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Currying favor: F-M residents are enjoying tastes of India

With two restaurants in Fargo, residents have gotten a taste of India, a sampling of saffron. "The people are asking us where they can get ingredients for this kind of cooking, where they can get recipes for this kind of cooking," says Vivek Syal...


With two restaurants in Fargo, residents have gotten a taste of India, a sampling of saffron.

"The people are asking us where they can get ingredients for this kind of cooking, where they can get recipes for this kind of cooking," says Vivek Syal, one of the owners of Saffron, an Indian restaurant which opened along 32nd Avenue South in January.

Indian food is known for its spices - ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric and saffron are all staples - as well as curries, the often-spicy gravies that top meat or vegetables.

Lentils are a common source of protein and rice is often served, especially in South Indian cuisine.

Tony Singh says one reason locals have found a love of Indian food is because it is so different than any other type of food. Singh is the owner of Taste of India, a 45th Street staple since 1999.


Singh does most of the cooking in the restaurant and says he can tell by the look of a dish if it will taste good.

His biggest tip when making a curry is to cook each ingredient thoroughly before adding the next.

But, he says, not everybody can cook Indian food.

"You have to have a special magic in your hand," he says.

Sherbanoo Aziz, a Moorhead resident who moved to the United States more than 30 years ago, disagrees.

She regularly teaches Indian cooking and culture classes, publicly and in people's homes. Her cookbook, "Sherbanoo's Indian Cuisine," is in its second edition.

She will sign her book and offer food tastings July 9 at West Acres' Creative Kitchen, July 17 at B. Dalton in West Acres, July 23 at Red River Coffee in West Fargo and Aug. 7 at Fargo's Tochi Products. All appearances are at 11:30 a.m.

In September, while visiting her brother in Cambridge, Mass., she will do a series of classes in stores and on local television.


"It's not that difficult to prepare the foods," Aziz says, adding that almost all the dishes are cooked on top of the stove. "You can make quite a few things with things that are available at regular grocery stores."

With the help of prepackaged spice mixes available in specialty food markets, making Tandoori Chicken can be as easy as making tacos or a batch of chili. And Jimenez Tortilla Factory in Moorhead will soon carry Sherbanoo's Chapati, a whole wheat, unleavened Indian bread.

"People have become a little more familiar (with Indian food) and I'm hoping I have contributed in some small way to making the foods and culture and traditions known," Aziz says.

Mango Lassi

1½ cups plain yogurt

1½ cups canned Indian mango purée or to taste

½ cup whole or 2-percent milk

1 to 2 cups ice cubes


In a blender, combine yogurt, mango purée, milk and ice. Blend until smooth. Pour into 4 tall glasses to serve.

Sindhi Chicken Curry

12 skinless bone-in chicken thighs, about 4 pounds

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt, at room temperature

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups finely chopped onions

1 tablespoon minced peeled gingerroot


1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced green chilies, preferably serranos

1 tablespoon coriander powder

1½ teaspoons cumin powder

¾ teaspoon turmeric

¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, chopped, including juice

¾ cup, divided, cilantro, chopped


2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1½ teaspoons garam masala

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Stir together yogurt and cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.

In a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until beginning to color, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and sauté until dark golden, 10 to 12 minutes longer.

Stir in ginger, garlic and chilies. Sauté for 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken and brown well, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Mix well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes, yogurt mixture, ½ cup cilantro and salt. Mix well. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is no longer pink inside, about 25 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in garam masala and 3 tablespoons cilantro. Garnish with remaining cilantro before serving. Serve with rice or an Indian bread. Serves 8.

Recipes from "Easy Indian Cooking" by Suneeta Vaswani (Robert Rose, 2004, $18.95 paperback)


Tandoori Chicken

3½ pounds grilling-size pieces of skinned chicken parts, dark and light meat

¼ cup lemon juice

1½ teaspoons ground coriander, roasted

½ teaspoon ground cumin, roasted

½ teaspoon ground hot red chili pepper, roasted

½ teaspoon saffron threads, roasted

¼ cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 tablespoon butter or oil

1 teaspoon salt

Dash of nutmeg

½ teaspoon crushed garlic

½ teaspoon ginger, peeled and crushed

3 to 5 drops of red food coloring

1 to 2 teaspoons gravy flour

Clean and towel dry the chicken pieces. Rub the pieces with lemon juice and let them sit in a pan for 30 minutes. Marinate the giblets too.

In a dry iron skillet on high, roast the ground spices together for 3 to 5 minutes until the kitchen is filled with the roasted aroma. Roast the saffron threads separately for a minute or two in the same manner.

Mix the spices with yogurt, butter, salt, nutmeg, garlic, ginger and food coloring, then coat the chicken pieces with this marinade. Refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, or overnight. Drain the excess liquid and save for gravy.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in preheated 350-degree oven. The chicken pieces turn an even orange color. Broil for 2 minutes. This may also be cooked on an outdoor grill.

To make the gravy, cook the excess marinade in a small saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a boil. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons gravy flour. Cook for 2 minutes on low, stirring all the time. Serve over tandoori chicken pieces, with lemon wedges and flat bread. Serves 8.

Note: When using a prepackaged tandoori spice mix, omit the roasted spices, salt, nutmeg and food coloring.

Gulab Jaam (Milk Balls in Syrup)

1 cup all-purpose baking mix, such as Bisquick

2 cups powdered milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons low-fat yogurt

¼ to ½ cup water

2 cups cooking oil for frying

In a bowl, mix baking mix, powdered milk, butter, baking powder and yogurt into dough the consistency of pie crust. Add ¼ cup water as you go along as the milk continues to absorb water. Between two palms, roll into 1-inch balls. If necessary, sprinkle water as you work with the dough, as the dry milk keeps absorbing water.

In a skillet deep fry the balls on medium for about 15 seconds on each side until they turn light brown. Be attentive because they will be quickly charred. Drain oil by placing on paper towels. Drop them slowly into the syrup. Serves 12.


1½ cups boiling water

1½ cups sugar

2 pods crushed white or green cardamom

8 strands saffron

2 drops yellow food coloring

While the water boils, throw in the sugar. Continue to boil on high, adding the remaining ingredients. Cook for 2 minutes. The syrup should be hot when gulab jaam are dropped in. Serve the syrup in a serving bowl with Gulab Jaam, either warm or at room temperature.

Recipes from "Sherbanoo's Indian Cuisine" by Sherbanoo Aziz

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525


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