I implement when I cook: 1. Ginger and garlic are very delicate. You never need to sautee this for more than 1 minute! The ginger should be peeled, btw. 2. Tomato’s flavor mellows after it’s been simmered. 3. Raw onions are gorgeous devices. Sauteed onions, because they’re very cheap, is simply a volumizer/matrix/solvent for your curry. It’s very cheap, but not necessarily bad. Try and use more raw onions!

  9. razib, OK Indian red chili powder comes in a variety of ‘heat’ levels, but the ones we get are usually way hotter than cayenne. Serrano is not used as dried red chilli or for powder, it is only used green and only in the US along with jalapeno, the two common green chillis in grocery stores here. You get Indian style green chillis in desi stores and the Thai varieties in various Asian stores that are hotter than jalapeno or serrano.

    On oils, in Tamil Nadu common ones are sesame oil and peanut oil. Peanut oil is common in Maharashtra and Gujarat as well. Kerala is partial to coconut oil. In Andhra in addition to peanut oil and sesame oil, sunflower is common too. Bengal, Bihar and UP go for mustard oil. In the US corn oil works well in Indian cooking too.

  10. As someone with research interests in nutritional epidemiology, I find it disconcerting that so much nutritional research (and subsequent body of knowledge) is industry-funded.

    The debate is still on about what happens to olive oil after it is heated beyond its smoking point.

    I recently decided to claim back the wisdom and practice of my grandparent’s generation–they did not depend on one single oil or fat but instead stocked their kitchens with several different ones: white sesame seed oil (does dosai and milagai-podi without nallennai taste authentic to South Indians?); coconut oil (avial without coconut oil is nothing but vegetable koottu); peanut oil (why the bad rep during my mother’s generation, I am not sure); butter (for ghee), etc. I am not sure when these oils infiltrated their kitchens but now it is common to see canola, sunflower, safflower.

    I for my part would like to collect all kinds I come across–corn, walnut, grapeseed, mustard in addition to the above listed ones–the problem is, I don’t seem to use them up soon enough. The worry for me is how long can they all be stored before they go rancid. Unlike in India, where oils are not always sold in pre-packaged sizes, if I buy in small quantities here, I pay more.

    If the whole world turns towards olive oil alone for all its cooking needs, it can’t be good for local economies and ecologies, can it?

  11. have people tried olive oil with brown cooking? my mom uses olive oil. of course bengalis also use mustard oil ;-)

    I use it in all my desi-fusion cooking, but to get a real “authentic” taste, nothing beats ghee.

    The comment about hing (asofeotida) is so true. I can go through one container in two weeks.

    Its mixed with flour – thats why!

    In India you can buy the actual hing chunk/crystal (looks like black or brown salt crystal) and a tiny piece of that chunk goes a long way.

    I make mock garlic bread by putting powered hing on bread with olive oil under the grill.

    Delish.

    I also like to fuse my desi recipes with fresh herbs like dill, rosemary, basil or mint.

    Ever try mint/cumin lassi? Or basil/cumin lassi?

    I should write a cook book of my own.

    I make a mean paneer pasta with fresh herbs, olive oil and of course my fave – hing.

    I make mung (clear) noodles with soy sauce and mango pickle.

    Forget tex-mex, desi-mex is my speciality. Paneer tacos! Yum.

    And what about veggie kitchri burgers?

    I’m off to the kitchen. Feeling hungry.

  12. Indians tend to over-cook meats and fish, or simply, we have no clue on how to cook meats/fish.

    Indians tend to over-cook meats and fish, or simply, we have every clue on how to cook meats/fish so we don’t get food poisoned or ingest a parasite egg. Hygiene and food safety are part of our culinary culture and there is no reason to lose it or look down upon it.

    And it is not just Indians–the practice extends among most people living in tropical and subtropical regions.

  13. I thought it was bad to use olive oil in cooking, because it’s smoke point is lower than that of other oils. To douse over salads though, it’s great.

    We pretty much no longer use oil or butter in our home cooking.

