Tuesday, August 10, 2010

premature long-winded and meandering cookbook review: 660 Curries

When I moved to Provo after graduating from college I lived all by myself in a studio apartment on the side of a huge Tudoresque trophy house. Let me describe my apartment for you: after you climbed up the nine bajillion stairs you walked past the hot tub on the deck and entered through sliding glass doors (Richard, my realtor friend: would such doors have met code for an apartment?) what once had been a bedroom, I think. There was a log sofabed, a log nightstand, and a log coffee table with one of those glass tops that are invisible until you've gashed open your shin. There was a peninsula with a sink, a teeny gas range and a teeny fridge. There was a closet and a bathroom and a door into the main house, kept locked. It was very New York, now that I think about it, other than the rustic furniture. There was another apartment in the basement where a quarrelsome couple lived and screamed at each other and took my laundry day.

I spent most of my time in solitude watching TV, learning to love so many wonderful shows; Newhart, The Simpsons, Melrose Place, South Park . . . my parents would have been shocked and disappointed by the amount of time I spent in unprofitable and morally questionable boobtubery. I even watched TV on Sunday. Shh. But every once in a while a boy in my ward (named Hyrum, of course, this being Provo) who felt sorry for me would take me out on a date. For one of our early dates he took me to the Bombay House . . . and my life was changed.

Do you remember the first time you had Indian food? It almost brought tears to my eyes. I didn't know food could taste like that! There were flavors, textures, smells and spices I had never encountered, there were men wearing turbans, yogurt in my drink . . . what magical world was this? I fell completely and irrevocably in love.

I'm sure other lovers of Indian food are familiar with the disheartening quest to replicate the restaurant experience at home. Being young and less able in the kitchen, I wasted a good deal of time on things that I would never try now, but that's youth and inexperience. Patak's curry paste delivered heat, but not flavor, Golden Curry Sauce Mix delivered Asian flavors and probably carcinogens, and none of it was ever right. Over the years I gained skills in the kitchen and began trying recipes, which were more work for more failure. How frustrating!

A year or so ago I found Pastor Ryan's Chicken Tikka Masala on Pioneer Woman, swapped cabrito (goat meat!) in for the chicken, and finally, at long last, had something that didn't serve as a painful reminder of my culinary inadequacies. Then John bought for me (ON my birthday, not FOR my birthday, lest we think I'm spoiled for getting a New York trip and a Paul McCartney concert as well as presents) 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. The reviews from everywhere have been glowing, and if last night's meal (Ginger Chicken with Peanuts and Coconut, or Murghi Ni Curry) is any indication, it is my new Indian bible.

Iyer's voice is personable, the recipes are clear and easy to follow, and the flavors you will get are, at least to this white girl's palate, delicious and very authentic. I should probably cook more from this book before I endorse it so avidly, but I had to share with you my success. There is a fair amount of prep work to get the ginger paste and garlic paste ready for use (thank goodness Claire was here to peel the fifty cloves of garlic while I was peeling and chopping eight ounces of ginger), but once they're made you're about a half hour away from an incredible Indian meal. I will happily cook a dish from it for you in order to convince you of my sincerity.


tipsybaker said...

I, too, remember my first Indian food -- in New York City -- and the reaction was similar. Your book sounds wonderful. If you're ever looking for additional titles: Julie Sahni's books are great, as are Madhur Jaffrey's.

Eric said...

"I will happily cook a dish from it for you in order to convince you of my sincerity."

Really? That would be great! Do you deliver to Japan as well? :)

I love Indian food as well. We have a nice place here near where I live. For some reason it is always deserted, but it never goes out of business....

highdeekay said...

I wants.

Also, bless Hyrum. He may not have been THE ONE but he brought Indian food to your life.

Jill said...

your blog is torture to read for this hungry, yet lazy pregnant lady! We still need to try out that Indian place I told you about. Do I hear a VM meeting being called this month??:-)

Layne said...

Tipsy--there is actually an endorsement from Madhur Jaffrey on the back cover, which I looked at and went, "Okay, this will work."

Eric--that is interesting to know. I always wonder what the ethnic food situation is like in other countries, and how available foreign ingredients are.