I’ve never eaten in an Indian food restaurant and, unless you count the time I impulsively tossed a handful of currants and a sprinkle of curry powder into my chicken salad, I’ve never cooked Indian food.
I’m happy to say that after attending a cooking class at Poppadoms restaurant over the weekend, both of these statements are no longer true.
The Dosanj family emigrated from Britain to Canada in 2008 and, although no one in the family had any formal culinary training or restaurant industry experience, they decided to open Poppadoms, an Indian food restaurant, in their new hometown of Kelowna, B.C. Risky business, to say the least! According to Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti, “only 10% of new restaurants survive past their first year of operation. It’s a brutal business and despite the hopes and dreams of chefs, disaster awaits for 9 out of 10″. The odds were certainly stacked against them.
Fortunately, Poppadoms beat the odds and did more than just survive past its first year. It thrived! In 2011, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce honoured it with the Business Excellence Rising Star award and just recently, Okanagan Life Magazine named it one of the healthiest places to eat in the Okanagan.
Indian food and healthy eating were two terms I hadn’t previously associated with each other. Now I know better. Poppadoms puts a healthy spin on traditional Indian food by using less salt, less oil, no ghee and, with the exception of the Butter Chicken, no butter. Their curries are sugar-free and 80 – 90% of the ingredients they use in their kitchen they source locally. They offer plenty of gluten-free and vegan options on the menu, and they even make their own yogurt and cheese.
Poppadoms imports all of their spices from India, then toasts and grinds them in-house. A few interesting notes about the spices used in Indian cooking…
- Turmeric is known for its antiseptic properties. It can be applied to cuts and scrapes to speed healing, or added to a glass of warm milk to ease internal ailments. It’s the spice that gives so many Indian dishes their distinct mustard-yellow colour.
- Because of their antibacterial and antioxidant properties, the spices in curry can actually help you recover more quickly from a cold or flu.
- Garam masala isn’t a single spice. It’s a warm, aromatic blend of spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, fennel, mace, black peppercorns and fenugreek seeds.
- Red Chili is the only spice used in curry that actually delivers a kick of heat, and a little goes a long way. For a mild curry, use just ¼ tsp of red chilli (per four servings of curry). For medium heat, use ½ tsp and for a curry with some serious kick, use 1 full tsp of red chilli powder.
Jas Dosanj showed the class how to cook three different healthy Indian dishes.
First she showed us how to make Bombay Aloo, a dish that reminded me of a warm and spicy version of potato salad (pictured above). Jas also demonstrated how to make Punjabi Chicken Curry and Yellow Daal.
After the demonstration, the students each tried their hand at making roti – a light, whole wheat flatbread, very similar to a flour tortilla. The roti dough is made from flour, water and a drop of vegetable oil, then shaped into rounds. Within seconds of placing the rounds on the hot pan, the edges start to turn a light golden brown.
Once the edges start to brown, flip the roti over and watch as it begins to bubble up.
Once it starts bubbling, flip it again and watch it puff up like a pillow!
Lunch is served. Clockwise from top right – Punjabi Chicken Curry, Bombay Aloo, Basmati Rice, Roti and Yellow Daal.
After lunch, Jas invited the class into the kitchen to see the tandoor oven they use to bake naan and roast meat. In India, you can spot the men who bake the naan by their hairless forearms.
Cooking demonstrations at Poppadoms take place once a month and sell out fast. As of today, they are booking for July. These classes offer a great introduction to an ethnic cuisine known for its rich aromas and strong flavours. They’re also a lot of fun!
Note: Recipe cards aren’t given out until the end of the class, so bring a notepad and pen if you’d like to take notes during the demonstration.
Poppadoms Taste India! 118 - 948 McCurdy Road Kelowna, Okanagan Valley British Columbia, Canada V1X 2P7 Date: April 22, 2012 Cost: $65.00 CAD Style: Demonstration, Make-Your-Own Roti, Lunch Duration: 2½ hours Instructor: Jas Dosanj Highlights: Simple recipes perfect for someone like me who is new to cooking East Indian food. Improvement Opportunities: I wish the demonstration had included a dessert so I would know the perfect way to end this meal when I make it at home.