HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

Help with Indian cooking?

My husband and I love Indian food, and I've spent several years working on home versions of our favorite dishes. The one I absolutely cannot get right is chicken tikka masala (and yes, I know this isn't an authentic Indian dish, but it's one of our favorites).

Every time it turns out the same: a lumpy, thick, overly-spiced gravy. I have tried literally a dozen different recipes, from the Internet (Epicurious, All Recipes, Food.com, etc.), and from the two Indian cookbooks I own. While some of the versions I have made have been pretty good, they taste absolutely nothing like what you get in any Indian restaurant.

I use good quality spices. I use ghee for sauteing. I stir fry the spices to make them fragrant. I guess what I'm saying is, I'm pretty sure it's not my technique, but the recipes that are off.

So my question is, does anyone know the secret to making tikka masala that tastes like it does at a curry house?

And, in addition to taste, do you know how they get the texture to be perfectly smooth? Every recipe I have made calls for onion (usually lots). I always end up blending or food processing the sauce to try to make it smooth, but it always ends up lumpy.

Help would be greatly appreciated!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I think to analyze the problem you would need to post at least one of the recipes (or a link to one).
    Food processers do not reduce sauces to a very smooth consistency a blender would do a better job.
    In India most modern cooks have electric grinders that can reduce wet and dry ingredients to almost a perfectly smooth paste.
    Many restaurants use Tandoori cooked chicken tikkas which adds a smokey flavor to the chicken itself which may be part of what your missing.
    A couple of other common mistakes that novice Indian cooks make, browning onions and old spices

    1. Try blending the onion with a little oil before you start to fry it. I'm assuming that is is the only item in the recipe that has "bulk" and everything else is either liquid or spice that you've reduced to a powder. If need be, blend again when you finished cookind the sauce.

      Of course, if you're finding the sauce over-spiced after a long cooking, simply reduce the spicing next time.

      As you say, tikka masala is an invented dish (based on murgh makhani). But it is possible that, by following the recipes, you are getting a more "real" style of spicing and presentation than you would get in a restaurant. However, I understand you are wanting to try and replicate the restaurant dish. This is a bit tricky as, with no real standard recipe, it will vary from country to country, region to region, chef to chef - so the tikka masala in my local place may not taste or look the same as in your local place. However, a book I find useful in replicating the general style in the UK, is Kris Dhillon's "The Curry Secret" - it may available where you are.

      1. If you can get your hands on the America's Test Kitchen version, it's absolutely the best I've eaten, including in restaurants, and it's VERY simple. My hack of it (which is a bit spicier and has more sauce) just kills my local Indian joint's chicken tikka masala.

        Before I stir the chicken into the sauce, I always blitz the sauce with a stick blender to get it perfectly smooth. You can't make the sauce without onion -- it would be insipid and flavorless -- but yeah, go ahead and run it through the blender. Unless your blender's WAY worse than mine, you ought to be able to get it smooth in under a minute. Maybe press it through a sieve if you're still not happy with the texture?

        I also grill the chicken whenever I can. The ATK version has you doing a dry rub of spices and salt and then a quick dip in yogurt before the meat goes under the broiler, but the grill gives it that tandoor-ish flavor.

        Also, do make sure that you're really salting it enough. Lots of recipes don't call for anywhere near the amount of salt you'd find in a restaurant dish.

        5 Replies
        1. re: LauraGrace

          Would you be so kind as to post it, LG?

          Denverkate, are you looking for the yogurt one or the cream one?

          1. re: jvanderh

            The versions I have made use yogurt to marinate the chicken and cream in the sauce. I have tried coconut milk in the sauce to change it up, which is a nice substitute, but still nothing like the restaurant.

            1. re: jvanderh

              jvanderh, I found the recipe she mentions on Google. You have to register to see it, so I'll post it in full:

              Chicken Tikka Masala

              From Season 8: Indian Favorites, Simplified

              * Print Page
              * Shopping List

              Why this recipe works: Chicken tikka masala is arguably the single most popular Indian restaurant dish in the world. Turns out, it’s not an authentic Indian dish—it was invented in a London curry house. Without historical roots, there is no definitive recipe. The variations we found had mushy or dry chicken and sauces that were unbearably rich and/or overspiced. We wanted an approachable method for producing moist, tender chunks of chicken in a rich, lightly spiced tomato sauce.

              To season the chicken, we rubbed it with salt, coriander, cumin, and cayenne and refrigerated it for 30 to 60 minutes. Then we dipped it in yogurt mixed with oil, garlic, and ginger and broiled it. And since large pieces don’t dry out as quickly as smaller ones under the broiler, we cooked the chicken breasts whole, cutting them into pieces only after cooking. While the chicken was cooking, we made the masala sauce. Masala means “hot spice,” and the ingredients in a masala sauce depend on the whim of the cook, although tomatoes and cream are always present. We added onions, ginger, garlic, chile, and a readily available commercial garam masala spice mixture. A little tomato paste and sugar gave our sauce color and sweetness. (less)

              Why this recipe works: Chicken tikka masala is arguably the single most popular Indian restaurant dish in the world. Turns out, it’s not an authentic Indian dish—it was invented in a London cur...(more)

              Serves 4 to 6

              This dish is best when prepared with whole-milk yogurt, but low-fat yogurt can be substituted. For a spicier dish, do not remove the ribs and seeds from the chile. If you prefer, substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper for the garam masala. The sauce can be made ahead, refrigerated for up to 4 days in an airtight container, and gently reheated before adding the hot chicken. Serve with basmati rice.
              Ingredients
              Chicken Tikka

              * 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
              * 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
              * 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
              * 1 teaspoon table salt
              * 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts , trimmed of fat
              * 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (see note above)
              * 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
              * 2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
              * 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

              Masala Sauce

              * 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
              * 1 medium onion , diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
              * 2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
              * 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
              * 1 fresh serrano chile , ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced (see note above)
              * 1 tablespoon tomato paste
              * 1 tablespoon garam masala (see note above)
              * 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
              * 2 teaspoons sugar
              * 1/2 teaspoon table salt
              * 2/3 cup heavy cream
              * 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

              Instructions

              * 1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.
              * 2. FOR THE SAUCE: Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
              * 3. While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.
              * 4. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.

              1. re: denverkate

                Just saw this. Thanks so much for taking the trouble!!

            2. DenverKate!

              I love making chicken tikka masala. Though it isn't really pure Indian, it does taste super yummy. The good news is I can fix your problem! The recipe I use is from Vikas Khanna, it's really really good and he is a world class Indian chef. He converts his version for home chefs so it doesn't make massive amounts of chicken.

              The bad news is it's in video form so you'll have to watch it and write down ingredients. You'll also have to add some ingredients by feel as amounts aren't always mentioned, but I've never had a problem. I had them in a text file but it's gone now :(.

              BTW, to make the chicken, I just broil the marinated pieces in an oven on both sides to sub for the tandoor, draining as necessary.

