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Yakitori In Kyoto

Kyoto is a city of shrines. This is hard to believe at first if you arrive by  train, as we did. Emerging into the enormous, futuristic train station with an escalator that literally seems to climb into the sky, you'd never believe that Kyoto is so deeply rooted in history, culture, tradition and cuisine.

After you spend a few days in the city and start to discover its secrets, both cultural and culinary, you begin to appreciate all that it has to offer. From ancient mountain top temples built on wooden stilts to shrines dedicated to love gods, from gorgeous palaces with perfectly maintained grounds, to ancient Zen gardens, Kyoto has something to keep everyone happy. 

And if history and architecture is not your thing, there is a lively waterfront with plenty of restaurants overlooking it, Geisha clubs and great shopping to keep you busy!

We had heard so much about the distinctive Kyoto cuisine that one of the first things we did was to sample Kyoto's Kaiseki cuisine. Sort of like a chef's tasting menu, it features the creativity of the chef in the way he uses fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. Also among our favourites were the yakitori restaurants we ate at. At one place we were seated right in front of the chefs, watching them prepare our food. It was almost like our own private cooking lesson. After that, I feel like I can create pretty authentic yakitori skewers!

We often had a set menu of many different types of yakitori skewers, some with pieces of chicken, some with ground meat. There were even grilled quail egg skewers and grilled hot chilli peppers which we had never come across before and found delicious.

My Yakitori recipe is influenced by my Indian palate and has ginger, green chili and fresh coriander in it. I think it just makes it even better! You can omit these if you want a more traditional flavour. Chicken thighs work best here as they are more flavourful and can be grilled without drying out. Serve them straight off the grill for best results.

Chicken Yakitori

 8 (1- 1/4 lb) boneless skinless chicken thighs

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 inch piece ginger, minced

1 green chili

1/4 cup each: soy sauce, Mirin, Sake (or white wine)

1 tbsp each: oil, sugar, chopped fresh coriander

6 green onions (scallions), white and pale green parts cut into 1 inch pieces

Trim fat off chicken thighs and cut them lengthwise into 3 strips. Place in deep mixing bowl. combine remaining ingredients, except green onions in mini blender or food processor and process to a smooth paste. Reserve and refrigerate half of marinade for basting and pour remaining half over chicken. Toss well to combine, cover and refrigerate chicken for 2 hours or longer.

When ready to grill, preheat grill to medium heat. Thread chicken pieces onto skewers, folding the meat and interspersing chicken pieces with a piece of green onion.

Grill for about 8 min per side until chicken is tender and cooked through, basting generously with the reserved marinade before turning skewers so that it forms a glaze on the chicken. Serve hot.

Serves four

Curried Pumpkin Sabzi In Ontario, Canada

Fall in Ontario is always breathtakingly beautiful. Cool crisp nights and warm sunny days encourage you to go explore forest trails, where you can walk for miles surrounded by trees whose leaves display the entire palette of colours, from brilliant reds and oranges to pale yellows and greens.

Driving around back country roads, stopping occasionally to buy fresh fruits and vegetables straight from farm stands and picnicking by a stream or waterfall is my favourite way to enjoy a beautiful fall day. Hiking in the many gorgeous conservation areas around Ontario, trampling on crunchy fallen leaves, admiring the tapestry of changing colours from a peak, while the dappled sunlight shines through the trees is another favourite!

Sun ripened, farm fresh produce is a real luxury this time of year and I try to make the most of it by practically turning vegetarian! Pumpkins are one of my favourite harvest vegetables and I love to cook them with spices, the way my mother used to when I was growing up in India. Just passing a field filled with ripe pumpkins evoked so much nostalgia in me that we had to stop and buy a couple to bring home!

Curried pumpkin sabzi is a delicious sweet, sour, hot and spicy creation that is best made with fresh pumpkin and enjoyed with warm naan, chapati or deep fried puris!

