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It can be debated that one of the best ways to experience any culture is through their food.
Thankfully a passport is not always required.
For the past several months, Arden Hills Resort Club and Spa has sponsored “Around the World” cooking demonstrations. Curious diners gathered Saturday to learn everyday cooking techniques for recreating some of India’s famed dishes in their own kitchens.
With the enthusiasm and expertise of sous chef Ashurina Younan, guests were temporarily whisked across the globe by a tantalizing combination of ethnic spices and fresh summer vegetables.
Indian cuisine is traditionally famed for its intensity and masterful flavor combinations. It’s the kind of food that will make you exclaim, “Mmm, what is this?”
Coupled with the fact that many of these dishes are also heart-healthy, it’s no wonder that many people are looking for ways to incorporate Indian cooking into their own meals.
“To start, you don’t have to know exactly how to cook a particular ‘style’ of food,” Younan assured. “You only have to familiarize yourself with the main ingredients — spices, meats, vegetables, etc. — and how to put them together correctly.”
The cooking demonstration focused on the Northwest India style of preparing chicken tikka, vegetable curry and mango lassi.
Chicken tikka is basically a grilled chicken skewer, but the cultural influence on this dish creates flavorful, tender pieces of poultry, enhanced by a yogurt-based marinade. They are skewered and grilled to perfection over a wood- or charcoal-burning fire, and then you have a tasty accompaniment to any main entree.
Curry is perhaps one of the best known dishes associated with Indian cuisine.
Younan first sautéed a variety of fresh vegetables — colorful cauliflower, carrots and sweet bell peppers to name a few. Next she added the spices, including cardamom, cinnamon and curry powder. Coconut milk and vegetable broth were added to create a mildly sweet and creamy sauce. The vegetable curry was then plated over basmati rice and garnished with avocado slices.
Lastly, Younan showed guests how to create mango lassi, a smoothie-like beverage. This refreshing blend of ripe mango and plain yogurt brought the sampling fair to a sweet end.
Younan acknowledged that Indian food, while appealing to many, may not entice everyone — at least at first.
“Some people tend to steer away from Indian cooking because they don’t know the exact ingredients in a particular dish,” she said.
Yet, she encourages all to try an Indian meal because, after all, you’ll never know what you’ll really end up enjoying. This can also be said for every type of unfamiliar or foreign cuisine.
And while you don’t necessarily need a passport to have a cultural dining experience, attending entertaining cooking demonstrations like these just might encourage you to get one.