              Here is a link to the video: http://www.ifood.tv/video/chicken_tik...

              make sure you watch it and write rather than try find a text version! :D

              Also, there is NO raw onion iirc, though you could add some granulated or minced onion if you wanted to. People go crazy when I make this. I've even substituted cream with milk blended with OO and still had good results, so it's fairly forgiving. Also, I don't usually put in the cashews so don't feel like you have to to get a good result. The sauce is very smooth as only pastes and spices/granulated stuff are used when I make it.

              Just search google for a garam masala recipe, usually buying it in stores is a ripoff. I found that I had most of the ingredients already, and the recipe only calls for a pinch.

              edit: Also, you'll never really find two identical recipes for chicken tikka masala, so if you had a really good one somewhere it might be hard to replicate. I don't think this one will disappoint though, it's really good.

              This recipe is definitely worth it, Vikas is the man. Trust me on this one. :D

              1. Sorry, but Tabla in NYC and Bombay Cafe in LA do/did not serve "authentic regional Indian cuisine". I can't speak of the others as I have not been, but while both of these restaurants are/were good, they were not traditional or authentic. I also have the Bombay Cafe cookbook, and many of the recipes in there are not true indian dishes, but are more of a play on indian cuisine, or a fusion. Neela Paniz says in he book that she made up most of the recipes, and that they were created to cater to the clientele here in LA.

                I agree with what kayalten said about most indian restaurants in the US loading the food up with ghee and cream. It's an easy way to make it taste good. But "everyday" indian home food is not cooked that way at all. I cook punjabi food but with a south indian flair sometimes (Singaporean influence). A typical home meal for us would be masoor dal, chicken prepared in a dry masala and rice. Minimal oil, no ghee or cream. But if I went to an North Indian restaurant, they would have Dal Makhani, or dal made with butter (or cream, depending on the restaurant) -- that is the typical restaurant dal offering. south Indian restaurans would have sambhar as their dal offering. No one ever offers the other doezen types of dals. Same with chicken -- people think of chicken tikka masala as the quintessential indian restaurant chicken dish. It's not even indian -- it's a British invention, and most people don't make it at home.

                I do agree with the expired product at the indian store. I frequent 3 stores in my area, depending on what I need or what part of town I'm in. I check the dates on everything, especially items like dry snacks, and packaged instant mixes and foods. Oftentimes they will be expired or close to expiring. I don't worry about spices, but if I'm buying a pack of gits Dosa Mix, I don't want one that expired 3 months ago. One store here had a problem with crossing out expiration dates with a black marker so you couldn't tell what it said. I stopped going there.

                2 Replies
                1. re: boogiebaby

                  I am not saying that that bad Indian food does not exist or that the majority of restaurants in the USA serve good or authentic Indian food. She did not say "most" and to paint a whole ethnic group and it restaurants with statements like,
                  "Profit making with least investment is the biggest thing for Indians, particulary when pursuing the American Dream."
                  "The Indian restaurant food in US is a joke."
                  "The restaurants use a pre maid sauce-one for vegetable, one for chicken, one for lamb, end of story!"
                  is not only ludicrous but offensive and bigoted.
                  As for authenticity Indian cuisine is alive and evolving all the time. I met with ,cooked with many Indian chef and home cooks all over western India and I can tell you that there is no one way to do many of the dishes I learned. Each family, village,ethnic group, area have their way of doing things. Just like everywhere else people are looking for "new" dishes and chefs and cooks inside and outside India invent and innovate that does not make their dishes not authentic. Singaporean food draws from all over the place it does not make Chai tow kway or Kari Lemak Ayam not authentic.

                  1. re: boogiebaby

                    kayalten, ghee and cream are expensive; thus, your thesis of the supposed "greed" of proprieters contradicts facts.

                    plus, the indian resto we go to does not load up with cream and ghee.

                    i just find your multiple gross generalizations to be over the top. please give us a break already; we're not unsophisticated dunces here (or at the vast majority of us ;-).

                    PS, if our indian resto EVER uses a pre-maid sauce, i'm suing them. that's also a reportable offense -- a level one felony, maybe.

                  2. Indians may buy spice mixes, but we start off with separate ground spices, and of course whole spices.

                    I can't imagine any Indian kitchen without, at the very least, turmeric, chili powder, ground coriander, cumin powder, some sort of garam masala (a mix, but not a "store mix"), and several more basic ground spices - regionally dependent. They are stored in round tins - it's very colorful.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: fadista

                      fadista, i'm pretty. darn. sure. that mr. barnes is quite aware of this.

                      1. re: fadista

                        I don't think we're in disagreement. My primary focus was on the use of the word "all." As in kayalten's admonition to "buy **all** your spice powder separate." I don't dispute for a moment that most South Asians in the US use individual spices. It's just that many or most of them use spice mixes, too.

                        And then there's the implied assumption that spices should be bought in powdered form. While it makes sense to pre-grind anything that will get used up quickly, the shelf life after grinding is fairly short. Spices that are going to sit around for very long will do better if left whole until just before use.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          Besides, you use a lot of whole spices in Indian cooking. Or at least I do.

                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                            True dat. But then you can economize by buying in larger quantities. No matter how much you spice your food, a 1-pound bag of cumin lasts more than a few weeks unless you're cooking for an army.

                      2. How about tweaking one of your recipes? For example if the sauce is too thick, add more liquid. If overly spiced, less spice.

                        As to the lumpiness, are the 'lumps' the vegetables such as the onions? In some Indian dishes the sauce cooks long enough so the onions breakdown and thicken the sauce, but that requires more than a hour of cooking. Some times the onions and spices are blended into a puree before cooking.

                        1. Slightly relevant thoughts:
                          - As another poster writes, "curry powder" is not an Indian spice. If you see this, run away.
                          - Indian cooking is not like baking. Recipes are an "andaaz," or estimate - usually after the fact.
                          - Ok, something useful: do you have any Indian friends? Ask them to invite you over to cook together!

                          1. I am having trouble answering your question because I am not sure what you are looking for, other than smoothness. I also dont believe in "overspiced" when it comes to Indian food--I ususally double or triple the spices in any recipe. I think there is a personal preference factor at work here.

                            My general advice for Indian cooking is to double or more so the spices and aromatics in any recipe (onion, garlic, etc.). Second, cook each of the individual steps much longer than the recipe specifies. I learned from my mother, and the look of certain steps, especially cooking down the masala, is most important. Jule Sahni does a good job of explaining the way to cook onions, for example. but you are overall pleased with your other Indian dishes, so that's why I am not sure this is any help. tikka masala tastes differently at different restaurants though.

                            of course, this is completely ridiculous:
                            >Profit making with least investment is the biggest thing for Indians, particulary when pursuing the American Dream.

                            1. Regional diversity must play a part in the popularity of spice mixes (whether boxed or paste in jar). Many mixes have a region as part of the name, Balti and Kashmiri come to mine. I can imagine an Indian (in India or abroad) using her own mix for the dishes she grew up with, but using a store bought mix when making a dish from another part of India.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: paulj

                                Paulj, you are absolutely correct. Shan Masala is Pakistani but really has a North Indian kind of original Delhi spicing...is suitable for Punjabi, U.P. and surrounding areas, and Southern Pakistani cooking. Would be useless for say, Keralite cooking.

