14 July 2010

Curry in a Hurry

Indian cuisine dominates the world of vegetarian food. To realize this for yourself, look around on various sites for vegetarian blogs. You will discover they are mostly written by Indians. My college roommate grew up in Madras, and eating with her every day (and disliking the appearance of the cafeteria meats) helped to push me toward vegetarianism. But if you look at my list o' blogs on the left, you'll see I don't follow any Indian blogs. Furthermore, with the exception of the occasional curry powder, turmeric, and cumin, you won't see Indian ingredients in my food. Considering how overwhelmingly Indian vegetarian food is, why the omission?

I'm so glad you asked. Your curiosity keeps me going! Also, you are a great listener, Faceless Hordes. Anyway, I never went to India, so I'm not sure what the home cooking there is supposed to taste like. Living and cooking and eating out in Japan for over a year, I know what it should taste like. I know that Japanese cooking requires relatively few staples, I know it's healthy, quick, and easy to clean up after, and I know that I like it. Plus, I read Japanese and I own a bunch of Japanese cookbooks in English and Japanese. So I cook Japanese food a lot.

This is not to say I don't love Indian food. I do.When Julia makes it for me, I gobble it right up and demand seconds. Julia has twice traveled to India. Her kitchen is full of Indian spices, ingredients, and cookbooks. From eating her tasty cookin', I learned that Indian food is a major undertaking. It takes time on the stove to develop the rich flavors; the (expensive) ingredients hog space in her pantry; and fresh goodies like paneer and curry leaves can be hard to come by. That's fine by Julia, who wants to make it all the time. But not for me. What I'm trying to tell you, Gentle Blog Scanners, is that unless you take only the most cursory dip into the fringes of Indian cuisine, you must commit to acquiring the resources and knowledge to pull it off. This is true of many other cuisines I love, like Ethiopian and Chinese.

Frankly, it's too much work for me, and my pantry has limited space. So I'm sticking to authentic Japanese food and American versions of everything else. When I crave Curry in a Hurry, I do this:

Buy a jar of premade curry-type sauce (see Tikka Masala by Seeds of Change above). There are a ton of these sorts of sauces in supermarkets all over. Check the ingredients to make sure they're all pronounceable.
Break out a pack of firm or medium tofu. Press the liquid out of it with a heavy object and drain it. Cut it into cubes. Sauté tofu in oil until golden.
Add sauce plus all other fresh, chopped vegetables I have lying around, except for peas. Simmer gently, covered. Five minutes before serving, add lots of frozen peas. Before putting on the table, add fresh chopped herbs.

Serve over rice with, if you like, a side of Everyfood Yogurt Sauce and possibly some fresh bread-type thing for mopping up the remains. Easy peasy.

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