by Ernest Barteldes
I knew about Indian cuisine before I moved to New York, but I really didn’t have much access to it. In Brazil (at least at the time) many of the basic ingredients were hard to come by, and I adapted recipes I found on books like The Higher Taste, but was never able to achieve the results that I was supposed to get.
Once in New York, I discovered that practically every borough has at least a little of Southeast Asia: there is 74th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, where a thriving community of Indians, Pakistanis, Bengalis and Sri Lankans coexist, and in their shops you can find almost everything from the region, ranging from clothing, jewelry and of course food. During the years I worked in the area, I would often visit their restaurants and learn about fiery dishes like chicken tikka masala, spicy chickpeas, basmati rice and curried goat (the last of which I was never too crazy about).
On my Staten Island neighborhood there are many Sri Lankan shops and restaurants, and at those shops I find the spices I need to cook some of the favorites that I learned throughout the years via recipes on magazines like the late Gourmet and my personal cookbook collection. Today I often make curried tofu, chicken vindaloo and others – I just don’t make them too often because Renata feels that Indian food is too “busy” when it comes to flavors – from her point of view, there are far too many spices in the dishes, and since the food she grew up with in Poland tends to be on a blander side (meaning not so many seasonings) she feels a little overwhelmed when I cook on the more exotic side.
As for me, Indian food fascinates me because it blends various culinary influences, including Portuguese and British without losing its unique personality. Also, recipes vary greatly from region to region, so there is always a surprise.
Due to that, I try to be a little conservative when I cook Indian – recently , I made chicken vindaloo, which is simmered with tomatoes and a mix of coriander, dry mustard and cumin marinated in white wine vinegar (the dish is mentioned in the musical Rent, by the way) The result? We both loved the experience, and will certainly try it again.
Recipe — source Food.com
- 3 cups chopped red onions
- 1 1/2 cups chopped seeded tomatoes
- 2 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 large garlic cloves chopped
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 6 skinless boneless chicken thighs, cubed
- 1 1/2 lbs. new potatoes peeled, cut into cubes
- 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth or 1 1/2 cups water
Mix your first 11 ingredients and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper in processor until a smooth paste forms. Heat your canola oil in a mid-sized non-stick pot over medium-high heat. Add your paste from your processor and cook until just shy of brown, stirring for about 4 minutes. Add your cubed chicken and cubed red potatoes; simmer about 6 minutes. Add you chicken broth and raise it to a boil. Reduce your heat to medium-low; cover and let cook until potatoes are softened, stir every so often, this should take about 15 – 20 minutes. Uncover your pan and sauté until your cubed chicken is completely cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Serve over basmati rice.