                                MDH is "Bombay style" kind of having Northern and Southern features in flavor (like garam masala-ey stuff plus ground curry leaves). There are loads of Southern brands, variations on say Sambhar masala depending on whether you would want Malabari, Andhra, or Madrasi taste.

                                Same is true for Pakistani and Indian pickle brands, very regional based on brand origin.

                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                  So true. The curry powder of choice in our household - which was commonly used by my Andrha MIL - was 777 brand. For some reason, largely having to do with packaging I believe, I can't find 777 brand curry powder in the US for love nor money. I did come across some 777 rasam powder (unexpired) which was still packaged the way I remember 777 curry powder being packaged 30 years ago - cheap paper label, tin can that you had to cut open with an old style "can knife" (like a camping can opener that you jabbed in the top and scooched around to rip the can open). The printing on the label was a little blurry from the combination of cheap ink on cheap paper. More "popular" brands in this country have much slicker packaging.

                                  Anyway the 777 curry powder had curry leaves in it. It was an Andrha style curry powder. It had comparatively little turmeric in it. Other than that all I can say for sure is that it was nothing like any other curry powder I've ever bought. If I could find it I would buy it, cheap packaging or no cheap packaging.

                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                    I got curious and went and looked this up again. I still can't find a US source, but it does seem they've upgraded their packaging:

                                    http://www.sgr777foods.com/Powders001...

                                    It's been probably 3 years since the last time I made a concerted effort to find the stuff. Last time I looked they had no web presence that I could find. Just some mentions on Indian business websites.

                                    The weird thing is that I've seen the pickles and I routinely buy their papadums, but even when I ask I'm told I can't get the curry powder. Maybe it's time to try again.

                              2. salt and fat: the sine qua non of successful indian food in the united states.

                                17 Replies
                                1. re: sushigirlie

                                  i think this board should be officially renamed as the "gross over-generalizations" board.

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Or the split off that should have occurred with the silliness that started in November which has nothing to do with the original.

                                    1. re: chefj

                                      It has everything to do with the original. The OP's most likely problem is that she didn't use enough salt and cream.

                                      1. re: sushigirlie

                                        This is a great thread because I work in an area with several Indian restaurants and markets. I do like the food I get but have not been able to replicate it at home but do think it has a lot of oil and/or cream in it. The exception is a South Indian restaurant where the food is much lighter. I am pretty good at cooking most cuisines but Indian is difficult and I would like to improve at it. A great place to buy spices on line is World Spice Merchants. Great selection, prices and its very fresh. I have used their Madras curry powder and while it is high quality and fresh I don't like the resulting flavor so I would agree its better to use individual spices.

                                        1. re: pantani

                                          I recommend Raghavan Iyer's book 660 curries. Lots of interesting regional Indian cuisine without the heaviness of the dishes so common in U.S. Indian restaurants.

                                          1. re: pantani

                                            Indian restaurants that aren't sort of generic Indian Palace type places, but are regional specialist restos, are serving authentic, home-style Indian food, which is why the South Indian resto is less creamy. Cream is not used in South Indian cooking anyway, richness comes from oil temperings as well as coconut usage.

                                            1. re: pantani

                                              Once again, I am glad I was not drinking anything when I read a chowhound posting.

                                              It's hilarious because in India, S. Indian food has the reputation of being very high calorie, with the use of lots and lots of ghee or mustard oil. In the north they are (or were) typically more into tandoori style dishes and they use more yoghurt and breads which are baked like naan. In south India, Puri (which is deep fried) is King, running neck and neck with chappati (also fried but not deep fried). In fact every time I've eaten with S. Indian friends or relatives there is a metal bowl with a little spoon in it filled with warmed ghee which you drizzle over whatever is on your plate.

                                              I'm sure there are health conscious S. Indians also, as well as N. Indians who love their ghee just as much, but the South of India has pretty much the same reputation as the Southern part of the US. Tasty tasty fried foods and lots of butter, LOL!

                                              I think it's because so much of Indian restaurant cuisine in this country is based on N. Indian cuisine, and they use a lot of cream and oil to make the usually yoghurt based dishes more "suitable" to an American palate which doesn't usually handle the tang yoghurt gives a dish all that well. I've never seen anything come out of an Indian kitchen that looks like the stuff swimming in gravy you usually find as standard restaurant fare here.

                                              1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                "I think it's because so much of Indian restaurant cuisine in this country is based on N. Indian cuisine, and they use a lot of cream and oil to make the usually yoghurt based dishes more "suitable" to an American palate which doesn't usually handle the tang yoghurt gives a dish all that well."

                                                Yes, precisely. I do think Americans would find authentic N. Indian/Mughlai/Punjabi dishes that are represented in generic Indian-American restos to be oily in peoples' homes. But never creamy. The dish that many Americans love, saag paneer, is so dissimilar to the healthy ways that greens are treated in peoples' homes. In restos I have seen saag paneer with so much cream in it that it was actually spongy and pale greenish white flecked with spinach.

                                                I didn't know that S. Indians also eat lots of puris and chapati (which may have a drop of oil in the dough, but is not actually pan fried, I think you are thinking of paraatha), I always associate those foods with the North and think of Southerners as rice and dosa people (or regionally similar to dosa like appam). Actually, the stereotype is that South Indians are thick and "healthy" (husky) because of the coconut they use, including coconut oil. I don't know much about Andhra food, though...maybe regions outside of Hyderabad have also been affected by the Hyderabadi cuisine, which does have distinct Southern-touch versions of all Northern Mughlai/Muslim foods due to the history there...so wheat flat breads, yoghurt based gravy dishes, etc are all there...so maybe that is where these puris and chapattis are coming in?

                                                A drizzling of fresh desi ghee makes EVERYTHING taste better!

                                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                                  Coconut's really common along the coast, but it wasn't used so much inland. Maybe more than in the North? Ghee, Mustard oil, and peanut oil were the fats of choice among my S. Indian relatives.

                                                  Nope, I'm thinking of chappati. It's the same dough as puri only rolled a little thicker, then fried using oil on a flat griddle. My MIL did this with her fingers, a trick I have NEVER been able to duplicate. I did finally manage it with a pair of tongs, LOL!

                                                  Paratha is seen as a breakfast thing, at least in Andrha, and is still considered a "Northern" bread there. It's usually stuffed, and it's folded over and layered. Once it's cooked it's sort of puffy, not like a puri which inflates like a ballon but not flat either. I think it was originally a Punjabi thing.

                                                  Then there's roti, which is apparently pretty much just chappati only cooked with no oil. Not popular in my ex's family. And they preferred dosai over paratha for breakfast.

                                                  Naan is made with all purpose flour and it's kind of like pita, only fatter. I think that's usually baked in a tandoor. If it's cooked on the griddle, it gets called "roti" which is confusing because flat bread made with whole wheat flour and cooked without oil on the griddle is sometimes also called roti. In fact I didn't know about whole wheat roti until pretty recently so I always thought of roti as stove-top naan.

