In recent years, Indian cuisine has become widely accepted, consistently craved yet it is still considered too-overwhelming-to-cook by most people. What is it about this food that terrifies home-cooks? Is it the complex flavor profiles they feel they cannot achieve, or the elaborate cooking methods called for in some recipes or the enormous array of spices?
While I am still not sure of the answer to my question above, I am certain about one thing: if you wish to pick up Indian cooking skills, then you should attend a cooking class with chef Prasad Chirnomula at Clarke Culinary Center in SONO.
Chef Prasad, owner of Thali, Thali Too and Oaxaca Kitchen restaurants has been bringing amazing Indian and refined Mexican food to diners from New Canaan to Ridgefield to New Haven. He has an amazing talent of producing absolutely delicious dishes, with just a handful of ingredients, right before your very own eyes – totally busting the myth that Indian cooking skills are meant for a chosen few.
Chef Prasad showed us how to make one of his signature dishes: Konkan Crab. If you are ever dining at one his Thali restaurants, be sure to order this dish. And when you get a chance, be sure to sign up for his next cooking class at Clarke Culinary Center – so you can learn how to make this or similar dishes yourself. This soft and tender crab dish was rich in flavor from the sauteed mustard seeds, curry leaves, onions and ginger. It had creamy texture from coconut milk and a slight bite from freshly grated coconut. Perfection!
We also learned how to make Chef Prasad’s mother’s recipe for a Home Style Chicken Curry as well her Basmati Rice Pilaf. According to Prasad, his mom still cooks these dishes for him on special occasions when he goes for a visit. It was a wonderful peek into his personal life as well as the source of his inspiration: ie his mother.
I was amazed at how much flavor was extracted into these dishes by using just a few simple ingredients and a handful of Indian spices. The rice pilaf was truly inspirational to me. It packed such a solid punch of flavor Chef shared with us the trick to cooking the perfect basmati rice. We learned that soaking basmati rice in water for at least 30 minutes before cooking makes a tremendous difference to its final finished quality. The grains come out perfectly cooked and get super elongated.
Prasad made a really simple but absolutely delicious ivy gourd dish. The ivy gourd was soaked in the wonderful flavors of tomatoes, garlic and cumin that went into its preparation. The most delightful element was a gentle toasty crunch added by a dash of fried yellow lentils. Simply delish. I could eat this dish every day!
It was interesting to hear Prasad talk about his inspiration behind opening a Mexican restaurant (Oaxaca Kitchen). In his travels to the Oaxaca region in Mexico he found many similarities between Indian and Mexican food. Both use ingredients like garlic, chillies, rice and cilantro. While Mexican cuisine extensively uses beans, Indian cuisine has its parallel in lentils. Indian cuisine has tons and tons of chutneys – made out of many different ingredients. In comparison, Mexican cuisine has tons of varieties of mole sauces. The similarities go on and on. But what struck Chef Prasad the most was that neither of these cuisines are considered as fine dining options. And it is his mission to change that perception.
We had a lot of fun leaning about spices and their properties. We oohed and aahhhh over every bite we put in our mouths. Chef Prasad’s master mixologist, Tom, was at hand to serve us his signature OMG Margaritas and Kingfisher beer. To top it all off the intimate classroom setting of Clarke Culinary Center (that allows you to really get to know the chef and his cooking style) made it a night to be remembered.
Thali / Thali Too / Oaxaca Kitchen | www.thali.com
Clarke Culinary Center | http://www.clarkecorp.com/chefseries/classes_ct.html