The ladies of Kelowna’s wildly popular Poppadoms – Taste India! restaurant did just that this winter.  Mum (Chef Jas) with daughters Aman and Jasmin flew to India for a 5-week culinary adventure travelling from region-to-region to study and learn new and exciting dishes to share with us at home in Kelowna.

Their journey began in Delhi and continued to viist to Agra, Jaipur, all over Kerala and Chennai. This ‘fooding’ team were focusing on learning home-style cooking in people’s houses and learning about the local culture, food scene, and how the spices and ingredients grow. 

At home in Kelowna, the restaurant has some exciting plans this spring with the addition of new cooking classes in March (see website for details).  Their annual Taste India event will be amazing this year.  The ladies will be sharing stories from this trip through a five-course meal and a photo exhibit by Jasmin!  Event is May 12th, Mothers Day – contact the restaurant for tickets soon! poppadoms.ca/events

Aman shared stories and highlights from their adventure in India along the way through a blog on Tumblr.  We have outlined some of the highlights to share, but recommend that you take the time to read the entire amazing journey through beautiful India. poppadoms.tumblr.com

DAY 1: Namaste India!

After 24 hours of traveling, across 3 continents on 3 flights, we arrived safe and sound in Delhi. For Jasmin and I it’s a pretty new experience as we haven’t been for around 10 years. We never thought we’d grow up and own a restaurant, so this food adventure should be quite the experience.

We flew into Indira Gandhi airport which was recently renovated for the Commonwealth Games. Before you can even see India, you can smell it. It’s distinct but really hard to explain – but you can pick out the smell of spice, dirt, and pollution from the mix. It’s really weird at first, but even inside the airport there’s this haze or mist, which leads you outside. Once outside the haze continues and it’s hard to make out people’s faces with the light. So then came the squinting technique, but that didn’t help, and Jasmin just looked at me, unimpressed. 

Day 2: My Favorite Farmer (In India)

The highlight of my day was meeting our family’s regular farmer or ‘sabji mundi’. He comes to their door with fresh produce using his mobile shop on a bike. From red carrots (they’re not orange) to bright purple eggplant and baby cauliflowers. I was surprised to see broccoli as it’s not really used in Indian cooking. This happy chappy told us that he goes to a local wholesale market to pick up his produce to sell for the day. His produce is mainly from Punjab and UP, which has more fertile grounds than dry Delhi. He was so excited that we were interested in his business.

After meeting Mr Shree Mohan (sabji mundi), we took the man-powered rickshaw to Dilli Haat, which is a cool cultural market for art, crafts and textiles. We saw this one merchant make these cool colourful wooden spatulas by hand. When we go next we’re hoping he’s there to pick some up to use in our cooking classes. The merchants change all the time and are from all over North India.

 

Day 4: Moti Mahal

This is the place that Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken was created. Moti Mahal was also the place that started tandoori dishes (think tandoori chicken tikka). How they cook is they would pre-cook their tandoori chicken ready for service, instead of throwing it out when it got dry they thought of a way to reduce waste and bring some of that moisture back to the chicken. So, they added cream, butter and tomato to make a sauce and added the chicken. And so Butter Chicken was created. How appealing does that sound?!

 

Day 5: Bukhara Restaurant

Bukhara won the 2012 Times of India award for best place for North Indian food in Delhi. After an hour we got our table.

On the table there was a bib type apron for each of us to wear, which comes in handy as they don’t give out cutlery (except for a fork). The true way to experience Indian food is by eating with your hands and it tastes so much better. 

The server also told us that their menu hasn’t changed in 25 years. The restaurant is famous for their Daal Bukhara, which is the family-recipe. It’s their version of Daal Makhani (creamy black lentils), so naturally we ordered it. We also ordered the Tandoori Aloo (stuffed potato with a spiced potato filling with raisins) and Malai Tikka (very moist, creamy chicken cooked in the tandoor with subtle flavours). We also ordered the Bukhara Naan, which is a huge, plain, family-sized naan to feed 8 people. 

 

DAY 6: LAST DAY IN DELHI

We spent the last two days in Delhi with my Mum’s older brother. My Mami (aunty) is a really good cook. In fact, her Punjabi style chickpea dish has hands down been the best thing we’ve tasted so far in Delhi. I can’t wait for you to taste this dish, especially with my Mami’s twist. With so many great cooks in the family we were totally spoilt. It was just a shame we didn’t have more time here.

In my opinion, true Indian food is made in people’s houses – that’s why we decided to stay in home-stays rather than hotels. You don’t have to be a qualified chef to make great tasting, wholesome food. I think it was Gordon Ramsay that once said even the poor eat well in India with fresh pure produce and not anything processed or artificial.

To be continued in the Summer issue of Food & Wine Trails…

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