                                                  The whole question of what's the difference between roti and chappati becomes very confusing once you start calling some whole wheat flatbreads roti as well as the all purpose variety. All I can say is my S. Indian relatives call what I make chapati.

                                                  Then there's phulka and kulcha which I really don't know anything about.

                                                  And Bhatura, which is like a deep fried version of naan.

                                                  Chapati and puri were the big winners of the Indian Bread Races in my ex's family. They had chappati with nearly every meal, but puri were a special occasion kind of thing or something they got going out because of the extra trouble trying to deep fry on a gas burner on the floor. In a sari. In the heat. I don't mind making it in my air conditioned kitchen while standing at the stove, but I wouldn't want to make it often that way either, LOL!

                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                    Are your ex-ILs Telugu speakers?

                                                    Yes, the coconut oil thing for Southies is a stereotypes, the giant and diverse region is much more nuanced than that.

                                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                                      Yup. I tried to learn Telegu. Failed. Didn't help that my ex kept making fun of my attempts to speak it.

                                                      English grammar didn't work. Spanish grammar didn't work. And I couldn't get him to explain Telegu grammar to me. And I memorized the entire 52 letter alphabet, too!

                                                      So I know like three words still.

                                                      Palu = milk
                                                      Jedu = braid
                                                      cupu = cup

                                                      The big joke was that if you stuck "oo" on the end of an English word, that turned it into Telegu. So cup was cupu, pen was penu, train was trainu. LOL!

                                                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                        We had Telugu speaking neighbors for several years, and shared some food. Many of the items that they gave us were deep fried, legume fritters and such. But these were the special items, not every day cooking. And when one of the grandmas was visiting we got idli, the light steamed breads.

                                                    2. re: ZenSojourner

                                                      Your Telugu (BTW the vowel in the middle is "u" not "e" - i.e. Telugu not Telegu; and it is Andhra not Andrha - sorry for seeming picky but these details are not irrelevant) relatives used *mustard oil* in their cooking?

                                                      Are you sure it was mustard oil and not sesame oil?

                                                      Southern Indian cooking (all the regions) is my native territory and I have never heard of this before. I only know of mustard oil used in Eastern Indian cooking. Sesame oil OTOH is common in Southern Indian cooking. I have heard of mustard seeds and paste used in Southern cooking, never mustard oil.

                                                      Phulka is just another name for roti/chapati, the name simply means "puffed up". Refers to when you put the chapati directly on the flame and the air inside puffs up.
                                                      Kulchas are sort of siblings to bhaturas - made of white flour, fried (not deep fried).

                                              2. re: sushigirlie

                                                Not talking about the advice just the generalizations.
                                                But now that you mention it "Every time it turns out the same: a lumpy, thick, overly-spiced gravy." doesn't sound like too little fat or salt is the problem.
                                                In addition what does Indian grocers, restaurateurs and immigrants social morals have to do with the posters problem of makind Chicken Tikka Masala??

                                                1. re: chefj

                                                  The problem is that tikka masala is pretty much a restaurant dish. I've never worked in an Indian restaurant so I haven't a clue how it's made there. Because it's a sort of a made-up dish, the normal rules of Indian cooking (in ANY style) don't really apply to it. So I can't begin to guess what's wrong with it or how to make it come out like it does in the restaurant. It doesn't follow ANY of the "normal" rules of cooking that I know.

                                                  I'd help if I could. It's just that I'm not sure any of the advice I have is at all meaningful.

                                                  As for making a smooth thick sauce, they use cornstarch in restaurants to get that consistency. It's like making gravy. And they may (I only say MAY, it's a total guess) be using onion powder instead of whole onions, in part or in whole.

                                                  I've seen tikka masala on buffets and I've tried it a time or two, but I just don't care for it so I'm not all that familiar with how to make it "right".

                                                  S. Indian cooks do use cream but generally pretty sparingly. The exception to that seems to be similar to the Indian food you get here - some Northern dishes that have wended their way south get made with cream, especially if it's a meat dish. My recipe for butter chicken, for instance, learned from a Hyderabadi cousin, calls for cream. My guess is that when people travel they have something they like and then go home and try to recreate it without knowing much about the cooking style of the region it originated in, so you get local variations of recipes that are not true to the original, but after hundreds of years they're ensconced in the local traditions so are now "authentic" to that region.

                                                  That's the wonderful thing about food. It EVOLVES.

                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                    You know that my response was to Sushigirlie , who was responding to a response I made to Aklapal who had made a response to Sushigirlie first comment on the post ( wow! , I need a breath after that.). I was in no way saying that people should not put in their Ideas.

                                                    1. re: chefj

                                                      I didn't mean to imply that you had. Also didn't realize I was responding to you specifically instead of the thread as a whole.

                                                      SO I apologize if I made you feel like I was somehow targeting you in any way. It was not my intent.

                                        2. I found this recipe for tikka masala while looking for something else. Don't know if it will help or not:

                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/580698

                                          They're talking about tandoori chicken at the top but there's a posting about 3 or 4 down that talks about tikka masala.

                                          Hope this helps.

                                          1. Hi there, the key to getting that great makhani gravy is to strain the gravy. Also, the makhani gravy does not need onions and must have kasoori Methi. ( dried fenugreek leaves, that give it s distinctive fragrance). GIve this recipe a try and let me know how it turns out.

                                            Here's what I do:

                                            Roughly chop tomatoes, add ginger+ garlic paste, green chillies(thai chillies, deseed them if you don't want it too spicy), cloves, green cardamom & salt. Let this simmer till the tomatoes are reduced to pulp. Remove from heat and strain the gravy( medium sieve is fine)
                                            Return the gravy to heat and at this point add kasoori methi and butter ( pref unsalted ). At this point, taste the gravy and add honey as per your desired sweetness level.
                                            To get the smoky flavor, use a piece of burning charcoal and infuse it in the gravy. But this can get icky, consider yourself warned.
                                            Add your chicken/paneer and finish off with cream.

                                            You can add a paste of cashew, walnut or almond as a variation. Adding whole red Kashimr chillies will give the gravy a vibrant red hue but this is optional. Kasoori methi can be found at most Indian grocery stores sold under the brand MDH. Good luck!

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: vaparna

                                              """To get the smoky flavor, use a piece of burning charcoal and infuse it in the gravy."""

                                              now that's a new one on me!

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                I am guessing this means giving a dish "dhungar" or placing a live hunk of coal in a ghee or oil filled cup made of an onion or aluminum foil, then closing the pot and allowing the smoke to perfume the food. You are supposed to remove the coal once it cools, and pour the remaining ghee/oil into the dish for more flavor, but you may disgard the oil if you want. I've never done this to a wet gravy dish, though. It is common for certain styles of kabaabs and a few other dishes.

                                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                                  interesting. how is it done for kababs?

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    This method is integral in certain pan fried kabaabs which are meant to have a smokey taste, not grilled or tandoori kababs. This would be like galawati kababs, kakori kababs, etc. Also, if you make traditionally grilled/tandoori kabaabs or tikka in your house on the stove top or in the oven, you can simulate smoked flavor with this method...like bihari kabaabs, seekh kabaabs, and so on. You can give the dhungar right before the final stages of cooking in some kabaabs and in others, right after they are cooked and before you serve. This can also be done for veg kabaabs.