  14. As for Indians under- or over-cooking, it was so weird when I got to college and saw eggs ‘sunny side up’! It’s so bizarre that people eat egg yolks that, first, haven’t been stirred, and most importantly, are still liquid and haven’t been fully cooked! Does anyone know if this carries extra dangers, or even extra benefits?

  15. Boston_Mahesh@9: Your knowledge of Indian cooking seems to come from restaurant food, and NOT home cooked and region meals. I suggest that you look through Indian food blogs for more authentic food recipes, rather than cookbooks which are more geared towards lavish restaurant-type meals. Start with the list in http://www.nandyala.org/mahanandi/about/mahanandis-food-blog-list/ ,Then you will know that

    I believe that the best recipes and food should: 1. Be made of fewer and common ingredients.

    Indian home cooked meal is usually made with very few ingredients (check or the blogs listed in for proof). The long list you might sometime see are spices, each of which have medicinal use.

    3. There should be less processing of the food. Another words – the foods should not be over-cooked, but MINIMALLY cooked. Indians tend to over-cook meats and fish, or simply, we have no clue on how to cook meats/fish.

    On the contrary, I find the western cook meats and fishes devoid of flavor (or just plain meaty) and often dry.

    Our foods should evolve. I’m sick and tired of tandoori this and that. Heck, I appreciate that the tandoor came from Central Asia with the Turko-Mongols, but it’s time that WE INVENT. Let’s invent new techniques and foods! Butter chicken is gross, and it’s basically KFC for browns.

    You are talking about restaurant food, right ? Then I would say, Indian restaurant food should include more regional food, because the diversity of Desi regional food is mind-boggling and amazing, and I would say much much evolved and diverse than most western food. Again, for that browse desi food blogs.

    . Indian recipes tend to obscure and lie about how the food was prepared!

    Again, talking about cookbooks ? Then so does all other cookbooks, unfortunately.

    There is this one hilarious chef on youtube named Vah Chef. However, his knowledge of foods borders on the superstitious and shamanistic (i.e. he claims that the lid should be lifted when cooking spinach to release the acids and chemicals.). So Indians should understand their techniques and nutritional values a little better and be better at explaining them.

    Check out Manjula (Aunty) videos on youtube instead for simpler stuff…but she follows her Jain regional style (no onion garlic etc)..so keep that in mind.

    . Finally, Indians should explain the measurements and cooking times a little more precisely.

    Sort of agree…but this a requirement is for novices.

    Also sorry to say that your novel ideas are not very novel (they are pretty well-known), although they are good.

  16. As for Indians under- or over-cooking, it was so weird when I got to college and saw eggs ‘sunny side up’! It’s so bizarre that people eat egg yolks that, first, haven’t been stirred, and most importantly, are still liquid and haven’t been fully cooked! Does anyone know if this carries extra dangers, or even extra benefits?

    pshhhh.. raw eggs are good[1:18]. lots of benefits. copious. you should try it.

  17. 12 fusion chef, You ought to have hing in your lassi, if you haven’t tried it yet. Watery buttermilk with hing after a meal is a nice tasty digestive.

  18. Fusion chef….those are some good trying fusion….why don’t you start a food blog to begin with :)

  19. Vah Chef is terrific especially because he covers many, many regions and starts every video with a welcome to South Asians from various religious backgrounds. His recipes are as close to my mother’s home cooking as imaginable. Manjula’s cooking is good, but is limited to strict vegans. Vah Chef is definitely my favorite on the web because he offers obscure dishes you only could get on that random stopover in that off-the-path hotel you ventured in to use the bathroom.

  20. Say no to Indicorps! It is a Gujurati organization that promotes anti-secularism and Hindutva. Indicorps is part of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a radical Hindu organization. My friend got rejected because he didn’t attend an Ivy league school!

  21. To add to the oil discussion, my mom typically now uses canola oil for almost all of her Marathi cooking, exceptions being a grapeseed combo for deep frying, toup/ghee for some special items, and coconut pieces (which give off oil) for some Konkani dishes.

    I recently moved back to my parent’s place, but used olive oil when I was by myself.

