Indian cuisine offers a diverse presentation of dishes defined by their ingredients, cooking methods, religious connections, and regional origins. While the original Indian diet dating back over five thousand years was simple, the introduction of spices by traveling salesmen and invading countries spurred the evolution of the more complex dishes we recognize as Indian cuisine today. The introduction of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam influenced Indians’ culinary choices, as well. With such a breadth of options, I found myself struggling to create menus for this week’s project, so I selected dishes that were outside the norm of my normal Indian dining regimen.
Because vegetarianism is a common way of life for many in India, its cuisine offers numerous options for hosting a legitimate vegetarian meal. By that, I mean a menu with thoughtful dishes presented in a manner that celebrates their ingredients, instead of dishes obviously conceived as meat dishes with substitutions. After planning the menu, I invited over a few friends (one, a vegetarian) for a fully vegetarian Indian feast.
|papadum and tomato raita|
My friends arrived for dinner bearing gifts. Katrina brought a nice bottle of wine. Debra brought an amazing homemade tomato raita, and Sweet Pea brought frozen papadums that can be microwaved to a perfect crisp. (I didn’t even know that these little frozen gems existed, and I must say that I was skeptical until we popped them in the microwave. Wow! I couldn’t believe my eyes or my taste buds!) Never a host to say “let’s save these for later,” we immediately began our meal with their gifts! When we finished our papadums and raita, I served palak paneer, chana masala, and basmati rice that I lightly infused with cinnamon and cloves.
Friday Night Dinner for Two
|vankaya nuvvula masala|
With more available time, I could have cooked a different Indian meal every night this week, and still, I would’ve only scratched the surface of possibilities. That’s one of the most appealing things about Indian food, yet I tend to always order the same dishes when I visit an Indian restaurant. This week’s dishes inspired me to try new ones in an effort to experience the full scope of flavor profiles that Indian cuisine offers. Fortunately, we have a great little Indian restaurant in our neighborhood for these future endeavors.