Curried Pumpkin Sabzi

2 lb fresh ripe pumpkin

2tbsp each: vegetable oil, butter

2 dried whole red chilies

1/4 tsp each: cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds

A tiny pinch of asafoetida (Hing), optional

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp each: cayenne pepper, turmeric, ground coriander, ground fennel, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves (Kasoori methi)

Salt to taste

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder) or lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Cut pumpkin into quarters, remove and discard peel and seeds. Dice pumpkin into small 1 inch bite sized pieces. you should have about 5 loosely packed cups (750gm) diced pumpkin to cook with.

Warm oil and butter in deep non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add red chilies, cumin, fennel and fenugreek seeds. Let sizzle for 30 sec, then add asafoetida, if using.

Add onions and garlic, saute for about 5-7 min until softened. Add diced pumpkin, cayenne, turmeric, ground coriander, ground fennel, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves and salt. Mix well, cover skillet, reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 20 min or until pumpkin is tender.

Add sugar, amchoor (mango powder) or lemon juice. Cook, covered for another 10 min, stirring occasionally. Uncover skillet, turn up the heat to medium and cook off some of the excess sauce for about 2 min. Fold in the fresh coriander.

Serves four

 

 

 

Pickles In Nishiki Market, Kyoto

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Nishiki Market is a food enthusiast's dream!  400 years old, narrow, cramped and crowded, this street is also known as Kyoto's Kitchen and is lined with more than a hundred shops and restaurants. Long before we got to Kyoto, I knew that one of my first sightseeing stops was going to be Nishiki Market.

I could hardly wait to explore it's quaint shops full of local produce and fresh seafood, shop for hand made artisanal goods such as knives, pottery and fans, and sample the famed Kyoto pickles of which I had heard so much! Just walking through the bustling, lively market, inhaling unfamiliar aromas, sampling foods new to us and marveling at ingredients we had never seen before was a lesson in culture and cuisine!

Kyoto's specialty, Tsukemono or pickled vegetables, were abundant in many of the shops and we got a taste of the briny, soy tinged, crisp pickled daikon radish, okra, turnips, cucumber, green mango, shallots and young ginger. Japanese pickles are almost an integral part of every meal, often served with rice and miso soup. Not only were they a good way to preserve vegetables in the days before refrigeration, they also added nutrition to the diet and captured the flavours of the season.

During our stay in Kyoto, we had pickled vegetables with a lot of our meals and I couldn't help comparing them with my Indian pickles. Although the principle and tradition behind pickling was similar between Japan and India, the two couldn't have been more different in taste!

Pickling in India is an age old tradition, with treasured family recipes being handed down from mother to daughter, generation to generation. Quite often, there is one designated member of the family, usually a grandmother or an aunt, who will make pickles for the entire clan. It is important to stay in their good books if you want your pickle supply for the year!

I am fortunate to be a part of this chain of pickles, recipes and wisdom handed down to me by my mother, grandmother and aunts and I hope to pass this knowledge on to my sons, who are already showing a fondness for combining Canadian and Indian pickling styles to create their own unique versions!

When it comes to home made pickles, every family has their own unique version, depending on the region of India they are from and the ingredients available. Practically anything can be pickled - fruits, vegetables, even meat or fish!

 Pickling is a deeply satisfying activity. There is something magical about witnessing the sun, salt and spices transform a raw piece of fruit or vegetable into something sublime, packed with intense flavour and longevity. 

These easy, delicious pickles are oil free and taste wonderful with any kind of Indian food, especially when wrapped in a piece of warm naan. I like to leave them at the center of the table, ready to perk up any meal! I also like to throw them into a simmering curry, soup or sauce for the depth of flavour, lemony aroma and earthiness they add to the dish. They are great to use in Indian, Moroccan, Middle Eastern or any of your favourite cuisines.