                                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                                      """
                                                      Dhungar This is quick smoke procedure used to flavour a meat dish, dals or even raita. The smoke very effectively permeates every grain of the ingredients and imparts a subtle aroma, which enhances the quality of the dish. The procedure may be carried out either at the intermediate or the final stage of cooking. This is a common technique employed while making kababs. The method is as follows: In a shallow utensil or a lagan in which the meat or mince has been marinated, a small bay is made in the centre and a katori or onionskin or even a betel leaf (depending on the dish) is placed. On it a piece of live coal is placed and hot ghee, sometimes mixed with aromatic herbs or spices, is poured over it and covered immediately with a lid to prevent the smoke from escaping. The coal is then removed from the utensil and the meat put through further cooking processes.""""
                                                      http://www.mid-day.com/smd/2004/jun/8...

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        Yes, I was referring to dhungar. I use aluminium foil..I accidentally dropped it in the gravy once and found the flavor was interesting!

                                            2. Weird. Is there really such a thing as an overly spiced Indian dish? My problem has always been that my Indian dishes taste like they are missing something in the spice department. I do love watching Aarti Party and I think she has the trick. You put the spices in hot oil first and THEN add to the recipe. The hot oil brings out the full potential of the spices.

                                              Not sure about your lumpiness. Are you making a roux first that is getting lumpy? I suggest trying to saute in olive oil instead of ghee. That might work! If nothing else look up Aarti Party and Indian Food Made Easy. ; )

                                              18 Replies
                                              1. re: MrsJTW

                                                i wouldn't use olive oil instead of ghee. plain vegetable oil would be a more neutral flavor that i'd suggest instead. wesson is good for this.

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  I just usually use olive oil mostly for the health benefits. I don't use it much anymore, but always used canola instead of vegetable oil. Seems all the chefs on tv usually cook with olive oil as well.

                                                  1. re: MrsJTW

                                                    I've tried using it in Indian recipes and it tastes wrong. This might actually be the problem you're having with the taste of your recipes. The most common oils used in S. India are ghee, peanut oil, and mustard oil. Well, maybe not the most common, but at least the most highly preferred. I don't think any of those are exactly low cholesterol, LOL!

                                                    Any sort of regular cooking oil will do though. There definitely is a different taste from the preferred oils, but regular vegetable oil is at least neutral and won't change the taste of your dish the way I find olive oil does.

                                                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                      Thanks! The only one that would have cholesterol is the ghee. Oils might have a high fat content, but no cholesterol. ; )

                                                      1. re: MrsJTW

                                                        LOL, that's my knee-jerk reaction at work. The one that tells me "if it tastes good it must be bad for you". I was actually thinking of transfats with the two oils, but I went and looked them up, and they're both on the list of "good" cooking oils. Mustard oil may even have some protective effect against cardiovascular disease (used in moderation, which it generally is in India if for no other reason than expense). Who knows, things change in 30 years, maybe it's not even in favor any more.

                                                        At any rate you're right, it's only the ghee one might be concerned about, and probably no need to worry a lot about that as long as you don't overdo it, just as with anything.

                                                        Who said, "Moderation in all things - especially moderation"?

                                                        Thomas Payne? Or Benjamin Franklin?

                                                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                          Ha I like that-"Moderation in all things-especially moderation!" Sounds like Franklin, but I would have to look it up. =)

                                                2. re: MrsJTW

                                                  Yes, there absolutely is such thing as an overly spiced Indian dish.

                                                  The trick is balancing and layering the spices. One must use one or two spices as a heavier layer of seasoning that compliments the particular lentil, veg, or protein, while allowing the other spices to build flavor subtly and add to the overall deliciousness of a dish.

                                                  1. re: luckyfatima

                                                    Luckyfatima -
                                                    I don't mean to insult you by asking this, as I know this is not a true Indian dish, but, do you ever make Murg Makhani? If so, could you approximate a recipe? I've tried to find a prepackaged spice mix, and all are severely lacjking. In the Chicaago restaurants I go to that have butter chicken, most of them taste the same, so I'm thinking it's a prepackaged spice blend, although it could be some standard (ish) recipe. again, I know it's not really an Indian dish, but I'm wondering (actualy hoping) you have a recipe or hint on a prepackaged mix you can share.

                                                    1. re: gordeaux

                                                      gordeaux, i don't want nor intend to preempt luckyfatima.

                                                      however, i suggest that you look up the madhur jaffrey or julie sahni recipes. i know you've had to have seen the several threads discussing murgh makhani! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/503280

                                                      sahni: http://www.spicelines.com/2007/02/rec...

                                                      ~~~~~
                                                      i like this, too, but for the honey and excessive cream: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/makhani...
                                                      actually, these days i like to just put cooked chicken tikka in a masala sauce without the cream. ctm for me! one of the most important aspects is the good marinade for the chicken, and then getting some char on the edges here and there.

                                                      i believe someone said that shan had a good mix that could be used to approximate butter chicken. mostly it is garam masala.

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        A friend who used to cook in a highly rated London gastropub said that the Murgh Makhani recipe in Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Meat Book is stunning. You can Google and find it online.

                                                        1. re: themags

                                                          while looking for that, i came across gordon ramsay's version, which actually looks a heckuva lot more complex than the online sahni recipe "adaptation."

                                                          i esp. like the ADDITIONAL cardamom and coriander here http://www.channel4.com/food/recipes/... in addition to the garam masala in other recipes: http://www.channel4.com/food/recipes/...

                                                          Serves 4
                                                          Ingredients
                                                          800g boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3-4cm pieces
                                                          2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely crushed
                                                          2cm ginger, peeled and finely grated
                                                          ½ tsp fine sea salt
                                                          ½ tsp hot chilli powder
                                                          1½ tbsp lemon juice
                                                          75ml natural yoghurt
                                                          ½ tsp garam masala
                                                          ½ tsp ground turmeric
                                                          1 tsp ground cumin
                                                          1-2 tbsp vegetable oil, for brushing
                                                          For the sauce:
                                                          1½ tbsp ghee or melted unsalted butter
                                                          2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
                                                          2cm ginger, peeled and finely chopped
                                                          1 cardamom pod, seeds lightly crushed
                                                          2 cloves
                                                          1 tsp ground coriander
                                                          1 tsp garam masala
                                                          1 tsp ground turmeric
                                                          1 tsp hot chilli powder, or to taste
                                                          275ml tomato puree
                                                          1 tbsp lemon juice
                                                          40g unsalted butter
                                                          100ml double cream
                                                          1 tbsp chopped coriander, to garnish

                                                          ~~~~~~~~~
                                                          ~~~~~~~~~

                                                          will keep looking for the river cottage recipe.

                                                          aha! here it is (and i like the ground fenugreek in THIS recipe):
                                                          http://www.grouprecipes.com/9475/murg...

