Monday, September 17, 2012

Trying to like Indian Food

Thanks go my job, I feel very lucky to have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit a part of the world I have never seen before this November: India.  I am beyond excited to be shocked, surprised, inspired, and frustrated by what I will see, learn, and experience there.  

There is only one small problem... as adventurous as I always try to be with food, I have never enjoyed Indian cuisine.

I've tried to like it, especially when I chose a plant-based lifestyle a year ago.  Indian cuisine is a vegetarian's dream come true.  But the Scandinavian-American girl with midwestern small town roots inside of me just couldn't ever get used to the spices, especially curry.

So I've decided to spend the next couple months actively exploring various Indian dishes until I can discover what it is I don't like, what I can tolerate, and hopefully find some things that I really like!  The goal is to have a few "go-to" dishes in mind by the time I get there so I know what to safely order on restaurant menus when I need a break from being adventurous & trying new things.

Over this past weekend, I made a homemade meal of Daal, Naan (this I bought pre-made), and  Samosas with a Cilantro/Onion/Olive Oil Sauce.  It turned out amazing!  I got the recipe from a friend who made it for me earlier this summer and accidentally cut the spices in half because she doubled the lentils in the daal, but forgot to double the spices.  I loved it!  I'll post on my re-creation efforts of this meal later.

Today for lunch I'm eating a pre-packaged frozen meal from the Amy's brand.  It's their Mattar Paneer and cost well over $5, but I'm probably still saving money over what I would spend if I went out for lunch or bought something from the little Restore convenience store downstairs.

It's very good.  The Amy's brand is all organic & vegetarian, which would explain the price.  This particular meal includes peas and an unnamed Indian cheese in a spiced sauce (I'm willing to give up my vegan efforts for a new cultural experience); basmati rice with carrots, onions, and cumin; and a curried chana masala with garbanzo beans and tomatoes.

It tastes very good!  I really like the cheese, go figure.  None of it is too spicy or has a bad after taste.  I tried mixing different bites of the 3 items together and it was all good together or on its own.  I would definitely eat this Amy's meal again, and would be excited to try it in a restaurant to see if I like it just as much.

Since I had no idea what Mattar paneer is, I googled it and decided that Wikipedia would be safe enough for some general reference as to what this dish is all about:

Turns out it is a North Indian dish (so yay! hopefully I can try it close to the source as I'll be spending a great deal of my time in the northern part of the country) consisting of paneer (a fresh cheese common in South Asian cuisine - an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese or curd cheese [like a cottage cheese] made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar, or any other food acids) and peas in a slightly sweet and spicy sauce.

Mattar Paneer Masala is probably the most popular curry found in all over India.  First, the paneer is prepared in the traditional method. The base is prepared with cumin seeds, garam masala, vine ripened tomatoes and the green peas and Paneer cheese cubes are added for stir frying on high heat.

So far, my first to steps into this new adventure have been successes!  Can't wait to keep trying new ones & discover lots of yummy new things along the way!