You can make these pickles two ways - plain salted without the spices, or as described below with spices. For making them without spices, follow below recipe exactly but omit all the spices.

Spiced Pickled Lemons

6 lemons

1 tbsp Kosher salt

4 each: whole cloves, green cardamom

1/2 inch stick cinnamon

1 star anise

1/4 tsp each: black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chili flakes, whole allspice, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, whole black peppercorn, saffron strands

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add lemons and simmer for 2 min on medium heat. Remove lemons from water (keep water simmering in pot), drain and pat lemons dry with paper towels. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, sterilize a large glass jar by placing it in the simmering water for 2 min. Remove carefully, pat jar dry inside and out with paper towels. You can also sterilize the jar by running it through the dishwasher.

Cut 4 of the lemons into 8 pieces each. Squeeze out the juice from the remaining lemons, discarding rinds.

In large mixing bowl, combine lemon pieces, juice, salt, spices and saffron, mixing well. Pack into sterilized jar, pressing down gently to cover lemons with spiced juices.

Keep jar in sunny spot for 2 weeks, shaking it regularly to evenly distribute juice and spices. Tamp lemons down when necessary to keep them submerged. When lemons are softened and changed in colour, spices mellowed and juices thickened, the pickles are ready to eat. They can be stored in the refrigerator for upto 1 year.

 

Grilled Tofu In Nara, Japan

Nara is a city of temples. People go there on pilgrimage, to pray in the ancient temples and shrines and hope for their wishes to come true.

Nara was the capital of Japan in the eighth century when the emperor of Japan first converted to Buddhism and built the Todai-ji temple which houses a 50-feet tall bronze statue of the Buddha, the largest in the world.

Over the centuries many other temples and shrines were built in the same park and today it is the center of Japanese Buddhism and a major pilgrimage site. Surrounding the temple is a huge deer park, inspired  by the park in Sarnath, India, where the Buddha first preached.

One of the first sights to greet you as you enter the sprawling temple grounds of Nara are the hundreds of tame deer wandering about. Considered sacred, the deer are allowed to roam freely, posing for photographs while hoping for treats from enthusiastic visitors. Be wary - the deer can be very persistent! If they see or smell a treat on you, they will crowd around and nose it out of your hands before you can move any further.

Nara pays homage to the original deer park in India by erecting a statue of four lions, which was the symbol of the Indian Emperor Ashoka who dispatched  missionaries around the world to spread Buddhist teachings. The original statue still  stands today in Sarnath, India.

A short stroll from the Todai-ji temple, deep in a lush primeval forest is the famous Kasuga Grand Shrine. The path leading up to the shrine is lined with 3000 ancient stone lanterns. These are lit only for a new nights each summer, creating a stunning display. Inside the Kasuga Grand Shrine are hundreds of more lanterns, made of bronze, donated by worshipers.

People come from great distances to ask for their wishes to be granted by writing them on little tags that are tied to the temple railings.

As Nara is predominantly a Buddhist temple town, it has developed a rich vegetarian cuisine over the centuries. During our visit to Nara, we enjoyed a complete meal centered around tofu. As the skillfully prepared and beautifully presented dishes were placed before us, we were amazed at the sheer variety of ways in which tofu can be cooked, each more delicious than the last!

There was chilled tofu with soy and wasabi to start us off, followed by tofu tempura, grilled tofu with miso, tofu hotpot, and my favourite - tofu made with sesame seed paste instead of soymilk. It had a subtle nutty flavour and light texture. Bathed in a delicate soy based sauce with just a hint of wasabi resting on top, it was sheer perfection!

We felt good after eating this multifaceted, deeply satisfying tofu meal and resolved to keep on eating lots more tofu once we got back home to Toronto!

My grilled tofu recipe borrows from both Indian and Japanese cuisines, resulting in delicious, irresistible fusion! It tastes best when grilled on a barbecue but you can always use the oven if you wish. A neat trick to prevent the tofu from sliding off the skewers is to use two skewers, inserted parallel into the tofu cubes. Serve tofu skewers hot while the insides are still soft, and outside is lightly crisp.