                                                          750g/1.6lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
                                                          For the Tikka marinade:
                                                          1 teaspoon salt
                                                          2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
                                                          1 tablespoon lemon juice
                                                          2 tablespoons garam masala
                                                          2 teaspoons chilli powder
                                                          2.5 teaspoons ground coriander
                                                          1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
                                                          1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
                                                          1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
                                                          2 teaspoons ground fenugreek
                                                          2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
                                                          4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
                                                          2 tablespoons groundnut (or sunflower) oil
                                                          For the tomato sauce:
                                                          2 x 400g/14oz tins of chopped tomatoes plus their juice
                                                          1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
                                                          2 cloves garlic, crushed
                                                          5 cloves
                                                          1 teaspoon salt
                                                          175ml/6 fl. oz water
                                                          For the makhani sauce:
                                                          100g/3.5oz butter
                                                          2 teaspoons ground cumin
                                                          tomato sauce (as above
                                                          )2 teaspoons tomato puree
                                                          4 teaspoons honey
                                                          150ml/5 fl. oz double/heavy cream
                                                          1 tablespoon ground fenugreek
                                                          1 tablespoon lemon juice
                                                          1 teaspoon ground black pepper
                                                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                                          now i guess i'll have to haul out my books to compare. ;-).

                                                          ~~~~~~~~~~
                                                          one thing for sure, have lemon juice ready to perk up the flavors, and fresh coriander leaves to top. that makes it. (i recall that bombay palace used to use bell pepper and also sliced almonds on top as garnish).

                                                        2. re: alkapal

                                                          I've tampered with the Shan Butter Chicken Masala, and it just isn't the same as the fakey restaurant version I'm after. I've tried to add / approximate what I think is missing, but I can't get it right. I think luckyfatima knows the fakey stuff I'm talking about by their post. When done right, it's really luscious even though it's got food coloring, and is probably loaded with fat. It's a guilty pleasure of mine. I suppose it's good news that I haven't really been able to fully re-create it at home!

                                                          1. re: gordeaux

                                                            ok -- i see what you are after. all i know is that when i made yhe "bombay palace" butter chicken from their cookbook, it tasted exactly the same. i don't think the online version is correct, though.

                                                        3. re: gordeaux

                                                          Insult me? Why? Yes, I have a recipe. It is slightly adapted but is originally from a close friend, a real authentic Indian woman :-) , who does cooking classes out of her house. It is an excellent recipe. Butter chicken is an "authentic" dish, it is murgh makhni or chooza makhni, a Punjabi dish. It is just that many restos make it in a very fakey way, but I happen to like the fakey way, it is yummy, so here is this restaurant style recipe:

                                                          For the Chicken Tikka part:

                                                          about 2 lbs skinless bone-in chicken thigh and drumstick mix (I hate chicken breast, especially Indian food made with chicken breast)
                                                          1 cup yoghurt
                                                          1 tbs ginger paste
                                                          1 tbs garlic paste
                                                          1 tsp each garam masala, cumin powder, coriander powder
                                                          1 tbs lime/lemon juice
                                                          orange food color
                                                          pinch of salt

                                                          Mix all ingredients for marination and marinade chicken for 4 hours or up to overnight. Cook chicken as you like, by broiling in oven, baking, or even cooking in lightly oiled deep pan on stovetop (my method). It should get a browned, BBQed look, whatever method you use. You can just eat it as is as chicken tikka. For butter chicken, set aside to add to gravy once done.

                                                          For gravy:

                                                          3 tbs oil
                                                          2 onions, slice, par boil briefly, then puree (restaurant type method)
                                                          1 tbs ginger paste
                                                          1 tbs garlic paste
                                                          1 tsp or more green chiles finely chopped
                                                          (you can chop your ginger, garlic, and green chiles together in food processor)
                                                          2 medium tomatoes, puree in chopper
                                                          1 tsp or more red chili powder
                                                          1 tsp garam masala
                                                          1 tsp dried fenugreek (Qasoori methi)
                                                          3 tbs cashew nut paste (soak raw 3 tbs cashews in a little luke warm water for 15 mins, then grind with water to a paste)
                                                          1 cup water (more if needed)
                                                          pinch of orange food color (restaurant touch)
                                                          salt to taste (about 1 tsp or so)
                                                          1 tbs cream (optional restaurant touch)
                                                          2 tsp butter
                                                          pinch of shahi zeera and roasted red chili powder for garnish

                                                          Heat oil in pot. Fry onions till they are just browning and add in ginger garlic green chilies, fry for a few moments, add in pureed tomatos, cook till oil separates.

                                                          Add in cashew paste and stir for few moments. Stir in all spices, fry for a moment, add orange coloring and water, and allow to simmer for 10 mins.

                                                          Add in chicken and keep for 5 minutes or so on simmer. To finish off, keep the flame on low and stir in cream (optional, I don't use any cream, but cream will give you that restaurant touch). Turn off the flame and top with butter. Sprinkle with shahi zeera and red chili powder as garnish.

                                                          I used Bush brand red-orange biriani rangi for the food coloring. You can use American style liquid food coloring, that works, too.

                                                          1. re: luckyfatima

                                                            Thank you. I think you know the suff I am talking about. It usually comes in an orangey red gravy, and it's sooo good (in kind of a bad way.) I still think there's a prepackaged masala out there somewhere. Too many restaurants around here have too similar a product.

                                                            P.s. The last time I went out for an Indian meal, I was floored by the way they prepared their breast meat. It was absolutely luscious. It was in a gravy dish, but I swear, it was the best chicken breast I've ever had in any restaurant. I normally don't even think about ordering breast in a restaurant, and 95% of the time at home, I'll use thighs, but this chicken breast was divine. I doubt I'll ever get anything that good ever again, but I will try it at that restaurant again, that's for sure.

                                                      2. re: MrsJTW

                                                        "Is there really such a thing as an overly spiced Indian dish"

                                                        Yes. Many dishes from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan & Sri Lanka are not heavily spiced.

                                                        1. re: MrsJTW

                                                          I do take back what I said about putting the spices in oil after I have been coached by fellow chowhounds on here. Apparently you do not want to do that with ground spices. ; )

                                                          1. re: MrsJTW

                                                            Not for long, anyway, not by themselves! Better to add the ground spices with onions or other veggies.

                                                        2. OT, but related: look at ramsay's tandoori halibut recipe. http://www.channel4.com/food/recipes/...

                                                          it looks so good!

                                                          Ingredients
                                                          Halibut
                                                          4 halibut fillets, about 150g each, skinned
                                                          1 tbsp tandoori or hot madras curry paste
                                                          1 tbsp olive oil
                                                          1 tsp caster sugar
                                                          2 cucumbers, peeled
                                                          150g tub natural yogurt
                                                          Handful of mint leaves, chopped
                                                          Squeeze of lime juice
                                                          1–2 tbsp vegetable oil
                                                          100g baby leaf spinach

                                                          Tandoori curry paste - makes 75ml
                                                          1 tsp cumin seeds
                                                          1 tsp coriander seeds
                                                          2 tsp garam masala
                                                          2 tbsp sweet paprika
                                                          1 tsp hot chilli powder
                                                          Juice of ½ a lemon
                                                          2 tbsp groundnut oil
                                                          1 tsp salt
                                                          ½ tsp turmeric
                                                          1 tbsp tomato puree
                                                          3 garlic cloves, crushed
                                                          Large knob of fresh root ginger, finely grated

                                                          ~~~~~~
                                                          i've had tandoori salmon like this and it was wonderful.

