Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday Night with Rupen Rao

I spent this evening at Simply September, Simply Indian, a cooking class hosted by Whole Foods. Our teacher this evening was Mr. Rupen Rao of Simply Indian, LLC. Check out his website if you have a chance; he has tons of easy-to-follow recipes.

Because this was my first cooking class ever, I had no idea what to expect. The Whole Foods store near my house is enormous and looks like it has plenty of space, but I still didn't bet on each student having his/her own cooking station. I was right, but instead, the format of the class was excellent in terms of facilitating group discussion and Q&A.

Mr. Rao featured a few dishes: kaddu ka shorba (masala pumpkin soup); matar hoosal (Marathi-style green peas curry); dahl murg (yogurt chicken); and kesaribath (sweet saffron rice). Below are images from the evening:

The kaddu ka shorba was my favorite of all the dishes! Slightly sweet with a nice kick of garam masala. Mr. Rao mentioned that any autumn or winter gourd would suffice for this soup.

The dahi murgh was very spicy. Mr. Rao advised using bone-in chicken thighs for optimum flavor. Though the chicken was marinated in yogurt, the final product did not taste of anything resembling yogurt. He mentioned that yogurt tenderizes meats, and this chicken was no exception; it completely melted in my mouth.

The matar hoosal was very easy to prepare, and I think it would taste perfect with some red chilis thrown in for heat. The secret ingredient in this dish is amchur, or dried mango powder.

Kesaribath is a sweet rice prepared with ghee, or clarified butter (butter without water). If you plan on creating this dish, be certain you boil it long enough for the rice to cook completely.

Mr. Rao mentioned a few helpful tips:

1. Thicker oils, like olive oil, burn faster than its canola or vegetable counterparts.
2. Red onion is preferred to white onion in Indian sabzis (curries).
3. Always use the stalk of the cilantro plant; the stalk contains the most flavor.
4. When preparing Indian sabzis, always add your spices in whole form to heated oil, then add onion and crushed spices. If you add crushed spices directly to hot oil, they will burn rather quickly.
5. Yogurt-based marinades can be replaced with papaya paste if preferred.
6. DO NOT USE LOW FAT OR FAT FREE dairy products in Indian recipes. They simply add too much water to each dish.
7. Do not replace milk products with cream in all of these recipes; that will affect the cooking process. Specifically, the kesaribath will not cook thoroughly if cream is used instead of milk.

All in all, a very enjoyable Tuesday night activity. Can't wait for the next one; Mr. Rao already promised murgh makhani.

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