    As a side note, I only use elephant brand flour. It’s the only one my family enjoys =)

  22. I thought it was bad to use olive oil in cooking, because it’s smoke point is lower than that of other oils.

    Not in any sustained way–who told you this canard?

  23. I’ve enjoyed cooking from My Bombay Kitchen, by Niloufer Ichaporia King. It’s Parsi cooking approached from a California foodie viewpoint. Author is a friend of Alice Waters. Have also learned a lot from YouTube videos, including Vah Chef, Manjula, and Showmethecurry.

  24. BostonMahesh:Don’t follow the cook books too closely. The more you cook the more comfortable you get. Use cumin for North Indian seasoning and mustard seeds/urad dal for South Indian. Quick dish. Cut up potatoes like you would for fries. Add 1 tbs oil to a frying pan and add some kalonji, borrow some from an Aunty :-) . Add the potatoes, salt and lots of turmeric. Coat evenly and leave it alone on low heat. It will be done in a jiffy and is very yummy.

    Also if most of the oil we use is for the seasoning, then using olive oil is a waste of money. I personally cannot stand the taste of olive oil UNLESS I am eating an Italian meal :-D . Funny but true.

    My kids also love Vah re Vah. He tries to make the intricate sounding foods simple and delicious. I have learnt many a dish from him. I did a cooking class once and made some of the same dishes :-)

  25. Fusion Chef,

    I love your fusion interests. Even I do a little cross-pollination of cultures/influences. Here are some ideas that I love: 1. I saute some dried red chili pepper in olive oil. Then, I put in some minced garlic. This is added to my pasta with some parm. cheese. The only thing indian here is the dried red chili pepper which is sauteed. Mmmm…simple and good. I may add some meat – like sauteed shrimp – not cooked too long.

  26. To Cindy at 15 and Malathi at 13:

    These are great points. I even find “sunny side up eggs” slightly cringe-worthy. Almost as cringe-worthy as an Indian speaking with a faux-British accent.

    But many of my friends, and even from my experience in India, I noticed that the people are scared to under-cook the non-veg. And they stew the curries/gravies a little too long. This has the effect of blending all the spices and softening the foods up too much. Moreover, I’m not sure what kind of analysis they do on the foods. I get hte impression that they think that more different spices and more different types of cooking techniques equal to more sophisticated and nicer foods.

    But that being said, I do believe that Indian food is one of the best foods in the world, thanks to our nice soil, climate conditions, many different cooking technique, spices, and cultures that we have absorbed.

  27. In line with Fusion Chef above, I can’t help but share my veggie red jambalaya invention. It’s a lovely New Orleans party dish that I could only watch my friends eat because it has the whole kitchen sink of meats in it: shrimp, chicken, sausage and ground meat too. So, I had this idea…

    For the sausage, I substitute the vegetarian mock italian sausage you can get at many grocery stores. For the chicken, I used the frozen fried paneer you can get at Indian stores. And for a ground meat type consistency, I buy dry kofta (the shredded veggie and chickpea flour kind) from the local restaurant (they usually sell ‘em at 50 cents a piece) cut into quarters. Here’s the basic principles of the recipe from the top of my head, but if you want to be more precise, with measurements, find a recipe that sounds good and substitute where appropriate.

    Saute the “trinity” of onions, bell peppers (red and green), and celery in oil until it has cooked down. Meanwhile, slice in disks and brown the mock sausage in a separate pan with a little oil. Defrost and fry the frozen paneer separately as well. Add canned chopped tomatoes, or fresh if you roll that way. Bring back to a simmer and cook for a 3-4 minutes. If you want it more tomato-ey, add some tomato paste. Pour in twice as much vegetable stock as rice you will use, and bring to a boil. Add rice — I use American long grain rice because it’s plumper than, say, basmati. Add the mock sausage, the paneer, the kofta, and (optional) chopped zucchini. Once its come to a boil again, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook about 25-30 minutes (a little longer than normal rice because I think the tomato slows the cooking a little). You can stir it occasionally to prevent browning on the bottom, but just remember to add a little time if you do that for the steam to re-build. Or, you can put it in a tray and cover with foil and bake it in the oven at about 325 for 30-40 minutes. If it dries out and you need to add liquid, bring the water or stock to a boil in a separate pan or in the microwave before adding so that the rice will keep cooking.