                                                          1. everypne will enjoy this, i believe: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksda...
                                                            ~~~~~~
                                                            excerpt:

                                                            """To someone from the subcontinent, it is hard to believe that Indian restaurant owners in the United States are not malicious, reactionary, or in thrall to an obscure formal ideology. How else to explain what seems to be a concerted effort to trivialize a noble family of cuisines, both by reducing them all to a monotonous handful of sauces, and by violating the general structural principles that make these meals meaningful? It is well known that Indian restaurant owners are at the forefront of the right-wing movement to construct a homogenous dehistoricized South Asian identity[1], and the tragedy of Bangladeshis cooking bad Punjabi food is lost on no one. But, for the moment, let us forget that this iteration of Indian food is a particular, abstracted and displaced version of the cuisine of the Punjab and its surroundings, and that it ignores most of the other cuisines of the subcontinent. And let us forget that “Indian” food really should mean South Asian food.""""

                                                            thanks to clifford wright, linking on FB.

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              Welllll . . . it sort of depends on how seriously I'm supposed to take his recipe.

                                                              No Indian cook I know would spend 20 minutes frying 1/4c of ginger-garlic paste in 1/4c of oil, to be followed by an additional 30 minutes of frying ground spices. "Dogged" doesn't begin to describe that particular scenario!

                                                              The guy's got a Bengali name (I'm pretty sure, at least that area), which while it doesn't mean he's actually Bengali at least gives us a guess. I do know Bengalis (and people from Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, and Kerala, and Andrha, etc etc etc) and I've never seen anyone do this. Maybe it's the Indian equivalent of haute cuisine fancy cooking techniques that regular people don't adhere to because they haven't got the time?

                                                              I was taught to cook Indian food by Indian home cooks. So maybe that's all I know and what he's talking about is a 5 star chef's technique. I just know that no one I know would actually spend nearly an hour cooking herbs and spices before even adding the main ingredients. For one thing, who could afford the fuel (in India that's not a minor consideration for many households)?

                                                              I really did like his opening paragraph though. I've often wondered how the kind of bastardized N. Indian cuisine typical of many Indian restaurants ended up so firmly ensconced in American-Indian (or South Asian if you prefer) cuisine.

                                                              And the comments from one poster regarding the cooking of fresh chappati was eroding even 30 years ago. It still goes on - women in the kitchen cooking fresh chappatis while the men relax and eat their hot fresh food, then women get the leftovers. I remember being sort of shocked by this kind of gender segregation when visiting friend's homes here in the States.

                                                              But it probably looked worse here than it would have in India. I got a totally different view of this when I went to India. At least in my ex's family's homes, there was not a separate kitchen (I was told this was common at the time), and the "range" consisted of a gas "cooking ring" on the floor. SO the women were right there with everyone in the family (including other women) seated in a circle on the floor. Hot chappati were handed around as they came off the griddle. The women kind of took turns making the chappati so that everyone got a turn to sit and eat with the rest of the family. I think translating that to a separate kitchen as things are organized here in the states (and increasingly this way in India as people's general economic standing improves) doesn't work well, and more often families are getting used to making a pile of chappati (or puri or whatever the bread is) that is wrapped in foil if they have it and then in towels to keep them warm, then everyone still eats together. At least that's what I witnessed among my ex's family. Again, regions and individuals probably differ in this, just as we do in this country (I remember holiday dinners with the women in the kitchen and the menfolk sitting around smoking and talking, too, though I seldom see this to the same extent nowadays).

                                                              It's interesting anyway. I'm at least 30 years out of date since it's been that long since I've been to India and I know things have changed. Maybe someday I'll get over there to find out first hand how much and in what directions.

                                                              1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                >I was taught to cook Indian food by Indian home cooks. So maybe that's all I know and what he's talking about is a 5 star chef's technique. I just know that no one I know would actually spend nearly an hour cooking herbs and spices before even adding the main ingredients.

                                                                I was taught by Punjabi home cooks. to cook the base masala, first oil, then whole spices, then onions, then ginger garlic, then dry spices, then tomato, yogurt, etc. depending on quantities it can take an hour to get it really well cooked and homogenous. then you add the chicken.

                                                                1. re: cocktailhour

                                                                  This is how we do it as well. It's not unusual for the base masala (onions/tomatoes/garlic/ginger) to fry for 30-40 minutes to get the right doneness. In punjabi, we would say that you fry the onion, etc until they are "laal", which literally means red, but for cooking, means until they are dark brown, but not burnt. the time spent on frying also depends on how much masala you are cooking -- a 1/2 cup of masala is going to take less time to fry up than 5 cups of masala.

                                                                  1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                    http://showmethecurry.com/odds-ends/h...

                                                                    That's why I love this recipe. One big morning or afternoon of cooking and you end up with a massive batch that you can freeze for later! :)

                                                                  2. re: cocktailhour

                                                                    Sure, you cook things in order (and order varies depending on the region) - but no one I know takes an hour to do it before you get to the main ingredient!

                                                                    I guess it's a Punjabi thing then? I never have done much northern style cooking, except for Southern versions of a few dishes that originated in the North.

                                                                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                      I don't know if it's a "Punjabi" thing, it's just the way the Indian home cooks I know do it, and they are Punjabi. Julie Sahni describes the technique/ procedure in her books, too, although the time may vary some. The last time I made curry was with 6 large onions and they take a lot longer than just one onion. quantity plays a huge role.

                                                                2. re: alkapal

                                                                  Wow, I repeat myself endlessly on CH saying "faugh-Mughlai Punjabi inspired food of the Star of India Palace." It is hard to explain why this stuff is not "real" Indian food and specifically a restaurant genre of food, contrasted with regional Indian cuisines done at home. This little blurb you pasted from this blog sums it up quite well.

                                                                  His recipe is a simple and typical North Indian type aloo gosht (meat and potatoes) type recipe. As ZenSojourner pointed out, he is a Bengali, but I didn't notice anything about the recipe which stood out to me a being exclusively Bengali. This recipe could have just as easily be from Pakistani Punjab, although there it would have tomatoes in it in that case. He doesn't specify, but at home the meat would most likely be bone-in goat chunks.

                                                                3. Browsing Amazon for Indian cookbooks (including the new Phaidon one), I came across one that fits this thread, 'The Curry Secret: How to Cook Real Indian Restaurant Meals at Home'

                                                                  http://www.amazon.com/Curry-Secret-In...

                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    Excellent book if you want to replicate the taste of "Indian" restaurant dishes. Of course, seeing as restaurant cooking is not authentic cooking, and therefore subject to regional variations depending on local tastes, it may not be the taste of restaurant food where you are. However, I find it is pretty close to the food offerings of the mainly Bangladeshi-owned "high street curry house" here in the UK.