Grilled Tofu

1 pkg (350gm) extra firm tofu, cubed into 2 inch pieces

2 each: garlic cloves, green chillies

1/2 inch ginger

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh coriander

2 tbsp each: soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil

1 tbsp each: red miso paste, tomato paste or ketchup

1/2 tsp sugar

Half lemon

Wooden skewers for grilling

Place tofu in deep mixing bowl.

In mini blender, combine remaining ingredients except lemon. Process until smooth. Pour over tofu in bowl and toss gently to coat tofu with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Before grilling, soak skewers in water for 1/2 hour.

Preheat barbecue grill to medium high heat. Thread tofu cubes onto skewers and grill for about 5 min per side or until lightly charred and softened, turning once.

Sprinkle lemon juice over top.

Serves four

Saveur, Lamb Shawarma In New York

When I recently got a call from the famous Saveur Magazine, asking if I would be interested in a trip to New York to help their test kitchens prepare for their upcoming special India issue, I took exactly five seconds before saying YES!!

A long-time fan of Saveur, who has cooked her way through many, many of their recipes, I couldn't believe I was actually going to meet the people whose names have long been familiar to me! It was a wonderful experience for many reasons, but the best part of it was getting to know so many warm, friendly people who are a joy to work with.

 Saveur test kitchens are a home cook's dream. Equipped with top of the line appliances, cookware, and an extremely well stocked spice cabinet, they made cooking a breeze! We created and tested recipes for dishes like Hot Mix snack, Spicy RasamDaikon Curry, Methi Malai Paneer, Mussels, pickles, chutneys, naan, parathas  and puris .

In spite of being busy in the Saveur kitchens, I made sure I left enough time for some of the things I love to do in New York: sampling the goodies at Eataly, buying exotic spices at Kalustyan's, and treating myself to macarons at Ladurée.

While walking the streets of Manhattan it is always a treat to grab a quick bite from one of New York's many street food vendors! Our favourite is lamb shawarma from The Halal Guys, a wildly popular food cart on 53rd street at 6th Avenue. There is invariably a long line of people winding around the block,  but the food is worth the wait. We had the lamb and rice plate with lashings of their famous white sauce and hot sauce.

Home made shawarma is easy to make and the taste is quite close to the spit roasted version sold from street carts and restaurants. I like to serve lamb shawarma in a wrap with lots of toppings, most of which are easily available at our local supermarket. You can also serve it over yellow basmati rice with the toppings scattered over top.

Lamb Shawarma Wraps

1 lb boneless leg of lamb

For marinade:

4 cloves garlic

1 inch piece ginger

2 tbsp each: lemon juice, oil, plain yogurt

1/2 tsp each, ground: cumin, cinnamon, mace, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, cardamom

Salt to taste

For wraps:

2 tbsp oil

4 thin pita breads

1/4 cup each: hummus, tabbouleh and tzaziki

Hot sauce, pickled turnips to taste

Place lamb in large mixing bowl. Make a few deep gashes on its surface for marinade to seep in.

Combine marinade ingredients together in mini blender until smooth. Pour over lamb, turning to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place lamb in large baking dish, spoon marinade over it, cover with foil and bake for 20 min. Uncover and bake for another 15 min or until lamb is done to your liking. Do not overcook the lamb. Remove from oven.

Let lamb rest for 15 min, scrape off and discard any excess marinade clinging to it, then slice it thinly into strips.

Warm oil in a large non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add lamb and sauté for 2 min until lightly browned. Remove to a platter.

Place warm pitas, lamb and remaining wrap ingredients on table for people to assemble their own wraps.

Makes four wraps

(Shahi Paneer) Pizza In New York

The one travel destination that everyone in our family can agree upon is New York. Trips to other cities can trigger off heated debates as we argue the pros and the cons, but everyone is always ready to go to the Big Apple!