    Thanks for the heads up on the cooking class. It sounds like a lot of fun and a great evening in NYC.

    BTW, for Indian vegetarian cooking, my favorite is Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. It’s incredibly gourmet (see boston mahesh above: do you really need that 1/4 teaspoon of caraway in your shredded cabbage and peas?) but has lots of variety and is very detailed about the basics too — how to make ghee, how to make paneer, and so on. The rajma recipe kills.

  28. I thought it was bad to use olive oil in cooking, because it’s smoke point is lower than that of other oils.

    ;;

    Not in any sustained way–who told you this canard?

    It’s true. This info is in almost every health mag/book/site out there now.

    I use it only for sauteeing spices NOT deep frying. Ideally its meant to be used raw, poured OVER pasta or salad or any dish, AFTER the dish has been cooked.

    Another fusion; making falafel patties for veggie burgers. Making enchiladas and burritos with roti instead of tortilla.

  29. @ 9 · boston_mahesh

    “6. There is this one hilarious chef on youtube named Vah Chef. However, his knowledge of foods borders on the superstitious and shamanistic (i.e. he claims that the lid should be lifted when cooking spinach to release the acids and chemicals.). So Indians should understand their techniques and nutritional values a little better and be better at explaining them.”

    LMAO!~ I love it when people criticize other people for being ignorant while being ignorant themselves. Dude, ever heard of Oxalic Acid? Spinach is one of the green leafy veggies that has it in significant amounts (now don’t go all scientific on me and ask me for numbers. Try Google). This is what needs to be cooked out of the Spinach. And how to do it? Exactly what the Vah Chef said – you keep the lid open while cooking spinach. Why? Because the Oxalic Acid gets released when Spinach is heated. If you were to close the lid while cooking, the Oxalic Acid would not escape and merely condense back into the pot, turning the Spinach dark green.

    It was my Asian girlfriend who told me about this. No self-respecting (!) East Asian will cook Spinach and Tofu together. This is because the Oxalic Acid in the Spinach reacts with the Calcium in the Tofu and makes it indigestible in the stomach. So your body gets no calcium from the Tofu. Desis, especially the Punjabis, tend to cook Spinach (Saag) with Paneer… so what you need to do is to ensure that the Oxalic Acid is removed from the Spinach before adding the Paneer. So, you keep the lid open.

    Next time, try not to be so judgemental or look down on brown people’s food. Our people knew what they were doing when they refined cooking techniques in the Desi kitchen since hundreds of years ago. It is the modern people, who have messed things up… perhaps not intentionally, but because they were too busy to bother or for other reasons.

    By the way, no good chef will force you to use a particular spice in Indian cooking. If the dish calls for an “exotic” spice it is because it adds that special something… think Saffron, Black Cardomom, Shah Jeera for a moment. You don’t HAVE to use it if you don’t have it… well you have no choice actually, you can’t use it. But you think that stopped people from cooking what they wanted to eat? I mean isn’t that why we have so many variations in Desi cooking? People have to do with what grows around them.

    Seriously, if you can’t taste or smell or see the difference in using and not using these spices, perhaps your palette is not as refined. Same goes for the use of different oils. There is certainly a difference in taste, but I guess you can learn to < strike>live with it grow to appreciate the different taste. The same is true for preparation techniques… using a food processor vs grinding the ingredients etc. There is always a difference in taste and texture, but you come on who has the time to do all that grinding and what not. So yes the “good” chef will emphasis the difference, but perhaps also let you adjust according to your lifestyle.

