We continue our series exploring the diverse culinary traditions of communities in our region, with a trip into the Indian kitchen. We learn about the different foundations of Northern and Southern cooking, explore the curious provenance of “curry”, and get expert tips for the best restaurants across our region.

Guests

  • Monica Bhide Author, "Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen (Simon & Schuster)
  • Surfy Rahman Co-owner, Indique, Indique Heights, and Bombay Bistro

Click here for a full list of restaurants recommended by “Local Restaurant Worldtour” panelists.

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Sample Recipes (From Monica Bhide)###

Paneer and Fig Pizza

One of the best-selling items on the menu at Domino’s in Delhi is the pizza topped with chicken tikka. Yes, Indians do love pizza, and it is very much a part of the modern Indian food scene. But it is nothing new. My mother has made “pizza” since I was about five years old. She used a simple homemade dough topped with a homemade tomato sauce and my choice of chicken or vegetables. It was not called pizza, of course. I called it chicken wali roti (a chicken bread). When my son was younger, I took him to an eatery/children’s play area in Delhi called Eatopia. It serves a very popular version of Indian pizza called a Naanza, a naan dough topped with tandoori chicken or a variety of vegetarian toppings. We both fell in love with it. And it really is the same concept as a regular pizza – great dough with the choicest of toppings. Incidentally, Zante’s in San Francisco has sold Indian pizza since 1993. And California Pizza Kitchen serves a mango-tandoori chicken pizza. I could go on and on.

I call this a gentle pizza; the flavors are mild, yet so satisfying. This dish is sweet thanks to the figs – which are, I think, the world’s sweetest fruit. While paneer gives this dish a unique taste, it is not a melting cheese. I have added some ricotta to make the topping a bit creamier.

This dish depends on only one thing – the ripeness of the fresh figs. If the figs are not sweet, the dish will not taste good no matter what you do. Alternatively, I have made it with dried figs from Nutra Figs (which I love) and it is pretty good – if you cannot find fresh figs, that is. Incidentally, there are many varieties of dried figs that really make the fig taste like cardboard. Nutra figs are actually still moist and really, really sweet.

Serves 4
Prep/Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
One 12-inch packaged pizza crust or use a crust from homemade pizza dough
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup crumbled or grated paneer
1 cup ricotta cheese
8 to 10 very ripe figs, trimmed and thinly sliced
Table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
8 to 10 basil leaves

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the crust with a mist of nonstick
cooking spay.
2. In a bowl, combine the paneer and ricotta and mix well.
Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the crust. Top with the
figs, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Bake according to the directions given with the crust, usually
about 10 to 12 minutes. The cheese will brown a little but it is not
a melting cheese so don’t expect it to bubble.
4. Serve topped with fresh basil leaves. If your figs are really
ripe, this will taste like a dessert!
For a savory version, combine the paneer with some minced cilantro,
diced red onions, and diced bell peppers.

Pomegranate Shrimp

This dish cooks in just a few minutes. Don’t overcook the shrimp or they will become rubbery – remember the Frugal Gourmet’s perfect advice: “Most seafoods…should be simply threatened with heat and then celebrated with joy.”

I like to serve this as a first course or as a light supper. If you cannot find pomegranate molasses, you can use a tablespoon of pomegranate juice or even grenadine.

Serves 4 as an entree
Prep/Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red chile powder or red chile flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
2 large or 4 to 6 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (see Note)

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine the shrimp, pomegranate molasses, garlic, turmeric, chile powder, coriander, and salt. Mix well. The best way to do this is with your hands.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the curry leaves and shallots. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the shallots just begin to change color.
3. Add the shrimp and marinade. Toss for a few minutes, just until the shrimp are completely cooked through.
4. Remove from the heat and serve immediately, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.

Note: Dried pomegranate seeds are not a substitute for fresh ones – trust me on this. Add the dried ones to this recipe and you will have a mess on your hands!

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