Everyone can find something to do in New York. Whether you love theater, art, music or history, you will find something to keep you entertained. The best thing to do, of course, is simply to walk the streets. Manhattan is one of the most walkable places in the world - it is almost impossible to get lost, and every corner brings you a new sight. From the beautiful to the bizarre, the sublime to the ridiculous, you will see it all within a few blocks.

New York is also one of the best destinations for food lovers. You can dine at five starred restaurants, but you can also find all the  world's cuisines on the streets. The sheer variety and number of food trucks is unmatched anywhere else. Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Korean, Indian - a culinary tour around the globe is possible without  leaving downtown!

New York can truly be considered a spice mecca. Every kind of spice or spice mixture from every corner of the world can be easily obtained here. My favourite place to shop for spices, whenever I'm in the city is Kalustyan's. No matter how well stocked my spice cabinet, I always find new and interesting things to buy here!

On our recent trip to New York, we enjoyed Cuban paella, empanadas and kimchi dumplings. But, you can't go to New York and not have pizza! The most memorable one we ate was a delicious Indian version with Shahi paneer.

Shahi paneer can be called the vegetarian relative of Butter chicken. The rich flavours of paneer simmered in the spicy tomato cream sauce are so good that you won't even miss the chicken!

You can also serve the shahi paneer without the pizza with some naan on the side. Or you could fold the pizza dough in half over the stuffing and make a delicious calzone!

Shahi Paneer Pizza

Tomato Sauce:

1 cup (about 4 large) canned premium whole plum tomatoes with puree

1/2 tsp each: ground coriander, ground cumin, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves, cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

1 tbsp each: butter, whipping (heavy) cream, chopped fresh coriander leaves

Pizza:

1 lb prepared pizza dough

1 cup each: crumbled paneer, shredded mozzarella cheese

Additional suggested toppings: sliced olives, sliced red onions, chopped baby spinach

Prepare sauce:

Blend tomatoes with puree, spices and salt in blender or food processor till smooth.

warm deep non stick skillet over medium heat. Add tomato spice mixture and let it start to bubble. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 5 min, stirring occasionally. Fold in butter, cream and fresh coriander. Cook 2 min.

Sauce can be prepared up to 2 days ahead of time and kept refrigerated.

Preheat oven to 420F. Line 2 pizza pans or baking sheets with parchment.

Divide dough in half and roll out each half into an 8 inch wide circle, sprinkling it with all purpose flour whenever necessary to prevent sticking. Place on baking sheets.

Spread half of tomato sauce over each pizza. Sprinkle evenly with the two cheeses. If using additional suggested toppings, spread them evenly over top.

Bake for 15 min or until cheese is melted and pizza is done.

Serves four

Fried Fish (Pakoras) In Newfoundland

Driving across Newfoundland has its own charm, for how can you resist stopping at places named Heart's Desire, Come by Chance, Happy Adventure, or Dildo? In Newfoundland you can never forget that you are living on an island, for the sea is everywhere. You cannot drive very far without glimpsing a secluded cove, a quaint fishing village, or a lighthouse that has for centuries marked the way home for sailors and fishers.

The sea and the fish in it are a magnet for birds of every variety, and at Cape St. Mary's reserve the rocks teem with gannets, cormorants and gulls. Together they create an unbelievable cacophony and are quite oblivious to humans, allowing people to walk right up to them.

The seabirds are not the only creatures drawn to Newfoundland by the fish - we found it equally attractive!  Succulent lobster, halibut, cod, salmon and shrimp taste unbelievably sweet and fresh when they're just caught fresh off the Atlantic ocean and never been frozen. Dishes such as brewis, britches, figgy duff, flipper pie have quaint local names and a long interesting history for they were created by the island's original settlers.

