Chicken tikka masala with basmati rice

date03.07.12

This past week was one for facing food fears head on. Indian food falls into this category. While in college, I lived next door to a group of five male graduate students from India, and they loved to cook – especially for other people. The first time I joined them for dinner, they asked in advance if there was anything I didn’t like. Trying not to be too complicated or picky, I told them I would eat anything except cilantro. They assured me that their Indian food was cilantro-free, and sat me down at the table to watch me take a bite. For some reason, I was the only one eating while they stood around me in anticipation as I tasted and reviewed their dish. One bite and I knew that the detestable green herb had somehow made its way past the cooks and onto my plate of Indian food. That sneaky herb! We all had a good laugh when we discovered that they knew the bit of green I hated so much by another name: coriander. To these generous chefs, this dish was Sarah-proof and cilantro-free.

I have quite a few more experiences with Indian food that all involve surprise visits from cilantro, so you can understand why I generally steer clear. That is, until recently when I found the dish that gives me the flavors of India without the soapy add-in. My landlady introduced me to her most-frequented lunch spot – an Indian restaurant down the street with an all-you-can-eat buffet. She held my hand the first time we went and pointed me toward the best trays of food. That’s where I met chicken tikka masala and fell in love – totally void of cilantro and incredibly flavorful.

Rather than worrying about cilantro peeking its head out from behind a piece of chicken every time I dine on Indian food, I decided to recreate this faved dish in my own kitchen, where I have complete control. Once everything is chopped and ready to go, it’s a very quick recipe and tasted exactly the way I wanted. Just be sure to add the cream because it ties each element together; I forgot the cream on the first go around and, although still delicious, it was not quite like the Indian dish I remembered. I went back and added the cream and the meal instantly mimicked the proper flavors. I served it up with some basmati rice, homemade yeast-free naan bread, and curry spiced cauliflower (recipes to follow shortly!). Man oh man it was a fantastic meal. I brought leftovers for my lunch to my research group meeting the next day and someone walked in and proclaimed, “it smells like Indian food in here!” which gives me confirmation that I did something right.

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4 Comments

  1. mart says:

    this chicken tikka masala looks lovely, I will try it at home this weekend and maybe write a review about it :) thanks for sharing!

  2. AvocadoPesto says:

    I absolutely love indian food and especially chicken tikka masala – I’ve never made it at home though! I really want to though, that and home made naan!!

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