Cookin' Easy First-timer Indian Food
May 23, 2006 11:47 PM   Subscribe

I need help cooking a dynamite Indian dinner for my girlfriend who has never had Indian food before. Of course, there is

I am a pretty decent cook but have never entered the daunting realm of Indian Cuisine. It's my girlfriend's birthday soon and I had some questions about preparing a nice meal; there are some special requests and requirements that limit me from using the other posts and cooking websites.
- I live in a country where a lot of spices are not available (South Korea). I can get a hand on most veggies, but the only spices I have are Garam Marsala that someone bought me, and some stuff simply labeled "Curry Powder" (purchased at a Wal-Mart (I know, sorry)), I also have a bit of fresh cilantro but I don't think that helps. I might be able to find cumin or bay leaves somewhere but haven't yet. Also, no na'an.
- She loves seafood, I don't like it but I will cook with it. So a dish that incorporates seafood but isn't so seafoody would be a plus. No problem with spiciness.
- A couple dishes (small appetizer, main dish, maybe an interesting dessert) maybe incorporating different tastes so she gets a sort of spectrum of Indian food, but also something that's a good introduction.
- I have no oven and only 2 ranges on my stove, so things that are fairly one-panned or can be okay kept warm by other means.
- What wine should I serve?
Thanks a lot in advance!
posted by shokod to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
This is a tricky one, as Indian food is all about the spices. It’d be highly desirable to have cumin, coriander & turmeric to hand, as well as fresh ginger, & either fresh chiles or chile-powder to supply the heat. The fresh cilantro is definitely an asset though.

Naan isn’t too hard to make at home: you can cook it on the stovetop by brushing the dough with butter/ghee & dry-frying it in a very hot cast-iron pan; although it does tend to smoke like the bejeezus.

Pakoras & bhajis make for great starters, but call for gram flour (chickpea flour), among other things, so I don’t know if these would be options for you. And can you get natural yoghurt there? If so, then you should certainly prepare some kind of raita as an accompaniment. Alternatively, you could try to approximate something like tandoori shrimp (for that element of fishiness), although it’d be hard to do authentically given your stove-top only set-up.

As a main dish, maybe keep it straightforward with some kind of simple curry (which you could make the day before) with naan or pilau rice. For the latter you’d ideally want to have basmati rice, & again, access to the right spices - in this case cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, saffron… For something extra, aloo gobi is a delicious & easy to make side-dish, although, yet again, you may have to omit some of the spices if they’re unobtainable where you are.

Cold beer goes really well with Indian food; but wine-wise, gewürtztraminer whites are supposed to be good complements to spicy food in general.

All of the above, by the way, is based on a Brit’s understanding of Indian food, which may well be miles away from the real subcontinental deal…
posted by misteraitch at 5:44 AM on May 24, 2006

A really yummy salad that we used to always have with our homemade indian feasts was diced tomato, cucumber and thin little bits of onion in vinegar... really simple, really yummy.
posted by jonathanstrange at 6:05 AM on May 24, 2006

Two words: Madhur Jaffrey. We made dinner of four courses from her classic British/pan-Indian cookbook last weekend; the recipes are clear, and exquisite. Some of the dishes are quite simple.

You can make paratha really easily on the stovetop for a delicious bread. And this recipe is the most delicious thing I have ever ever tasted. And I HATE eggplant (aubergine). Also her spicy beans recipe is amazing.

You can fake not having some of the spices as long as you have a hot pepper, ginger, and garlic and onions.

Finally, stock up on vegetable oil is all I'm sayin'.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:20 AM on May 24, 2006

My wife makes a killer Mutter Paneer that we serve over rice. And her cousins chili chicken is one of my favorites. Unfortunately both improvise their cooking so nothing is written down.

Chicken Tikka is easy to make and yummy. This recipe looks similar to how we make it. Make sure to marinade the chicken a long time, it makes it nice and tender. We usually don't bother with skewers but just bake on a cookie sheet.
posted by beowulf573 at 7:23 AM on May 24, 2006

For the purposes of this meal, forget that you have that bottle of garam masala and curry powder. The key difference betwe.en making outstanding Indian food and rice that vaguely tastes like it came from an Indian resturant is using whole spices
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 8:57 AM on May 24, 2006

I'll second the advice from PJ Reynolds. I've used a number of recipes from this Madhur Jaffrey book and they've all been straightforward to follow and produced great results (note that this is not strictly an Indian cookbook, also contains recipes from Thailand, Indonesia etc.)

What about prawns for "seafood that isn't so seafoody" ?
posted by cobrien at 9:36 AM on May 24, 2006

Don't know about the cooking but I'd suggest some good India Pale Ale rather than wine.
posted by dagnyscott at 11:02 AM on May 24, 2006

Response by poster: misteraitch: Thanks for the thorough help! I can get ginger and fresh chiles, the other stuff I'm not too sure. The naan recipe looks good and I will definitely try it.
beowulf: Tikka looks good and simple, ingredients wise. As I cannot bake it nor BBQ it, I might try cooking it in a flat pan (I know it's not the same). High heat or low heat?
The Bishop of Turkey: I totally agree with you and upon return to a place with spices available, I will do so, but for now that's what I got.
Cobrien: prawns sound good

As far as alcohol goes, I think that the selection is on league with spice selection, so no India Pale Ale. I'll have to check on the Gewürztraminer also but I'm thinking no go.
Thanks for the suggestions so far and keep 'em coming!
posted by shokod at 5:25 PM on May 24, 2006

« Older How young is too young   |   Best family beach holidays in Europe? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.