The favourite local way to serve fish, and it is almost always cod, is to dip it in batter and fry it. On our long, meandering drives around the island, we ate fried fish in many small restaurants along the way, savouring its crisp crunch and fresh flavour.

These fish pakoras, flecked with fresh coriander and cumin seeds, are a wonderful Indian version of the fried fish we ate in Newfoundland! The chickpea flour and spices used in the batter add a unique flavour and crispness to the pakoras, making it impossible to stop after just eating one!

You can substitute diced potatoes, onions, paneer or chicken for the fish in this recipe. Serve with chutney to bring out all the delicious flavours!

Fish Pakoras

1 lb skinless Basa fillet or any other white fish such as haddock or cod

1 cup chickpea flour

Salt to taste

1 tbsp each: fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh coriander

1/2 tsp each: cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi), baking powder

3/4 cup water

Oil for deep frying

Cut fish into 2 inch chunks.

Combine remaining ingredients in deep mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. The mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter, thick enough to coat the fish pieces but not too watery.

Add fish and turn it around gently to coat with batter.

Pour oil in deep skillet, wok or deep fryer so that it comes up to about 2 inches in the pan (enough to submerge the fish). Warm it  over medium heat. Line a platter with paper towels.

Drop fish in gently, taking care not to crowd pan. Fry until cooked through, lightly golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining fish. Serve hot.

Serves four

 

 

Seafood Chowder In St.John's, Newfoundland

On our first visit to Newfoundland, there was no doubt in our minds about what we were going to eat at every meal - seafood! The waters of the North Atlantic ocean around Newfoundland are brimming with many varieties of seafood and local chefs are famous for the creative ways in which they use it in their cooking.

St. John's, the capital of Newfoundland is one of the oldest cities in North America and loaded with  charisma and personality. You will develop quite an appetite once you walk up and down the steep, narrow streets, admiring the unique and colourful jellybean row houses lining them and exploring Signal Hill, where Marconi famously received the first transatlantic wireless signal. Cabot Tower atop Signal Hill with its breathtaking view is also worth exploring in this charming, historic town. Once you have admired the sights, walk along St. John's main street, where you can find many restaurants that serve some of the best chowder as well as a whole host of other seafood delights.

Fish is what first drew Europeans to Newfoundland. Basque, French and English fisherman would land on the  shores of the remote island and spend all summer catching cod, then salting and drying it. Ships laden with salt cod would return home before the brutal winter swept in, making fish plentiful across the continent. Cooked in spices brought from India, salt cod became the mainstay of European cuisines. One of the favourite ways of cooking fish in medieval Europe  was to simmer it in a stew. The cooking pot, known as a chaudière in French, gave its name to the stew, which became chowder in English.

My chowder recipe is fairly close to what we enjoyed so many times during our stay in Newfoundland. Use the freshest seafood you can find to get the best flavours out of this delicious chowder.

You can make this dish with any combination of seafood of your choice or even with just one main ingredient such as clams or lobster. A crusty bread on the side is a must!

Seafood Chowder

2 tbsp olive oil or butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 slices bacon, chopped

1 each: sprig of thyme, bay leaf

1/2 cup each: carrots, celery, red pepper, mushrooms, peeled cooked potato, finely chopped

2 tbsp each: all purpose flour, white wine

4 cups whole milk

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 cup each: raw peeled shrimp, cooked shelled mussels, cooked shelled clams (optional)

10 raw scallops, halved through the center

1 each, raw: cod fillet, haddock fillet (about 1/2 lb each), cut into large pieces

2 tbsp each: chopped fresh dill, parsley, grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup whipping cream

Warm oil or butter in deep saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, bacon, thyme and bay leaf. Saute for about 10 min until onions are softened, lightly browned and bacon has rendered its fat.

Add carrots, celery, red pepper, mushrooms and potato. Saute for 5 min until slightly softened. Add flour and cook 1 min. Add wine and cook 1 min until mixture bubbles. Stir in milk, salt and pepper. Cover pot, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 min or until vegetables are softened.

