How can something that looks like diarrhea taste and smell so divine? I’m sure that I’m neither the first nor the last person to question Indian food thusly. Indian food is amazing for many reasons (camouflage notwithstanding), not least of which is the fact that it singlehandedly makes eating in Britain both more interesting and less soul crushing. The ubiquitous ‘curry’ over there is almost always good, no matter where you get it. My indoctrination to the world of tikka masala (reportedly the most popular dish in Britain according to the Borg-like hive-mind that is Wikipedia) was actually take-out from a Tesco. I got it home, glopped some onto the rice, and KERPOW MOTHERFUCKER, I was gobsmacked with a taste explosion. I went and found a few recipes and practiced until I finally found The Way.
So, what is it about this stuff that so captivates? Danger. Mystery. Pain. Would you like to hear a story? Let me tell you a story.
I was in England. It was lunch time. Four of us went to this Indian restaurant in the nearby town. Great place. Small. One of our group was a cajun dude who sort of fit the stereotype of cajun dudes, but without the outrageous accent and the giant gut. So, I guess he didn’t really fit the stereotype, but whatever, it’s my story and I’m too tired to edit. Anyhow, this dude has a chip on his shoulder about hot food. He likes to brag about what he can endure in the heat/pain department where the mouth/stomach/ass highways intersect. It’s his first time at this place and he asks the waiter for the hottest thing on the menu. The waiter looks worried. He gets the manager, who comes out and verifies the age and cockiness of the customer. The food arrives. We watch. The waiter watches. The staff watches. He takes bite after bite, then stops, puts his face in his hands, and sits quietly for awhile. Then comes the sweating. He takes another bite. Shakes his head. Puts face back in hands. Sweats. Repeat. He can’t talk, but mutters something about ‘it’ hurting. For the next two days, he engages in Operation WEEPING PORCELAIN in every bathroom that he visits. FAIL.
The moral: Indian food doesn’t care who you are. It can deliver pain and you will pay for postage and handling. Respect it.
As far as preparation goes, there are hard roads and easy roads to the world of curry. The hard roads involve a lot of spice finding and crushing and mixing and boiling things for days and praying to cows. The easy roads involve just buying a spice called garam masala and using Greek yogurt for the marinate. No bovine worship necessary. Tikka masala is the tame curry and a remarkably unoriginal name for a dish (translation: Chunks in sauce), but gosh, is it good. And a little orange. Or reddish. Whatever.
1 c. Greek yogurt (this is the more solid (though economically insolvent) stuff that sits next to the rows and rows of goopy yogurt)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp red pepper
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1.5 lbs boneless chicken breasts
Cut the chicken into chunks (tikka!). Mix up the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl. Fold the chicken into the goo, combine well, cover with saran wrap, and throw the monstrosity into the fridge, leaving it overnight (or at least for a few hours).
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
8 oz tomato sauce
1 c whipping cream
Saute the garlic in the butter, stir in the spices, then add the tomato sauce and simmer for ~15 minutes. Stir in the cream and allow the sauce to thicken, stirring frequently. Stir stir stir. Remember to stir the stuff as you’re stirring it. TIP: If you want a little more ‘kick’ in your tikka, so to speak, increase the cumin quotient everywhere and use cayenne pepper for the red pepper.
Dump the chicken in a pan and cook it up real good like. Because it’s covered in goo, the cooking will take a bit longer and it might be a bit difficult to tell when it’s completely cooked, so here’s the trick: When all the moisture in the pan is gone and nothing remains but the dull sizzle of cooked chicken, you’re done. It sounds obvious, but….well, there was this one time….yeah. Just trust me on this.
Dump the fully-cooked and salmonella-free chicken into the sauce (MASALA!) and let it all simmer for a little bit. Cook up some rice. Spoon some of your creation (TIKKA! MASALA!) onto the rice and snort in a lungful of non-poop smelling exotic cuisine. ‘Look!’, you can cry to anyone or no one at all. ‘I’m international!’
And so you are.
Sir @ June 10, 2010