                                                                    The basic premise is that, as the restaurants do, you make a large quantity of a fairly basic tomato based sauce (which you can easily then portion out and freeze). When you come to cook your dish, it's then just a matter of adding spices to the basic mix. What you get is a decent replication of the fairly crap, heavily anglicised, gloop which most restaurants serve. I normally keep a couple of portions in the freezer for those times when I dont really want good south asian food and can't be bothered to go to the takeaway.

                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                      dont know about unreal but places that serve mostly tourists adjust and water down their cuisine substantially. Its nothing new - they had to cook for the brits for a long time after all. then too, for whatever reason of eating customs there has not been a well developed restaurant culture and choices are limited many places. Consequently It can be frustrating to get well spiced bona fide indian cuisine in India outside of people's homes..

                                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                                        i was wondering about indian restaurant culture..... especially since a well-developed restaurant culture doesn't seem to fit what i've seen about the socioeconomic conditions. i'm guessing that is changing more or less rapidly depending on increasing economic prosperity.

                                                                        how much is the class system breaking down?

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          Hmmm, that would take a long post. India has a huge middle class and an urban elite class that loves dining out. Dining out is a major thing, and there are all kinds of restos from fancy ones to mid-range ones to ones where you pull up in your car and servers bring your your hot food (when these are good these are really good!), or you stand and eat quickly at a stall. In major cities in India, you can eat dim sum and French food. European pastries, and all kinds of restos. Rajasthaani thali, Nepali thali, saatvik restaurants, vegetarian Italian, dosa places, pizza, Indian Chinese, special well known kabaab houses, biriani specialists, the list is endless. Modern Indians LOVE to eat out. There are still people concerned enough with ritual purity to not eat out, but that isn't common to find among young, metropolitan people. I realize that 70% of Indians are rural, but still you have so many cities with millions of people and huge middle class and elite populations that it makes the resto culture significant in any major city.

                                                                          Okay, about the real vs. fake Indian restaurant food: Something really important to note is that this faux Mughlai Punjabi inspired restaurant was not invented to appease Brits or Americans. This resto genre exists in India and comes from there first. It was brought to the UK by the first wave of Indian resto owners who were Punjabi and not Bangladeshi, but taken over the next wave of immigrants who happen to Bangladeshi. This spread to the US this way with Punjabi resto owners. Punjabis were both Sikhs and also Punjabis from Pakistan (Muslims). The restos have taken on Americanization in the US (and of course in the UK you can find unique items like curry with pineapple chunks and the like). It began in India though and the formula of rich, creamy food was invented to make the food seem special, luxurious, and not home like and worth going out for. Why would anyone go out for exactly what they get at home.

                                                                          Some differences from the Indian Mughlai-Punjabi type resto in India compared to US versions: In India the veg item list is much longer and all famous meat curries will have a veg option, the meat has bones and there are few boneless meat items with the exception of some kabaabs, there is a wider selection of flat breads, the curries are oilier, they have slightly more chile heat, there is food coloring in them, the menus also include Indian Chinese items like Chicken Manchurian or Hakka noodles. But it is still the same resto formula. No one has a meal with a lassi. Instead it will be a cold drink or a fresh lime soda or a fresh fruit juice.

                                                                          Anyway, the point about the faux-Mughlai/Punjabi inspired food is not that it is not found in India. Iit is that it is not authentically cooked in anyone's home (it really is NOT like Punjabi or N. Indian Muslim home cooking which has Mughal roots, and both of these cuisines are historically connected and overlap), but this version of Indian food basically represents what Indian food is in many countries, like in the US. There is no understanding of the fact that this is only one tiny sliver of the pie of what exists of Indian food.

                                                                          1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                            lucky fatima, as always, thank you for your insights and extensive information. i found it most enlightening on the dining-out culture in india and also the evolution of "restaurant food."

                                                                            1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                              I agree with every thing that you hit on in your post till the very end. There is a lot of more regionally specific and regionally respectful restaurants opening in the SFBay area. We have quite a lot of South Indian restaurants,a couple of Gujarati and some Chaat houses. Not all are great but they are pretty true to the real thing. So I think that the understanding the Indian Food is a huge and varied category is spreading. And will spread faster as there is more economic ties between the 2 countries.

                                                                            2. re: alkapal

                                                                              My two cents is that it is so hard to classify India as one thing or type of place. As lucky fatima says, there is a large middle class and upper class and they seem to eat out a lot in cities--specifically Bombay, where i have the most personal experience. I don't know the stats, but if hypothetically even 10% of India was upper middle to superrich, we are talking about 100,000,000 people.

                                                                              > Punjabis were both Sikhs and also Punjabis from Pakistan (Muslims).

                                                                              Punjabis are also Hindu and still in India. "Punjabi" itself is a diverse group.

                                                                              1. re: cocktailhour

                                                                                Yes, to be clear, Punjabis are of course Hindus also, and there is a large population of Punjabi Christians as well in both India and Pakistan. Hindu, Sikh, Musalmaan, ik saah, ik jaan, as they say in Punjabi :-D Punjab is diverse and being Punjabi is not based on religion.

                                                                                I was referring to the religious backgrounds of the Punjabis heavily involved in resto ownership. I am sure there must have been many Hindus as well.

                                                                            3. re: jen kalb

                                                                              Jen, I understand from your posts that you've traveled extensively in India. I am somewhat surprised to hear from you that "It can be frustrating to get well spiced bona fide indian cuisine in India outside of people's homes.." I grew up in central India and migrated to the US about 10 years ago as a young adult. I did not travel much in India while I was living there. But now when I visit, I find that restaurant food has gotten very spicy - both in terms of heat and pungency from spices, onion, garlic, ginger etc. I find that there is too much "masala" as we Indians call it. We ate out regularly when I lived in India. Perhaps it is just my age showing? Or perhaps it is the difference between central India of my childhood and South India where I travel more these days. A friend took us to this cool restaurant in a hip mall in Bangalore. The restaurant decor was that of a luxury train from the Raj era. Very cool bar and lounge area. Great service. But oh my, the food was so over the top spicy that I could not taste much of anything. It was also jaw droppingly rich. I just filled up on water. It was very sad really and it cost a pretty penny. I wonder if you, by virtue of being a tourist, get watered down preparations in restos in India as well. Or maybe it is the difference in which parts of India you and I have sampled from?

                                                                              1. re: sweetTooth

                                                                                In defense of jen (not that she can not defend herself) "well spiced" does not translate to over spiced.

                                                                                1. re: chefj

                                                                                  Good point, chefj! So what did you mean jen? Was restaurant food was under-spiced or over-spiced to your taste?

                                                                        2. Thank you for the relevant comments (as to the total veer-off in the discussion which took place on Nov. 3rd, seriously, I wonder whether the person was accidentally responding to another post? I continue to be totally confused).

                                                                          Last night I finally made a close approximation of the dish, and it turns out that quite a few of you were right. The secret is tons (and I mean tons) of cream, salt and ghee. Sigh. It was delicious, but now I will feel guilty ever making---or ordering---it again. Figures!