Add all the seafood, cover and cook 10 min until seafood is just cooked through, stirring gently once in a while.

Fold in the herbs, Parmesan and cream. Heat soup through gently, then serve.

Serves Six

 

Japanese Chicken Curry In Tokyo

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Tokyo is a food-lover's delight. From its grand, five-star restaurants to humble vendors on every street corner, there is something for everyone to savour. When we set out on a trip to Japan we planned to seek out the finest sushi and sashimi. We found that, and much more, but nothing prepared us for the biggest  surprise of our travels - Japanese curry!

Curry is so popular in Japan that most people assume it has always been a part of Japanese cuisine. In fact it arrived in Japan in the late nineteenth century as it opened up to western influences. British ships sailing to Japan served curry on board and the Japanese saw it as an exotic, western dish. Cafes in Tokyo were soon serving curry, prepared in the English fashion: meat and onions were fried in butter, curry powder and stock added and the mixture simmered slowly.

The Japanese fondness for curry came as a surprise to a much earlier visitor from India, the young revolutionary Rash Behari Bose. He fled India, then a British colony,  after a failed attempt to assassinate the British viceroy and sought refuge in Japan in 1915. He was hidden by sympathetic Japanese nationalists in the Nakamuraya bakery run by Aizo and Koko Soma.  He fell in love with their daughter Toshiko and married her a few years later. Rash Behari Bose became a Japanese citizen and was involved in running the bakery as it expanded, opening several new branches and adding a café to its main location in Tokyo's Shinjuku district which was becoming a major shopping centre.

Bose was responsible for the biggest draw on the café menu – real Indian curry, which was something new in Japan. Bose personally supervised its preparation, selected the ingredients that went into it, and tasted it every morning before it was served. Introducing the Japanese to genuine Indian cuisine was part of the nationalist struggle for Bose, who dreamed of a day when Asians could experience each others' cultures without the exchange being mediated by westerners.

Nakamuraya’s curry was an instant success and the elite of Tokyo flocked to the café to taste authentic Indian food. Bose became a celebrity as newspaper reporters told of his struggles against imperialism and his romance with Toshiko. His curry became famous as the “taste of love and revolution”.

The Nakamuraya chain continues to flourish,  supplying packaged foods to grocery stores across Japan. The flagship restaurant still stands in its original location in Shinjuku and faded black-and-white photographs in its foyer commemorate the story of the Soma family and the Indian revolutionary they sheltered.  The most enduring monument to Rash Behari Bose is the curry served by Nakamuraya, still made according to his original recipe.  Try it if you are ever in Tokyo, for where else will you find a “taste of love and revolution” in a single spoon?

This recipe, with its intriguing mix of ingredients and flavours is popularly served all over Japan. The unusual combination of apples with celery, carrot and potatoes is strangely comforting!

Japanese Chicken Curry

1 lb (about 8 ) boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
4 tbsp all purpose flour, divided
4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
4 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated or minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
1 stick celery, sliced thin
Salt to taste
2 cups chicken broth, divided
¼ cup canned crushed tomatoes
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp each: garam masala, curry powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
 1 apple, peeled and grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp honey

 
Combine chicken and 2 tbsp flour in large mixing bowl, tossing to coat pieces well with flour.
Warm 2 tbsp oil in deep non-stick skillet set over medium high heat. Add chicken pieces, shaking off excess flour. Brown chicken for 5 min until lightly golden. Transfer to bowl.
Add remaining 2 tbsp oil to same skillet. Add garlic and ginger, sauté for about 1 min until they brown lightly. Add the onions and sauté for about 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
Add carrot, potato and celery, sauté 2 min. Add chicken, salt, 1 cup broth and tomatoes. Cover skillet, bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 30 min, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile make the roux. Warm butter in non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add remaining 2 tbsp flour. Stirring occasionally, cook until flour turns to a light golden colour, about 10 min. Add curry powder, garam masala and cayenne pepper, cook 2 min. Add remaining 1 cup broth, cook 1 min, stirring till roux thickens.
Add roux, apple, soy and honey to chicken in skillet, stirring to mix it in gently. Cover skillet and cook for 5 min for flavours to blend and apple to soften.
Serves four

