Neither Sean nor I are Jewish, but we have close friends and relatives who are Jewish, and as such, we’ve developed a bit of knowledge about kosher Indian food. When it comes to super strict rules for food preparation, kitchens, and eating, I completely understand. My extended family in South India are all pure vegetarians. They don’t even eat eggs. In fact, meat, poultry, and fish are not even allowed in the house. So for someone like me, it doesn’t faze me when I hear about people keeping kosher or maintaining a kosher kitchen. I totally get it.
If you’re Jewish and you keep kosher and you’re an adventurous eater, then you know all about kosher Indian food. There are fantastic blogs like The Shiksa in the Kitchen and Jamie Geller’s Joy of Kosher that detail the history of Jews in different parts of India and the variety of Indian dishes one can plan for Shabbat (Sabbath), high holidays, or any other night of your kosher week. There are countless recipes online for Indian-style ‘cholent’ for instance. Just Google it, you’ll see. But how many of you regularly make kosher Indian food at home? Is it more of a special, one-off affair of going to a kosher Indian restaurant ?
Here’s a little story about my official introduction to Kosher Indian Cooking…
My friend Brie is an Orthodox Jew and keeps kosher. When Sean and I were living in Boston during his PhD days at MIT, Brie lived down the street from us. Brie and her husband Derek LOVE Indian food, and always look forward to visits to the Big Apple because of the wide variety of ethnic kosher restaurants.
One night when we were over at her place, I noticed she had several packages of vacuum-packed Indian entrees that are vegetarian and certified kosher. At one point I’d seen them at Costco and bought a package of vacuum-packed chick peas curry to try it out, but, well, let’s just say I much prefer my own homemade version. I explained to Brie and Derek that rather than stock up on packaged Indian entrees that are loaded with sodium–yes, albeit kosher, I know–that they could easily make kosher Indian food at home. And it would taste way better. Sure, it will take longer than the 90 seconds to zap the package in the microwave, but only a matter of minutes, really. And in my humble, non-kosher opinion, totally worth the effort. Less preservatives and less sodium and less calories. Nutrition labels apply to all of us, folks.
A couple of weeks later, in Brie and Derek’s kosher kitchen, Sean and I showed them how to create an elegant kosher Indian dinner that they could do any time for their community of friends. Here is the menu we created for that cold day in November 2010, which was a feast that warmed us all up with spice, herbs, heat, and all around deliciousness.
Ina & Sean’s Inaugural Kosher Indian Menu
Brie & Derek’s House ~ November 6, 2010
Latke-style potato fritters with sweet corn, garam masala and scallions
Glatt lamb mince kebabs marinated in fresh cilantro, green onion, and mint leaves, served in naan with tamarind and mint chutney
Smoked eggplant slow roasted with nigella seeds, dry red chilli, cumin, mustard seeds and scented with paprika, turmeric, and coriander
Rice & Naan
Basmati rice with cumin seed, green peas and roasted onions
To prepare for the dinner, Sean and I learned about the definition of ‘glatt’ and that our menu could include either meat+vegetables OR vegetables+dairy but NO meat+dairy. So in other words, chicken marinated in yogurt was off the table. No pun intended. We ordered glatt ground lamb from the local kosher butcher for our homemade kebabs, where Brie also picked up the biggest, plumpest glatt chicken wings we had ever seen to make Curried Glatt Chicken Wings with a Sweet and Spicy Coconut Glaze. We marinated the colossal wings in curry powder and then baked them in the oven, as Sean slowly basted them with a coconut curry glaze until the flavors were sealed in so that the skin was crispy and the wings were juicy, bursting with the taste of tender coconut and smoky curry. Those wings were decadent and rich with deep flavors — and were the best chicken wings any of us had ever tasted!!! Even now, we still talk about them…