One of the best ways to appreciate different cultures is to learn how to prepare their foods in the traditional style. This weekend, I experienced the traditional style of Indian cooking at Bombay Spice Grill & Wine in Chicago. To be honest, I had never given Indian food much of a chance, aside from trying the occasional chick pea salad or curry. However, when I was invited to attend the restaurant’s cooking class – Spice Up Your Life – I couldn’t pass up the chance.
The class included about 15 people, including several Indian-American young professionals. Executive Chef Sunil Kumar began class by having us use one of our most important senses in Indian cooking – our sense of smell. Throughout the class, Chef passed around several spices – turmeric, coriander, cumin, and more – before teaching us to prepare each dish. As he did, he encouraged us to notice the different aroma in each in its whole, ground, and sauteed form.
The class featured 5 traditional Indian dishes….but with a twist. Each dish was prepared in a more healthful way (no cream or butter is used in any of the dishes and no deep frying ever!). The dishes included:
Seared Tofu – a dish that was quite simple to make – using very few ingredients – and cooked very fast – which I learned is uncharacteristic of most Indian food.
Chicken Tikka – this translates into chunks of chicken covered in several spices, including ginger, paprika, chili powder, and more, mixed with plain yogurt to make it creamy.
Jeeraaloo – these are essentially cooked potatoes, cut into chunks and sauteed in several spices to add tremendous flavor and zing!
Chicken Curry – Although this is one of the most popular dishes in Westernized Indian food (if you’ve ever been to London, you know what I mean!), this dish was prepared minus the cream, which didn’t take away from the taste.
Rice Pudding – The class helped prepare a warm rice pudding, which was absolutely lovely. We were also treated to the chilled version, which was a favorite of several other patrons.
Although I enjoyed seeing the foods prepared, what I enjoyed most was learning about the traditions of Indian food and how the young Indian professionals compared Chef’s versions to their own family recipes. So what did I learn?
- True Indian cooking takes a great deal of time. As a result, many of the young Indians I met go out for Indian food, rather than prepare it at home.
- Bombay Spice uses “homestyle cooking” for their dishes. This is more healthful than Indian food that Americans are familiar with (aka Indian buffets).
- An easy Masala sauce can be made with apple butter, water, and cayenne pepper – thank you for the tip ladies!
- Every Indian has his/her own recipe for chai tea and it is quite popular to invite friends/family over for “chai”, similar to inviting them over for coffee.
- For Indian food – or any food for that matter – it’s not about the Chef’s abilities but rather the use of quality ingredients.
Kudos to Bombay Spice for bringing healthy Indian food to Chicago!