Join twowildtides on the country challenge. Each week, we’re going to be heading to a new country (in spirit). Primarily, we’ll be cooking a meal from each country; but we’ll also be watching travel documentaries, reading travel blogs, and listening to music. During the global pandemic, travel is largely inaccessible. We want to reignite our wanderlust, satisfy our travel bug as much as we can, and learn some new things along the way. I have a feeling our bucket list will have a number of items added to it through this experience as well. We created a simple alphabetical spreadsheet with all the countries of the world, and each week we will draw a random number that corresponds with a country on the spreadsheet.
Our random number generator brought us to the large, highly populous country of India this week. I’ve been to India one time, but it was just a stopover (albeit a 24-hour one) in the Mumbai Airport. Read about that here:
India is a culturally and geographically diverse country, as are many countries across the world, but India especially. It was intimidating to consider choosing one dish to represent this entire nation, so I chose four. My logic while doing the research for these dishes was to select meals or ingredients that represented Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western India. Some articles I considered while making my selections were A Comprehensive Guide to Indian Cuisine by Masterclass, the 10 Most Popular Indian Foods by TasteAtlas, 16 Traditional Indian Dishes You Must Try by TravelFoodAtlas, this Spirit of India article on CNN, Typical Indian Meals by MyIndianStove, Top 10 Foods to Try in Rajasthan by BBC GoodFoods, lots of Wikipedia pages (please donate to Wikipedia!!).
I’m not sure why, but I have never been so nervous to offend or make a mistake with this challenge as I have with India. Please know I put as much time into the accuracy of this representation as possible. So, what dishes did we choose? To represent Northern India and the capital city of New Dehli, we chose a fan favourite: Butter Chicken. We followed this recipe by Swasthi at IndianHealthyRecipes.com. For Southern India, we chose Chicken Biryani and used this recipe by Cooking With Thas. East India is known for their chutneys and Thali serving style, which involves a large platter of food in smaller dishes. We did our best to serve our Indian feast Thali-style and we made this Eastern Indian Tomato Chutney called Kasundi by Petrina Verma Sarkar at The Spruce Eats. Finally, we made a Rajasthani-style Dal to represent Western India. We followed this recipe by VegeCravings.
I was super excited, as a person who has purchased jars of butter chicken, korma, and tikka masala sauce from the grocery store, to learn how to make this delightful, comforting cuisine from scratch. Each of these dishes on their own are actually pretty straightforward, quick, and simple. However, the whole process of making all four was highly involved but super fun. For Christmas this year, I was given a nice new blender. I was excited to see that most of these dishes allowed me to put my new blender to good use. We already had most of the ingredients and spices necessary for these dishes at home from past country meals and our own cooking, but I did have to purchase lots of lentils.
Let’s start with the butter chicken. This was the only dish that required some marination. We did find that the lemon juice marination made the overall dish a little more acidic than we prefer, so next time I would skip the first marination and jump right to the second marination. Okay, I won’t say marination anymore in this entire post. This dish took the longest to come together, but it was totally worth it. To combat the acidity, we garnished the butter chicken with a little sour cream, but you could also use more heavy cream or plain yogurt. Out of the four dishes, I would rank butter chicken at number three.
Next, the chicken biryani. This recipe was fantastic for breaking down the steps into easy, understandable directions. We used my Instant Pot to prepare the biryani and cooked the rice separately following package directions. We set the Instant Pot at 12 minutes on manual and that seemed to do the trick. I was happy to be able to garnish this dish with saffron as I have not had a chance to use this highly expensive spice since we made our dish from Azerbaijan. We also garnished with golden raisins. The chicken biryani ranks last out of the four, but not because it was bad or I didn’t like it, don’t get me wrong, it was delicious and the consistency was perfect. It only ranks fourth because it was the least flavourful and punchy than the other three dishes.
The Dal was also prepared in the Instant Pot. This was a way to quickly cook the lentils without needing to soak them beforehand. While the Instant Pot counted down, we sauteed the remaining ingredients and finally combined everything to make this delicious curry dish. It was filling without being heavy and complimented the other flavours on our plates very well. Dal ranked number two out of our four dishes.
Finally, our Kusundi chutney, which was our favourite element of this meal. It was easy to make and beyond flavourful. It was bright and sweet and tangy. We served it with naan and white rice. It also helped to amplify our biryani. The chutney was the centrepiece of our Thali-style serving arrangement. On our platter, along with our Kusindi, we served small bowls of white rice, cilantro, mint, sour cream, and golden raisins. We also placed our naan on the platter. It was a feast for our eyes as well as our bellies!
We are so privileged to have the ability to indulge in such a feast. I am extremely grateful for the meal we shared and the week’s worth of leftovers. After we ate, we watched Part 1 & Part 2 of the Departures episode about India. I also realized that Departures has not aged very well… but it did show us many different, breathtaking regions of India.
Let us know what you think!