ST. HELENA, Calif. — Indian cuisine is generally known for its use of vegetables, as a large portion of India's population is vegetarian. And Indian restaurants, along with many cuisines from Asia, seem to be popping up everywhere.
Two Indian cuisine chefs, Suvir Saran, consultant and author, and Neela Paniz, owner of Neela's in Napa, Calif., presented their ideas of how to incorporate authentic and innovative Indian flavors onto menus in the U.S at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone's Flavor, Quality and American Menus leadership retreat Sept. 9-12 in St. Helena, Calif.
"Indian food is only daunting because there's a huge list of ingredients," Paniz said. "But there's no measurement specifically, it's very specific to your own taste."
Paniz made mini potato pancakes with lemon, and reminded the audience to boil the potatoes with the skin on to keep them from absorbing any extra moisture.
After the potatoes are cooled, the mashed them with bread crumbs, serrano green chilies, cilantro, lemon juice and salt, formed them into patties, and tossed them in the fryer.
"If there's too much moisture, it will fall apart in the fryer," Paniz said.
She also demonstrated two different chutneys, one made with red chilies, garlic and cayenne, and the other with peanuts, cilantro leaves, serrano green chilies, garlic and lemon.
"You can pair the potato pancake with the chutney of your choice," Paniz said.
Saran created a red kidney bean dish with ginger, tomato and curry leaves, which had a list of ingredients 24 items long. He also demonstrated a scrambled tofu dish with Indian spices, and focused on preparation of the onions.
"You have to add water to the pan to stop the onions from browning, and also after adding cayenne to keep it from becoming brown and bitter," Saran said.
The dish also contained green peppers, fresh tomatoes and fresh cilantro.
Saran's restaurant Devi, in New York City, is the only Indian restaurant in the U.S. to earn a Michelin star, a mark of culinary excellent from The Michelin Guide. He is also author of "American Masala: 125 New Classics from My Home Kitchen" and "Indian Home Cooking."
"You'll never be poorer for taste, but you'll be poorer in weight, better in health, and we wouldn't be fighting our president over health care," Saran said of the health effects of Indian cooking.