  30. It was my Asian girlfriend who told me about this. No self-respecting (!) East Asian will cook Spinach and Tofu together. This is because the Oxalic Acid in the Spinach reacts with the Calcium in the Tofu and makes it indigestible in the stomach. So your body gets no calcium from the Tofu. Desis, especially the Punjabis, tend to cook Spinach (Saag) with Paneer… so what you need to do is to ensure that the Oxalic Acid is removed from the Spinach before adding the Paneer. So, you keep the lid open.

    I make saag-paneer, or palak-paneer with tofu in place of paneer sometimes. But according to you, I shouldn’t be doing either….. and I usually eat spinich raw, as a salad…. is that ok?

  31. @ 15 · cindy on June 12, 2009 01:19 PM ·

    “As for Indians under- or over-cooking, it was so weird when I got to college and saw eggs ‘sunny side up’! It’s so bizarre that people eat egg yolks that, first, haven’t been stirred, and most importantly, are still liquid and haven’t been fully cooked! Does anyone know if this carries extra dangers, or even extra benefits?”

    Ha Ha. This reminds of me of my Mom having to cook two different styles of Eggs for me and my brother. My brother used to LOVE these ‘sunny side up’ eggs and I used to detest them as a kid. Eww, all that gooy yellow stuff. I use to love omelets or scrambled eggs. Even today, I can eat the fried parts of the ‘sunny side up’ eggs but not the yolk itself. I always prick the yolk a little while make the egg and make sure that it is at least half-cooked so as no to all gooy.

  32. @ 34. tHeSoul

    Yikes! Typo alert!

    Ha Ha. This reminds of me of my Mom having to cook two different styles of Eggs for me and my brother. My brother used to LOVE these ‘sunny side up’ eggs and I used to detest them as a kid. Eww, all that gooy yellow stuff. I loved omelets or scrambled eggs. Even today, I can eat the fried parts of the ‘sunny side up’ eggs but not the yolk itself. I always prick the yolk a little, while making the egg and make sure that it is at least slightly cooked so as not to be all gooy.


    @ 33 · Fusion Chef on June 13, 2009 12:55 PM · Direct link

    “I make saag-paneer, or palak-paneer with tofu in place of paneer sometimes. But according to you, I shouldn’t be doing either….. and I usually eat spinich raw, as a salad…. is that ok?”

    I guess that’s the only drawback of fusion food, isn’t it? You never now if your mixing and matching the ‘right’ things.

    Well, like I said no East Asian will cook or even eat Spinach and Tofu together (at least the ones who know!). Well I’m not a ‘good’ enough cook (though I am trying to learn) to advise you, but I guess what you can do is to ensure that the Spinach is rid of its Oxalic Acid by cooking the Spinach first (and this is important) while keeping the lid open, and then adding the (pre-fried?) Tofu/ Paneer. And correct me if I’m wrong, don’t you blend/grind the Spinach while making the palak/saag-paneer? I guess that should help too.

    As for eating Spinach raw, I think its ok to do so as long as you don’t eat tofu, cheese or Paneer or drink milk at the same time. Remember, the Oxalic Acid is bad only because it reacts with calcium in the milk and makes it indigestible, thus depriving your body of it. If you were to eat it alone, and in moderate amounts, you have nothing to worry about.


    Here’s some info on Cooking Oils ~ http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/CollectedInfo/OilSmokePoints.htm http://www.chillibreeze.com/articles_various/right-cooking-oil.asp

    And here’s an interesting read on the Mustard Oil issue ~ http://books.google.com/books?id=S6TjbOz0z68C&pg=PA23&dq=mustard+oil+soybean&ei=gdgzSs3UNY6QkASe3ZiWBQ#PPA22,M1 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2465/is_5_31/ai_76285485/

    Not sure how accurate the above two articles are, but it certainly does make you think. Politics and money do play a big role on how we view food. Like someone said before, I too am a little apprehensive about all that so-called goodness of Olive oil, but what the hell… you have to do what you can do to live healthy, don’t you?

  33. On oils – I know Canola oil has been heavily promoted by commercial interests, but it stands for Canada Oil and is made from a genetically modified version of rapeseed, which has a higher content of erucic acid than mustard oil. Call me a purist, but I prefer to use an oil that is named after it’s source i.e sesame oil, peanut oil, corn oil, olive oil and so forth and not have this unsavory background of canola oil.