 

Nyonya Chicken Curry In Singapore

Singapore has always been a meeting place of cultures. Founded by the British and located strategically midway on the shipping lanes from India to China, it's population is predominantly Chinese, Malay and Indian. As you wander through the immaculately clean streets of the city, you find elaborately carved Hindu temples minutes away from Chinese street markets and colonial era British hotels.

Singapore is a food lover's delight, for you can find every variety of cuisine. In a single city block you can sample Chinese dumplings, Indian curries and  Malaysian satays. The variety of street food is incredible and one of the great delights of visiting Singapore is strolling through the hawker centres, sampling an incredible variety of dishes or wandering along the waterfront savouring the different aromas wafting from the restaurants lining it, while trying to decide where to eat.

Singapore does not just serve dishes from other countries but has evolved its own cuisine, popularly known as Nyonya or Peranakan food, which is a unique fusion of Chinese and Malay cooking styles. Peranakans are descendants of early Chinese settlers in Malaysia, who intermarried with the local people and created a unique hybrid culture and cuisine. Nyonya food is deliciously spicy, rich with coconut milk, tamarind and nuts and fragrant with the use of lemongrass, galangal and fresh coriander.

Nyonya style chicken curry with its subtle nuances of flavour was one of my very favourite dishes to eat in Singapore. Served with some steaming hot rice, it was a great way to unwind after a day of sightseeing.

It is not difficult to make at home and here I have modified the recipe to incorporate readily available ingredients and make it easier to prepare. It tastes every bit as good as the original version we ate in Singapore! Oven roasting the spiced marinated chicken helps intensify the flavours. If you wish it to be hotter, just increase the amount of cayenne pepper.

For a change of pace, you can substitute lamb, paneer or tofu for the chicken and follow the basic recipe below. Serve with a bowl of Nasi Goreng for a hearty, satisfying meal!

Nyonya Chicken Curry

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 8), cut into quarters

4 tbsp oil, divided

Salt to taste

1 tsp curry powder, divided; tamarind paste, sugar

1/2 tsp each: turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper, divided

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped

6-7 blanched macadamia nuts or almonds

1 cup canned coconut milk

2 each, whole: cardamom, cloves

1 each: cinnamon stick (1 inch piece), star anise, bay leaf

1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2 inch pieces and smashed lightly, optional

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Preheat oven to 420F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

In large bowl, combine chicken, 2 tbsp oil, salt, 1/2 tsp curry powder and 1/4 tsp each of turmeric, paprika and cayenne. Mix well, spread chicken and all its marinade on tray. Bake for 15 min. or until it is cooked through and lightly golden. Reserve chicken and all its juices.

Meanwhile, warm remaining 2 tbsp oil in deep non stick skillet. Add onions, garlic, ginger and macadamia nuts or almonds. Saute for 5 min. or until softened and lightly browned. Remove from oil (reserve skillet for later use in recipe) and transfer to a blender or food processor, along with coconut milk, tamarind paste, sugar, salt, remaining curry powder, turmeric, cayenne and paprika. Blend to a smooth paste.

Warm leftover oil in skillet and add whole cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and bay leaf, sizzle them for 30 sec. Add sauteed onion paste from blender, lemongrass (if using) and the chicken with all its juices.

Mix well, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for 15 min. The sauce should be very thick and clinging to the chicken at the end of cooking. If it is not thick enough, cook for a few min. longer.

Fold in the chopped coriander and serve.

Serves four