  34. Yes, it does call it an email hoax and that is why I linked it. But the fact remains that it comes from genetically modified rapeseed (which by the way comes from the mustard family and mustard oil widely consumed in Bengal, Bihar and UP is still considered unsuitable as an edible oil in the US due to the high erucic acid content) controlled by Monsanto and is the oil that is the most abundantly produced commercial vegetable oil in North America that benefits from the most promotion, next only to olive oil.

  35. I even find “sunny side up eggs” slightly cringe-worthy. Almost as cringe-worthy as an Indian speaking with a faux-British accent.

    I love my eggs cooked sunny side up. I love that Indians can pick up any accent they want–American, British, Russian–faux or real. I personally can speak 6 different kinds of Tamil (Madras, Tinnevelly, Jaffna, etc) and I’ve stopped counting how many different accents my English has–they cannot all be real, so all but one must be fake. Question is, which is my authentic one?

    But that being said, I do believe that Indian food is one of the best foods in the world, thanks to our nice soil, climate conditions, many different cooking technique, spices, and cultures that we have absorbed.

    Careful now, that may be an example of a cringe-worthy statement in some people’s books, including mine. It gives the impression that Indians are among the few selected peoples the world over that have mastered the art of feasting while all others are harvesting produce from Mars (the planet) and having it processed by Mars (the company) for mere sustenance.

  36. I personally can speak 6 different kinds of Tamil (Madras, Tinnevelly, Jaffna, etc)

    More power to you. But why use the British accent (pronunciation) on Tirunelveli and call it Tinnevelly? Now that is grating coming from a Tamizh :)

  37. But why use the British accent (pronunciation) on Tirunelveli and call it Tinnevelly? Now that is grating coming from a Tamizh:)

    Good catch.

    But why excuse my anglicization of Chennai and my shortening of Yazhpaanam? :) Until what point is it excusable to refer to Chennai as Madras?

    My late grandfather, who was a peasant and petty merchant educated mainly in Thamizh, was pretty comfortable refering to his place as Thinnevelli as were/are other relatives and family friends sprinkled across Nagercoil and Palayamkottai.

  38. I make mock garlic bread by putting powered hing on bread with olive oil under the grill.

    yum. one of my favourite snack foods from india are banana chips doused with asofetida.

    and since we are discussing fusion food – i highly recommend gulab jamuns in a syrup spiked with malibu rum – they’re “off the hook.”

  39. 42 · ak on June 15, 2009 12:41 PM · Direct link I make mock garlic bread by putting powered hing on bread with olive oil under the grill. yum. one of my favourite snack foods from india are banana chips doused with asofetida. and since we are discussing fusion food – i highly recommend gulab jamuns in a syrup spiked with malibu rum – they’re “off the hook.”

    I hate Indian sweets. They’re too syrupy. They’re just variations of sugar. Why not a healthier fruit stuffed into a triangular/conical pastry with other savories and baked. Some creative Indian could figure how to make this more brown and less than an alternative-geometry pie. Hmmmm….How about have a matrix for the fruit to be made of a soft/boiled sweet potato that’s very soft. Let it cool, add fruits. Perhaps something to neutralize the sourness of some fruits, but the boiled potatoes can do this (neutralize the tartness). Wrap this up in the conical pastry sheet. And bake. Sift bakers sugar on top of this.

  40. and since we are discussing fusion food – i highly recommend gulab jamuns in a syrup spiked with malibu rum – they’re “off the hook.”

    why, ak, that’s brilliant! Thanks, I’ll be making this for my next party.

  41. I hate Indian sweets. They’re too syrupy. They’re just variations of sugar. Why not a healthier fruit stuffed into a triangular/conical pastry with other savories and baked.

    This is called an empanada.

    But why not just enjoy fruits as fruits? Why do you have to do fancy stuff to them?

  42. Why do you have to do fancy stuff to them?

    Have you seen the movie ‘American Pie’?